Mochamad Ridwan Kamil, Governor of West Java: Incomplete Data Will Get Me into Trouble
West Java Governor Mochamad Ridwan Kamil has ordered large-scale social restrictions—or PSBB as widely known—across the entire West Java region starting May 6 following the successful implementation of the same measures in Bogor-Depok-Bekasi and Greater Bandung.
WITH the end of the pandemic not yet in sight, the number of the new poor residents in West Java has jumped by around 7 million families. Multiple social assitance channels that caused confusion as well as chaotic data management mar the social assistance distribution.
The West Java government has not eased the PSBB albeit the fall in the number of Covid-19 positive cases in Bogor, Depok and Bekasi as well as Greater Bandung. Governor Mochamad Ridwan Kamil instead widened the PSBB scope to the provincial level to keep the tight lid on the spread of infections.
After the special capital region of Jakarta and West Sumatra, West Java is the third province to enforce the PSBB. “Hopefully, good news will come out of West Java because West Java represents Indonesia,” said Emil, as the governor is familiarly called, in the special video interview with Tempo on April 30.
Previously on April 15, Jakarta’s buffer zone comprising Bogor City and Regency, Depok City and Bekasi City and Regency—abbreviated into Bodebek—imposed the PSBB. Emil said the number of Covid-19 cases in these areas had dropped by 38.5 percent following the PSBB enforcement. He added that Greater Bandung which consists of five regencies and cities had also seen the decline in positive cases after the PSBB was put in place on April 22.
Emil, 48, has not only expanded the restrictions on the movements of West Java’s population of 50 million, almost the size of South Korea’s population. Disorganized data regarding aid recipients and multiple government assistance channels prompted the former Bandung mayor to take his own initiatives to distribute basic necessities to 30,000 poor families. “I would have lost 15 days to help them if I had to wait until everything was sorted out,” he said.
Emil explained several issues to Tempo, from the impact of the PSBB, muddled data on social assistance recipients in West Java, to the spike in the number of poor people brought on by Covid-19. The interview was supplemented with additional information Emil sent via one of his staff on May 4.
How effective is the PSBB in Bodebek and Bandung in bringing down the number of Covid-19 positive cases?
We found it to be quite effective. The Covid curve is relatively flat now. The average rate of new cases in West Java is only 40 per day so the percentage is not increasing. Bodebek which applied the PSBB saw the decline. So did Bandung except Cimahi.
Why are the cases increasing in Cimahi?
The infection spread because of people returning to their hometowns (mudik). We divide the cases into two categories namely local infections and imported infections. We began to prohibit mudik only in this PSBB. Mudik was what spurred the spread of the infections which previously were confined to crowded regions to villages with no cases. It was because of the people who took advantage of the moments before the mudik ban was put in effect although they were already infected with the virus. But I don’t anticipate any more spread after 14 days from April 30 as the lockdown is already in place. People are not allowed to enter the region. We turn them back in the Karawang and Puncak areas.
Can the PSBB effectively restrict people’s movements?
Social distancing can only cut 10 percent (of infections) as perhaps around 60 percent of the people were still moving around even under social distancing measures. Even after the PSBB, human movement is still close to 50 percent in average. Ideally, the PSBB can work if the movement is restricted to only 30 percent.
What is the solution?
We remind regional heads to restrict the human movements in their regions to 30 percent. If it works, the PSBB can be scientifically justified while we do massive testing. There is something interesting. Before the PSBB, Bodebek had the highest virus reproduction and infection rate followed by West Java, Bandung and non-PSBB areas in the second, third and fourth places respectively. Afterwards, the areas that have not imposed the PSBB now have the highest infection rate followed by West Java, Bandung and Bodebek in the same order. The viral suppression rate has also improved (after the PSBB).
Governor Ridwan Kamil at the Covid-19 Information and Coordination Center in Bandung, West Java, March 10./TEMPO/Prima Mulia
Hasn’t the number of people coming from the PSBB zone decreased?
Bodebek which previously recorded the highest reproduction rate is now at the bottom (with the lowest rate) as they closed their doors to people coming for mudik, curbing imported cases. Meanwhile 17 cities and regencies in West Java which previously had the lowest cases but did not enforce the PSBB now have the highest imported cases. That’s why today I proposed to the health minister to apply a provincial level PSBB. Yesterday, I had a video conference with regents and mayors and we all agreed that imported cases are the source of risk. With the PSBB, we only need to focus on local cases.
Do you think that the provincial level PSBB will be able to cut the number of positive cases?
The success of Bodebek and Bandung in flattening the curve can hopefully be emulated by the remaining 17 cities and regencies. One of the indicators of the success of the PSBB is the decline in the Covid reproduction rate. If the measure is successful all across the province simultaneously, West Java should be able to manage the outbreak well.
You said the PSBB was on the brink of failure after three train passengers on the Bogor-Jakarta was found to be Covid-19 positive on April 27. Will you push for the suspension of the railway operations?
To start with, Covid is a ‘crowd disease’. It spread fast in busy markets or religious events or crowded trains. The key is not the places but the concentration of people. Since it is decided not to suspend the rail operations, at least the congestion must be managed. The other day, we tested around 300 random passengers hoping we wouldn’t find any Covid positive passengers but three turned up positive. Imagine if 10,000 people are tested. On the assumption of one percent infection, it would mean 100 positive cases. We’ve informed this to the transportation ministry. If the railway operations cannot be discontinued, they must ensure that at least a 1-2-meter distance regulation be applied.
Mudik played quite a big role in the infection spread. How many people managed to slip into West Java before the government issued the mudik ban?
Travelers from West Java makes up around 3.8 million of mudik travelers each year. Those who sneaked in through back alleys and so on amounted to 300,000. I hope there are no more. Now is the golden momentum (to curb the spread) because first, we are in Ramadan (fasting month) where people are, if God willing, more patient and obedient with higher level of faith. Second, mudik has been banned. Then we have the PSBB and massive testing. With these four measures in place, I hope by Lebaran (end of fasting month celebration), we will reap better results.
Have the regional governments been monitoring the pockets in their regions where mudik travelers returned to?
According to the reports from regents, indeed there are many new cases in villages. In Sumedang, a village chief was infected from a mudik traveler he documented. This is just to show the risks mudik poses. There are cases of parents infected in Ciamis, Bandung and Cianjur. The fact is that 300,000 people have slipped through so we implement the isolation protocols and provincial PSBB to mitigate the impact. There shouldn’t be any more imported cases. We will chase, trace and test. By locking down the two metropolitan areas Bodebek and Bandung, we could relatively stabilize the number of new cases in West Java. The result should be even better if we lock down the entire province.
How prepared are the hospitals to face potential increase in the number of Covid cases from the travelers who went home through back alleys?
The good news is that only 55 percent of the capacity of the designated hospitals has been utilized so it is still manageable. This does not include non-hospital buildings that have been converted into makeshift hospitals. Moreover, after Pindad and Dirgantara Indonesia begin the production of affordable ventilators, we would be able to eliminate the ventilator shortage typically faced by the hospitals.
With the expanded PSBB and the decline in the spread, when is the curve of the total positive cases in West Java expected to slope downward?
We’ve conducted studies with various universities. The outbreak in West Java is expected to reach its peak in the first week of June and take a downward trend afterwards. As regards the economy, I will declare those areas which can prove that there are no new cases as the areas where social distancing measures can be relaxed. Schools may be opened with certain restrictions, movements will still be restricted but the emergency status may be lifted. Hopefully, good news will come out of West Java because West Java represents Indonesia. We have villages, cities and regions. We cannot make an apple-to-apple comparison between West Java and Jakarta. Jakarta to me is more suitable to be compared with Surabaya or Bandung. In my opinion, Jakarta is a city which has been named province. It’s easier to manage. West Java on the other hands poses bigger challenges.
How much budget has the West Java provincial government allocated for social assistance programs?
West Java’s Covid budget is divided into three: for social assistance, procurement of health equipment and operational expenditure of the accelerated Covid management taskforce and others. Combined with the funds from the province’s cities and regencies, the total amounts to Rp10.6 trillion. If everything goes well, in July, there will be Rp13 trillion labor-intensive programs for the unemployed so they can work in government projects.
How many West Java residents have been affected by the economic fallout from the Coronavirus outbreak?
There are complications. We are already in a state of economic emergency. Well, in an economic emergency, people hope to receive government assistance. We theorized prior to Covid that the government would assist the 25 percent at the bottom. The next 25 percent are those who live from hand to mouth but do not need government subsidies. However, Covid-19 has pushed the latter 25 percent into the vulnerable category. Still theoretically, we assumed that it would still be maximum 40 percent that we needed to help. But in reality, as of April 27, the number of people who registered themselves as being in the lowest bracket reached 63-67 percent. So, you can imagine almost two-thirds of the population of West Java are stretching out their hands for government assistance. This is extraordinarily hard for us.
What does the social assistance distribution mechanism look like?
Prior to Covid, we had only two programs: Program Keluarga Harapan (family welfare program) and Sembako (basic commodity assistance program). When Covid struck, programs multipled to six and that’s eventually caused complications. These six programs came via different channels and are run on different schemes, means and schedules. There is a cash assistance from the social welfare ministry which was rolled out on April 20. Then the village ministry launched a village fund program on April 27. President Jokowi distributed basic commodities on May 4 to deter people from going on mudik. Each ministry has its own program run on its way and schedule including the pre-employment card (Kartu Prakerja) which for us is quite confusing because the card is used for Covid social assistance programs. The regional governments had no say in these programs.
How did you respond to that situation?
The provincial government has two options, to move first or wait until everything is sorted out. These are the dynamics we faced. We decided that we would help where necessary at the first opportunity. That’s why we started giving assistance to 30,000 families on April 15.
Why did some residents reject the provincial government’s assistance?
Again, dynamics occurred at the lower level. Someone had received the provincial government’s assistance earlier than others, say, his neighbor. Well, this neighbor, since he hadn’t received, thought he wouldn’t be getting any assistance and the rest of the village decided to collectively refuse. Actually, the person who didn’t receive that day was already scheduled to receive another assistance at another day. If such complications continue to occur, social problems can arise because people see things differently. The problem is the government did not use one channel. There are eight official channels. Therefore, I proposed at the cabinet meeting to establish just one channel in the next three or four months. If the distributions cannot be done via one channel, then they should be done together at one time to avoid suspicions among the people.
How disconcerting was the situation at the time of the social assistance distribution?
The data from the field was incomplete. We found 1.7 million errors and inaccuracies. There are names without the ID card numbers or names with incomplete population registration numbers. When we checked with the home affairs ministry, the data didn’t match. This is the state fund. The incomplete or wrong or carelessly inputted data can get us into trouble. They haven’t updated the data for a long time. As of April 29, 14 cities and regencies had not returned the revised data. You can imagine how cumbersome it is to manage between the data and the timing of the assistance. We who were ready (to distribute) were faced with difficult options between whether to wait until the data was sorted out delaying the distribution and whether to go ahead and distribute assistance first. As ineffective as we may be, at least we gave out the assistance. We were criticized because ‘we worked too fast’, not because we did not work or stood idly or dragged our feet.
MOCHAMAD RIDWAN KAMIL
Place and date of birth: Bandung, West Java, October 4, 1971 • Education: Bachelor of Architectural Engineering, Bandung Institute of Technology (1990-1995); Master of Urban Design, University of California, Berkeley, USA (1999-2001) • Career: Architect (since 2001), Founder of the Indonesian Urbane Architect Firm (2004), Visiting Lecturer, Architecture Major, Mayor of Bandung (2013-2018), Governor of West Java (2018-2023) • Awards: International Young Design Entrepreneur of the Year from the British Council Indonesia (2012), Pikiran Rakyat Award 2012 for Creative Young Leaders (2012), Urban Leadership Award from the University of Pennsylvania, US (2013)
You said that the provincial government had distributed the social assistance based on the clean and clear data. What do you mean?
Those who have long been poor are already in the official integrated social welfare data (DTKS). They were always surveyed as the existing poor population. Well, the new poor (residents), the 25 percent above the already poor (population), is defined as non-DTKS. There are still debates about who should be in the DTKS. The provincial government decided to accept (people’s) aspirations as long as they provide a letter of absolute accountability that the aspirations they convey have legality so that they don’t give false information.
Did the regencies and cities accept the revised data?
Yes. Imagine the provincial government can help only 2.4 million families or around 9 million people. Now the number jumped to 9.4 million families or 38 million people. So, 38 million out of 50 million West Java population are now demanding the state’s responsibility. Well, the clear data is the DTKS. That’s what we used. The data of the new poor (residents) is still being updated, revised and verified. Imagine my dilemma. If I waited until everything was clear, I could lose 15 days to help them. So, I chose to distribute assistance first to those in the verified data. At least 30,000 packets of basic commodities we sent had saved 30,000 families.
With increasing waves of layoffs, what is the approximate number of the new poor poplulation in West Java?
I can only measure from the data given by the neighborhood associations, community units and village heads. The combined number of layoff victims, those who do not earn wages and so on has jumped from 2.4 million to 9.4 million families. So, there are seven million families who suffered the economic impact from the pandemic. Among them are laid-off employees, small and medium business owners who lost their businesses or livelihoods. From our data, there is an increase of 7 million families who are at risk of falling into poverty.