A dentist in Surabaya, East Java, wears complete personal protective equipment before examining a patient on Friday. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru)

No Trade-Off Between Health and Economy: Finance Minister


MAY 24, 2020

Jakarta. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said Indonesia would not compromise on the health of its population to reboot the country's economy after enduring months-long slowdown amid pandemic-related restrictions.  

"There is no trade-off between health and the economy. Both are like conjoined twins who are not separated. If there is no health, there is no economy, and vice versa," Sri Mulyani said on her social media account on over the weekend. 

Sri Mulyani commented on her virtual meeting with representatives of medical doctors, nurses, and health workers from around Indonesia under the Coalition of Health Professional Societies and Associations (Kompak) on Friday.  

Sri Mulyani's comment came after discussions surfaced over the past week for loosening the so-called large scale social restrictions (PSBB) in the country's economic centers like Jakarta and its surrounding area.

Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Muhajir Effendy said last Monday that the government is preparing steps for easing the restriction to allow shops, malls and other economic activities to reopen. Still, the government has yet to decide when it would loosen the restriction.

Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said the government would base its decision on loosening the restriction on epidemiological evidence

Jakarta has a total of 6,561 confirmed cases by Sunday, the largest number of Covid-19 cases in Indonesia, accounting for 29 percent of the country's total of 22,271 cases. But the number of new cases in the capital has been stabilizing. 

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan extended for the third time its PSBB until June 4, as the Covid-19's reproduction rate — the average number of people infected by a person with the disease — in the capital was nearing one. The outbreak will end when the reproduction rate falls below one. 

Indonesia's economy grew at its slowest pace in close two decades in the first quarter and is expected to be stagnant at best in the second quarter, according to a projection from Bank Indonesia, the central bank. 

Businesses have told the government that most of them could not survive beyond June if the restrictions still stand. Small shops and street vendors had even risked their health to open their business as many shoppers disobey health protocol went shopping to prepare for Idul Fitri. 

Medical workers have been vocal in social media in the past week. They used the hashtag #Indonesiaterserah (whatever, Indonesia) to express their concerns about the authorities and communities dropping their discipline and disregarding health protocol would bring the second wave of Covid-19 infections in the archipelago. 

Data on new daily cases compiled by Ourworldindata.org showed Indonesia as the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to show its pandemic peak. 

But Sri Mulyani assuaged their concern, saying that the government knows that health and economy are two things that must go hand in hand. That was why the government's first step in Covid-19 mitigation was to earmark Rp 75 trillion ($5.1 billion) spending specifically for healthcare. 

"To all of the medical staff and health workers who are at the forefront, I can feel the weight you face day after day. Together, let us keep our hope to face the challenges of this pandemic to save Indonesia," Sri Mulyani said.