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Jakarta Post

Indonesia calls on G20 to improve access to medical needs, better social protection

  • Dian Septiari
    Dian Septiari

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 26, 2020   /   05:03 pm
Indonesia calls on G20 to improve access to medical needs, better social protection More physical distancing required: Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo (right) poses with (from left) Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and US President Donald Trump during the G20 Summit in Osaka in 2019. Jokowi is slated to attend a G20 virtual huddle hosted by Saudi Arabia to set a global agenda in the fight against COVID-19. (Courtesy of Presidential Office/-)

Ahead of the first Group of 20 Summit to be hosted virtually on Thursday evening, Indonesia called on member countries to create better access to drugs and medical equipment while also protecting vulnerable groups from a possible pandemic-induced global recession.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is still expected to attend the teleconference, hosted remotely by G20 chairman Saudi Arabia and led by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, although he is still grieving over the passing of his mother on Wednesday. Leaders from the United States, Russia, China and France are also expected to take part in the remote crisis talks.

The President is to be accompanied by Finance Minister Sri Mulyani and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, according to the Office of the Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister.

Acting as Indonesia’s G20 sherpa, the deputy chief for international economic cooperation at the Office of the Coordinating Minister, Rizal Affandi Lukman, attended on Wednesday an online teleconference for drafters of a G20 leaders’ statement on COVID-19.

Rizal said that the leaders' statement must recommend concrete and actionable steps for handling COVID-19, stressing that any statement would only be beneficial if each G20 member country was committed to working together to contain the pandemic.

“On this occasion, Indonesia delivered a number of main points that were recommended to be part of the leaders' statement. First, increasing social protection for vulnerable groups including the elderly, micro, small and medium enterprises and low-wage workers,” Rizal said in a statement received on Thursday.

According to the Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry, Indonesia’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for 99.9 percent of total businesses, employ up to 97 percent of the total workforce and contribute more than 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Another point Indonesia was prioritizing for the G20 statement was to support and ensure the safety of medical personnel in accordance with World Health Organization standards, urging ease of access to medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Indonesia, among many other countries around the world, has been overwhelmed by a lack of PPE, underscored by President Jokowi’s statement that 180 countries were fending off one another to get the equipment.

Rizal said the government also raised the issue of affordability and availability of vaccines and other medical supplies.

“In this case, Indonesia requests that each G20 country will be able to [better] facilitate trade and mobility of drugs and other medical needs, including through the relaxation of export-import procedures,” he said.

The global Doctors Without Borders (MSF) previously urged for supplies to be shared across borders according to where the needs were the greatest.

“This needs to start with states in Europe sharing their supplies with Italy. It will soon need to extend to other regions that will be hit by this pandemic and whose ability to cope is already compromised,” MSF analysis department director Jonathan Whittall said in a statement on Thursday.

Indonesia pointed out, however, that all forms of global financial contributions must still refer to national conditions and priorities. “This is in view of differences in domestic needs and priorities of each affected country to mobilize all available resources,” Rizal said.

Leaders of the G20 countries are also being called on to commit to creating stronger cooperation to prevent a deeper global economic recession as a result of a prolonged pandemic.

The death toll from the virus, which emerged in China late last year, rose past 21,000, with the number of infections globally closing in on half a million, according to official tallies. An estimated 3 million people have also been forced into lockdown.

Indonesia has supported a proposal from Saudi Arabia to include a social safety net as one of the efforts to protect the poor in the face of COVID-19, especially among developing countries. It also approved Japan's proposal to include a paragraph in which G20 leaders support the Japanese government’s announcement to delay the 2020 Olympics as a result of the outbreak.