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Below are excerpts from an interview with Sung Y. Kim, new United States Ambassador to Indonesia. Ambassador Sung Kim was born in Seoul to South Korean parents. Having spent the majority of his diplomatic career in Asia, he has a deep understanding of the region. This is his first interview with the local media since his arrival in Jakarta last June. He discussed vaccine assistance (to Indonesia), the weapon system procurement as well as cooperation for mitigating climate change issues.
At last, SOEs Minister Erick Thohir intervened and tackled the medical oxygen and Covid medication shortages that plagued many hospitals. Erick mobilized several SOEs to help meet the needs of referral hospitals particularly in Java. He also instructed Indofarma and Kimia Farma to boost ivermectin production to fill the market with ample supplies. Although the BPOM has not approved the drug, Erick is pushing its use given the efficacy and minimal side effects proven in several countries. Amid the marked increase in Covid cases, Erick, who also leads Covid-19 Mitigation and Economic Recovery Working Committee makes frequent rounds of site inspection to check on oxygen and Covid drug supplies, all the while continuing with measures to transform SOEs.
The explosion of new Covid-19 cases in the past month will see the increase in health care expenditure, mainly to purchase 400 million doses of vaccines and for patient treatment. The emergency has compelled Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to recalculate the budget as the health ministry increased its budget from Rp172 trillion to around Rp185 trillion. Having experienced in dealing with the 1997-1998 and 2008 financial crises, Sri Mulyani says the Covid-19 presents challenges that are starkly different from those of the previous economic calamities.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed Indonesia’s demographics affecting the trends in the capital market. Indonesia Stock Exchange’s Commissioner Pandu Patria Sjahrir says enthusiasm of millennial and Gen Z investors has risen phenomenally during the pandemic. Since 2016, the number of young investors has grown to over 1.8 million with those aged 28 and below making up the highest increase. The rapid development of the digital technologies has opened the floodgates for tech companies and start-ups. One of the sectors most sought after by foreign investors is financial technology (fintech). Pandu, a businessman and an investor, who is also the chairman of Indonesian Fintech Association, says that in future fintech companies will not just focus on consumer lending but increase productive loans to support micro, small and medium enterprises through peer-to-peer lending.
Chairman of Indonesian Pediatric Association (IDAI) Aman Bhakti Pulungan is concerned about the rising cases of Covid-19 among children in Indonesia. According to IDAI’s record, around 117,000 children have been infected since the pandemic struck. Children makes up 12.5 percent of the total cases. Aman says children are most vulnerable to the disease via their parents and the people around them. He observes that many pediatric patients with Covid-19 go to doctors rather late rendering the doctors unable to offer maximal treatment. Given the recent surge in the cases, Aman urges the government to put on hold face-to-face classes scheduled to resume in July.
Dr. Sasa carries out his duties as International Cooperation Minister and Spokesperson for National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar’s parallel government, from an undisclosed hiding place. He moves from one discussion forum to the next to lobby for support from the international community. Sasa has been in contact with international leaders and politicians from the US, UK, EU or even Japan, yet he has been unsuccessful in establishing communication with ASEAN. He presses ASEAN to take a more prominent role in resolving the crisis in his home country, among others, by promptly appointing a special envoy to mediate dialog between the NUG and junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. According to him the five point consensus from the ASEAN Summit has not been followed up.
Following an investigation into the leak of personal data belonging to 279 million Indonesian citizens on May 20, Population and Civil Registration Director-General Zudan Arif Fakrulloh ascertained that it was not population data. As Indonesia’s Population and Civil Registration (Dukcapil) data is the world’s fourth largest big data after those of China, India and the United States, Zudan is constantly worried about the threat of hackers. Albeit Dukcapil’s system which is more sophisticated nowadays, Zudan admits that his agency’s infrastructure on the other hand is already out of date. To build a stronger system and upgrade the infrastructure, the home affairs ministry is planning to collect non-tax revenues from private companies that access Dukcapil data.
Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia, Zuhair al-Shun, urges the international community to take concrete actions against Israel through economic or political blockade which he believes could pressure Israel. Al-Shun says that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is not a lasting resolution to bring an end to the conflict in Gaza adding that the United Nations has already passed many resolutions, among others Resolution 181 of 1947, to create free Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. He hopes that the United States’ new administration under President Joe Biden will take a fairer stance in the issue. Al-Shun also conveys the Palestinian authority’s appreciation towards political and humanitarian support given by the Indonesian government and its people and gives advice on how to properly funnel solidarity funds for the Palestinian people.
After three years at the helm of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Laksana Tri Handoko is entrusted with a new job: to lead the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN). The Japan-educated scientist is given a mandate by President Joko Widodo to integrate five major national research institutes. He is tasked to catch up lags in science and technology, to create technological independence and to focus on exploring the digital economy as well as green and blue economy. He would also continue his efforts which he initiated in LIPI to bring back a diaspora of Indonesian researchers to strengthen BRIN. Handoko said BRIN also needed political support to realize research as one of the main pillars of the national economy.
Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, and non-profit organization Hujah Ehsan are holding an online exhibition of the ASEAN Human Rights Cartoon Exhibition from May 3 to 30. The exhibition, titled Human Rights at the Homeland, features 100 critical cartoons by 37 cartoonists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar. Tempo interviewed Zunar to understand the road and the importance of the exhibition, also the development of political cartoons in Southeast Asia.
If nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic has not managed to disrupt Nur Rofiah’s Qur’anic Recitation Session on Gender Justice in Islam. Through the da’wah forum she initiated in the Ramadan two years ago, the professor in Qur’anic studies and interpretation fights for gender justice for Muslim women by raising awareness that women’s humanity is equal to men’s. She first got acquainted with the gender justice issue when she was studying at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic Institute in Yogyakarta in the 90s when the gender issue was a hot topic and people were associating it with Islam. Her interest in the issue grew stronger as she immersed herself in the world of activism. Apart from being active as a lecturer and an activist, Nur Rofiah also helped launch the country’s first female Muslim clerics’ congress in 2017.
Seasoned musician Candra Darusman was again at the center of efforts to fight for the welfare of musicians and songwriters. As the chair of Indonesian Musician Union Federation (Fesmi), his input was solicited for the formulation of Government Regulation No. 56/2021 regarding the management of music royalties. The regulation inked by President Joko Widodo on March 30 not only governs parties responsible to pay royalties but also lays down the basis for the establishment of a data center as well as a music information system. Before he headed Fesmi in 2019, Candra represented Indonesia at World Intellectual Property Organization for 18 years, nine years respectively at the organization’s offices in Switzerland and Singapore. After decades of being active in intellectual property rights protection, Candra is determined to improve the lives of musicians and songwriters by, among others, improving royalty management amid new challenges in the digital era.
Mukti Fajar Nur Dewata was elected as Judicial Commission Chairman amid its declining image and questions about its existence. He must clear the backlog he inherited including the agency’s sour relation with the Supreme Court. Intersecting supervisory jurisdiction of the Commission and the Supreme Court’s supervisory agency has rendered the Judicial Commission unable to perform its duties optimally. The Commission is currently in the process of reviewing the plan to revise the Judicial Commission Law to delineate the boundaries of its jurisdiction.
The Indonesian Ombudsman finally intervened in the rice import polemic last March. Agency Chair Mokhammad Najih said the government’s planned rice import ahead of the prime harvest season had discomposed the public, particularly farmers, while in fact the import would not become necessary until May. Moreover, the agency also found maladministration in the policy making process. Najih added that the Ombudsman had strengthened its role in helping improve the public service quality. In addition to following through with public reports and complaints, it will continue to enhance oversight of the ministries and state agencies. The focus of the watchdogs’ new board will be on economic development issues and their impact on public services. Najih also highlighted the need to expand his agency’s authority.
State Health Care and Social Security Agency’s (BPJS Kesehatan) CEO Ali Ghufron Mukti revealed that his agency was still in the red with a deficit of Rp6.3 trillion as of December 2020. The increased premiums starting last January coupled with the decline in the use of BPJS services during the pandemic are expected to help reduce the deficit. Given the pandemic as a non-natural disaster, the government has borne coronavirus treatment costs. Ghufron said that to increase public’s participation, BPJS Kesehatan was exploring an innovative funding mechanism via cooperation with philanthropic institutions with the hope to help fund prospective National Health Insurance-Healthy Indonesia Card (JKN-KIS) holders or even assist settle arrears. This way, the entire population will eventually have access to health care.