The Jakarta Post
Concerns have been raised over President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s decision to form a COVID-19 handling and national economic recovery committee tasked to streamline strategic policies on countering the pandemic.
Members of the House of Representatives have questioned the move, pointing out that the country had achieved little in its fight against the pandemic.
Nihayatul Wafiroh, deputy chairwoman of the House Commission IX overseeing health care, said the committee has been established based only on economic factors, unlike its predecessor, the national COVID-19 task force, which was formed under health, social and economic concerns.
"Health wasn’t the main consideration of the committee’s formation [...] I have no more hope for public health because [the committee’s] only focus is the economy," the PKB politician said on Tuesday.
Netty Prasetiyani from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) echoed Nihayatul’s concern, saying it was clear that the government prioritized the economy.
“It’s not surprising at all. The budget for the country’s COVID-19 response is being [allocated] half-heartedly. As a result, hospitals are overwhelmed and health workers are dying,” she said.
She called on the government to focus more on public health instead of economic matters, emphasizing the need for health-based policies and strong leadership in pandemic handling.
“Don't blame the public if they start to think that the government is trying to achieve herd immunity in responding to the pandemic.”
Conversely, Saleh Daulay of the National Mandate Party (PAN) lauded Jokowi's move, saying the committee would help with the country’s health and economic recovery as it was tasked with coordinating and integrating COVID-19 response policies in both aspects.
“I hope the committee will pay equal attention to both tasks. It shouldn’t prioritize the economy over people’s health. Both must be resolved simultaneously,” he said.
Read also: Economy trumps public health?
State Secretary Pratikno said the government would still prioritize public health in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, assuring that the committee’s establishment did not mean the government was shifting its focus to the economy.
“Our priority is health and that’s very important. We are now preparing a vaccine," Pratikno said in a written statement on Wednesday.
He added that President Jokowi had come up with the strategy of integrating the government’s efforts in mitigating the pandemic’s impacts on public health and the economy.
According to a survey released by Jakarta-based pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia on Tuesday, most Indonesians no longer want to face large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), citing economic reasons.
However, pulmonologist Erlina Burhan of the Indonesia Medical Association (IDI) COVID-19 task force emphasized that the number of cases was continuing to rise despite the people’s objections.
On Wednesday, Indonesia recorded 1,882 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 89,869. Health authorities also announced that 139 more people had died of the disease, bringing the death toll to 4,459.