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Jakarta Post

‘Not a waste of money’: Minister defends Rp 168b ‘new normal’ video contest

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, June 24, 2020   /   05:29 pm
‘Not a waste of money’: Minister defends Rp 168b ‘new normal’ video contest Home Minister Tito Karnavian is seen during the Indonesia Onward Cabinet announcement by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Oct. 23, 2019. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Home Minister Tito Karnavian has responded to public criticism of a video contest run by the ministry to promote the so-called new normal, saying the initiative costing Rp 168 billion (US$11.8 million) sourced from the state budget was not a waste of money.

“It’s not a waste of money. This is after all in the form of existing regional incentive funds, but we ask the regions to compete in embracing the new normal,” Tito said on Wednesday in a hearing with House of Representatives Commission II, which oversees home affairs.

He explained that he had consulted with the Finance Ministry before running the contest, noting that the purpose was to push the regional administrations to collaborate with their stakeholders in entering the new normal.

“To encourage them, we ran a competition in simulating the new normal protocol through a short video. By making the video, they will inevitably collaborate with all stakeholders, such as markets, hotels, tourist destinations, restaurants and transportation [service providers]," he said.

The competition was divided into seven categories: traditional markets, modern markets, hotels, restaurants, tourism spots, public transportation and one-stop integrated service (PTSP).

The Home Ministry picked 84 winners consisting of the first, second and third place for the seven categories and four clusters. The winners get Rp 3 billion in prize money, while those coming second and third get Rp 2 billion and Rp 1 billion respectively.

Read also: Indonesia increases COVID-19 budget again amid soaring deficit

The prize money would not go to the region head but to the regional budget (APBD) to support its programs in the form of the regional incentive funds (DID) as well as for COVID-19 handling, Tito stated.

Finance Ministry Regulation No. 19/2020 on regional cash transfers during the COVID-19 pandemic mandates that the DID should be prioritized for COVID-19 handling. The funds allocated to the DID total Rp 13.5 trillion.

“The prize money can be used for programs in the regional budget. The spending is at the regional leader’s discretion, but it should be included in the regional budget. It can also be used for COVID-19 handling, including to provide [economic] stimulus,” Tito said.

Lawmakers and members of the public have lambasted Tito’s initiative, saying such a competition was unnecessary.

Commission II deputy chairman Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said the government seemed to have lost its creativity in making policies, noting that each region would have different measures in implementing the new normal, and that was not for a competition.

"There are many experts. The government can look at the data in making policies. Don’t make it like idol competition shows,” the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) politician said.

Read also: Most Indonesians dissatisfied with administration's COVID-19 response, survey finds

Hidayatullah, a member of House Commission XI overseeing finance, deplored the initiative, saying the government had to have a sense of crisis and that the DID should be an award for regions that perform well in budget management, governance and public services.

“Such incentives should be distributed proportionally by also prioritizing the worst-affected areas […]. The experts say we should resolve the health emergency first and then the economy, and move to the new normal," said the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician.