Coronavirus pandemic

Simplify and speed up payout of $7.7b Covid-19 funds: Jokowi

Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered the Health Ministry yesterday to immediately disburse the 75 trillion rupiah (S$7.7 billion) budget meant to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 55,000 in the country.

Mr Joko called for the ministry to cut complicated procedures to allow the prompt disbursement of the emergency funds.

"If the ministerial decree is too complicated, please simplify it," he said in a Cabinet meeting to evaluate virus management.

"Claims from hospitals must be paid as soon as possible. Incentives to medical workers and laboratory staff must also be given as immediately as possible."

He also demanded that the families of doctors and nurses who died of Covid-19 get the allowances right after the incidents.

Mr Joko's order came after a video of an uncharacteristic reprimand, released online over the weekend by the presidential palace, expressing his anger and disappointment that only 1.53 per cent of the total budget had been disbursed, and instructing Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto to speed up spending.

The government has allocated the budget for several purposes, ranging from upgrading 132 referral hospitals to provision of incentives to health workers.

The bulk of the 75 trillion rupiah budget - 65.8 trillion - is earmarked for buying medical equipment, enhancing health facilities and infrastructure and supporting health workers, the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture said on April 8.

Incentives for doctors and nurses range from five million rupiah to 15 million rupiah each month, while allowances for each family of health workers who died are 300 million rupiah.

In the 10-minute video of the reprimand conveyed at a meeting with his aides on June 18, Mr Joko also threatened to reshuffle the Cabinet as he expressed frustration over the "lack of a sense of crisis" and a "business as usual" approach in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has triggered speculation that Dr Terawan, who once issued a controversial suggestion that people pray to avoid getting Covid-19, is one of the ministers to be sacked.

 
 
 
 

During yesterday's meeting, the President again called for a "breakthrough" in dealing with the pandemic, such as mobilising medical workers from Jakarta to regions with high rates of contagion and distributing more health equipment to areas in dire need.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has said that many health workers have yet to receive incentives from the government as planned, as the disbursement of the funds requires verification to ensure the accuracy of the beneficiaries.

The President, popularly known as Jokowi, warned regions to prepare well before easing their curbs and underlined the need to involve community and religious leaders, sociologists and anthropologists in public communication about the virus in order to reach out to people at the grassroots level.

Health Ministry secretary-general Oscar Primadi could not be reached by The Straits Times for comment.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has said that many health workers have yet to receive incentives from the government as planned, as the disbursement of the funds requires verification to ensure the accuracy of the beneficiaries.

"The problem lies in the verification. We're caught in a dilemma between acting quickly and being vigilant," she was quoted as saying by Bisnis.com last Saturday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2020, with the headline 'Simplify and speed up payout of $7.7b Covid-19 funds: Jokowi'. Print Edition | Subscribe