COVID-19 Op-ed

Cul-de-sac: Spare the Economy or Save People’s Lives?

Written by admin

Arif R. HaryonoStudent, Asia
Pacific MA Human Rights and Democratisation
Global Campus
of Human Rights Asia Pacific
Institute of Human Rights
and Peace Studies, Mahidol University

Socio-economic problems are lurking behind the bushes, as the
pandemic not only threatens the public health sector but also endangers the
lives of millions of urban poor people in many big cities of Indonesia. They
are stranded with no jobs and income and have been forbidden to do any
outdoor activities because of the COVID-19.As the number of infected
populations rises exponentially, the government neglects to enact assertive
policies to contain the spread of the virus. Instead of declaring a
territorial quarantine as mandated in Law no. 6 of 2018 on Health Quarantine,
the Indonesia government decided to conduct a Large Scale Social Restrictions
(PSBB) – a loosened version of a quarantine. The ground concept of PSBB is to
obligate the citizens to physically distance themselves in social places
without the state responsibility to support the daily needs of the affected
population.Moreover, Indonesia is far behind on massive rapid testing,
tracking, and tracing of those who make contact with the patients as a means
to segregate the infected patients. President Joko Widodo on 19 March calls
out the nation to conduct a massive rapid test to detect the infections as
soon as possible (Jakarta
Globe, 2020
), to which on 13 April he repeated the call to ask a
10,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test per day (Gorbiano,
). After one month, Indonesia is only able to achieve half of
its target (Damarjati,
). To overcome pandemic, isolation and medical surveillance are
the two most important things that must be implemented. Massive rapid testing
is the tool of medical surveillance to determine which population to be
confined and which one not.As the strategy of massive rapid testing has not
yet achieved the desired target, what is left was physical distancing and
social restrictions to the population by campaigning the stay-work-pray at
home. Some regions, such as DKI Jakarta and several major cities in West Java
and East Java, have enacted the PSBB, and most of the cities have shown a
significant decrease in people’s activities in public spaces. However, the
method to save the lives of the people has caused economic disruption of the
low-rank employees as well as the blue-collar workers who rely upon daily
income to make ends meet. Almost most of them lose their income because they
cannot carry out any economic activities whatsoever as they normally do. For
the economically-affected citizens, no income means no food on the table.The
fourth most populated country and member of G-20, Indonesia’s economy is
being sustained largely by informal workers. By February 2019, The Badan
Pusat Statistik (National Statistics Agency) (2019) stated that more than 74
million Indonesian over 15 years old are working in the informal sectors
compared to the formal sectors with only 55,3 million workers. The informal
sector is defined by ILO (n.d.) as “all economic activities by workers that
are – in law or practice – not covered (or insufficiently covered) by formal
employment arrangements.” Bappenas (n.d.) in its report defined informal
workers as any form of business ventures with low capital, simple technology,
workers from close relatives (family, next of kin), local raw resources,
serving the needs of the lower middle class, and low quality of human
resources. As these workers are economically hit by the pandemic, it is
crucial for the state to provide assistance for them.DKI Jakarta, the
epicenter of the pandemic, has managed to deliver weekly assistance to more
than 2.2 million households affected by the social restrictions regulations
). However, the government’s data often in a daze which causes
social assistance is being delivered unequally. Many of the low-middle
workers who recently lost their jobs and the informal workers still cannot
access this kind of assistance. They are out of the government’s radar for
many reasons.It is a problematic condition for the urban poor community
during this time of the pandemic. They have to risk their own lives to be
infected by COVID-19 by carrying out economic activities to make ends meet.
The physical and social restriction policy, which was regulated to protect
their life, is also the one that ironically kills them softly and slowly.
Many middle-up households in big cities of Indonesia might have the privilege
to conduct self-quarantine without many difficulties, for urban poor people
the options are limited: cul-de-sac!References:Bappenas,
n.d. Studi Profil Pekerja di Sektor Informal dan Arah Kebijakan ke
. Bappenas . Available at: <>
.BPS, 2019. Keadaan Pekerja di Indonesia (Laborer Situation in Indonesia)
February 2019. Available at: <>
.Damarjati, D., 2020. Sebulan Usai Titah Jokowi Target 10 Ribu Tes
Corona, Bagaimana Progressnya?
. . Available at:
.Gorbiano, M.I., 2020. COVID-19: Jokowi Calls for At Least 10,000
PCR Tests A Day
. The Jakarta Post . Available at: <>
.ILO, n.d. Informal Economy in Indonesia and
. ILO . Source: <–en/index.htm>
.Jakarta Globe, 2020. Jokowi Calls for Massive COVID-19 Rapid
Testing in Indonesia as Market, Rupiah are Routed
. Jakarta Globe .
Available at: <>
.Nababan, H.F., 2020. Bansos Tahap di Jakarta Didistribusikan Mulai
14 Mei
. . Available at: <>

About the author