by Bambang Purwanto

JAKARTA, July 25 (Xinhua) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as President Jokowi, has established the Committee for COVID-19 Mitigation and the National Economic Recovery to replace the Task Force in a bid to accelerate the mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new ad hoc team consists of three elements, namely the Policy Committee, the Task Force of the COVID-19 Mitigation, and the Task Force of the National Economic Recovery and Transformation.

In the new team, the Policy Committee is chaired by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy with six deputies, namely the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, the Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, the Finance Minister, the Health Minister and the Home Minister.

The Task Force of the COVID-19 Mitigation is chaired by the Head of the National Disaster Management Agency, while the Task Force of the National Economic Recovery and Transformation is led by the Deputy Minister of the State-owned Enterprises.

According to Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, the Committee for the COVID-19 Mitigation and the National Economic Recovery was set up based on the idea that health and economic issues are inseparable in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

He cited President Jokowi’s message about balancing health and economic matters in coping with the deadly pandemic.

Anung said that the handling of the COVID-19 in the health sector is now improving in line with the increasing number of recovery cases, adding that the economic problems should also be overcome.

“From time to time the number of recoveries is rising, and this is encouraging. Therefore, economic issues should also be handled properly,” he said.

Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto said that measures to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic would take a quite long time.

“Therefore, the president has ordered the team to seriously plan and execute the COVID-19 handling and economic recovery programs concurrently. It means, these two aspects are managed in the same institution with maximum coordination,” he said.

Faisol Riza, chairman of the House of Representatives’ commission overseeing economic affairs, hailed the formation of the new team which according to him plays a significant role in the effort to recover the national economy from the fallout due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the legislator regretted that the stride to recover the economy tends to take side with the corporations while the most impacted business entities like small and medium enterprises are marginalized.

President Jokowi should also pay special attention to the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which have been playing a central role in saving the national economy, Riza said, proposing that the team include one more element representing SMEs.

Expressing a similar tone with Riza, an epidemiologist from Australia’s Griffith University, Dicky Budiman, said in a webinar on Saturday that he saw no problem on the new team formed by the president.

However, the new team was expected to focus more on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, adding that it would be perilous if the team only gives priority to solving economic issues as it would marginalize the strategy on the pandemic handling.

Therefore, he suggested that the government should not be too busy dealing with economic problems while the pandemic would linger.

Indonesia has yet to experience the peak of coronavirus spread, and hence the government should give priority to measures in containing the COVID-19 including mass testing, patient isolation and sanctions for people who violate health protocols, he said.

Meanwhile, a public policy observer with Trisakti University in Jakarta, Trubus Rahadiansyah, criticized the formation of the new team.

He said that the composition of the team was heavier towards the economy than health aspects, and even had the potential to marginalize the latter in handling the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

President Jokowi was expected to optimize the existing institutions, especially the Ministry of Health and the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs to carry out the tasks of overcoming the COVID-19 without forming a new organization, Rahadiansyah told CNN Indonesia.

He believed the new team was formed solely because the government is worried about the threat of the economic recession due to the pandemic.

“The government is worried about the possible economic crisis. Moreover, our country is located next to Singapore which has been plunged into recession. So, this new team was formed as a preventive measure,” Rahadiansyah said.

The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 1,868 within one day to 97,286, with the death toll adding by 49 to 4,714, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.

According to the ministry, 1,409 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 55,354. Enditem

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