COVID-19 Op-ed

‘Humanizing’ Indonesia’s COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Written by admin

Ratu Ayu Asih Kusuma Putri and Pamungkas A.
Ratu is Lecturer at the Department of
International Relations, Bina Nusantara University, Indonesia. Pamungkas is
Researcher at Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije
Universiteit in the Netherlands

While the rich industrial countries are simply readjusting
their national budgets amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the fiscal options for the
middle-to-low income countries seem to be strictly limited. The Indonesian
government, for instance, has undergone about USD 51 billion deficit after
allocating about USD 25 billion for the health sector and other incentives
for the COVID-19 relief (Kementerian Keuangan Republik Indonesia,
2020).Unfortunately, in coping with this unprecedented crisis, the government
not only experiences financial deficit but also ‘implementation deficit’ in
channelling the pandemic relief. Jokowi administration relies heavily on the
centralized database and numeric data from the ministries which are often
lacking in its credibility. Conversely, limited efforts have been made to
systematically engage civil society and to acquire a much-needed sense of
actual vulnerability within the population. As a result, the top-down
strategy amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the country inherently lacks a
‘humanistic’ touch.The vulnerable population who does not fall into the
‘official’ numeric category is desperately seeking the attention of the
government to no avail. Many households in need were allegedly omitted from
receiving the ‘grocery package’ or paket sembako
(Nurbaiti, 2020), indicating the low credibility of the government’s database
on vulnerable citizens. In Malaysia, some Indonesian workers are starving
and, some of them, even eating grass to survive in an isolated warehouse
because there are not enough savings to buy foods  (Kurniawan, 2020).
Not to mention the controversies surrounding the USD 16 million online
training package for those who were laid-off by their employers due to
COVID-19 fallout (Kompas, 2020).Unlike in South Korea or Taiwan where the
developmental state model worked effectively, the Indonesian’s slow response
showed otherwise. Fortunately, society plays a pivotal role in fixing the
shortcomings of top-down pandemic response strategies. This ‘parallel
circuit’, that is the networks of society that self-mobilizes their resources,
offers a more humanistic approach in battling the pandemic. Most importantly,
these grass-root acts can be seen as a criticism of the central government’s
incompetence and its slow pandemic response policy.Civil society and private
sectors had come up with initiatives of their own and jumped on the bandwagon
of pandemic battle. An overwhelming amount of public funds has been raised
for COVID-19 relief.  Kitabisa, an Indonesian-based
online crowdfunding platform, has raised more than Rp.70 billion ($4.5
million) in funds through various campaigns led by celebrities, social media
influencers, NGOs, and individual philanthropists. While some notable
multinational or local major companies, and business tycoons also pledged to
participate in this nation-wide charity movement, amounted to hundreds of
billions in funds (IDN Times, 2020; The Jakarta Post, 2020; Chung, 2020).Such
solidarity is omnipresent not only domestically but also among Indonesian
communities abroad. In a consultative meeting between the Indonesian
government and Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Network (Jaringan Buruh
) a few days ago, the government begged for the cooperation
from Indonesian migrant communities across the working destination countries
to reach out to the most suffering ones during the crisis. Indonesian migrant
associations in Malaysia, for instance, have helped the government and many
charity organizations distribute grocery packages to their fellow workers. A
group of Javanese and Madurese migrant workers even donated a ton of sweet
potatoes for those severely affected by Covid-19 (Antara News, 2020).
Therefore, the current pandemic has even charted a new scheme of charity, in
which workers in need are independently and mutually helping one
another.While elements of society have shown their compassion and even built
a repertoire of charity movement, its pivotal role is overshadowed by some
frivolous political matters. The government has been entangled in a series of
petty political squabbles with the critics which are often escalated into
repressive acts and legal persecution (CNN Indonesia, 2020). The political
fallout of this circumstance has greatly cost the country a prospect for
national consolidation amid this looming catastrophe.In a nutshell, pandemic
management in Indonesia is still inherently non-inclusive and leaning towards
‘securitization’. With this ‘securitizing attitude’, it fails to invigorate
the high level of social capital among the society and the enormous resources
accumulated from their activities. What the country needs is a consultative
relationship between the government and key non-state actors
including, inter alia, public health experts,
economists, and NGOs working on social issues as important
collaborators. Hence, a more ‘humanizing’ approach should be opted for
in times like this.References:Antara
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Entrepreneurs, and Businesses are Combating the Coronavirus
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Retrieved from CNN Indonesia:
Times. (2020, April 10). TikTok Donasi Rp. 100 Miliar untuk
Penanganan COVID-19 di Indonesia
. Retrieved from IDN Times:
Keuangan Republik Indonesia. (2020, April 17). Strategi Pembiayaan COVID-19
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Companies join hands to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic
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