Ramli’s career in government started when he was appointed as the Chairman of Bulog (Indonesia’s large rice procurement agency) in Gus Dur’s Administration in March 2000. He was the chairman of Bulog for less than a year but he was regarded by some as making notable breakthroughs during the period. He introduced steps to improve Bulog’s performance. He made efforts to reform Bulog into a more transparent and accountable institution such as transforming off-budget accounts of Bulog to on-budget ones. During Dr Ramli’s period with Bulog there were reports of significant cost savings and efficiencies in the operation of the agency. As result, Bulog had a surplus on its account. Dr Ramli simplified and consolidated Bulog’s accounts from 117 to only 9 accounts.
On August 12, 2015, Ramli was appointed by President Joko Widodo as the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, replacing Indroyono Soesilo. However, Ramli’s time as Coordinating Minister was marked by a series of public disagreements with other ministers. On July 27, 2016, in a cabinet reshuffle, Jokowi replaced Ramli as the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs with Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.