Indonesian President Joko Widodo orders quick disbursement of $7.7 billion Covid-19 health budget

Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for the ministry to cut complicated procedures. PHOTO: INDONESIA PRESIDENTIAL PALACE

JAKARTA - Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered the Health Ministry on Monday (June 29) to immediately disburse the 75 trillion rupiah (S$7.7 billion) budget earmarked to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed over 2,800 people and infected more than 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."

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

His order came after a video of an uncharacteristic reprimand, released online at 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 instructed Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto to speed up spending.

The government has allocated the budget for several purposes, ranging from upgrading 132 referral hospitals across the country 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 deceased health workers are 300 million rupiah.

In the 10-minute video of the reprimand conveyed during 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 the Covid-19, is one of the ministers to be sacked.

During the Monday's meeting, the president also 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.

He also warned regions to prepare well before easing their restrictions and moving transition into the new normal 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 grass roots.

Health Ministry secretary general Oscar Primadi was unreachable when contacted by The Straits Times for comment.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Saturday 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. We must make sure the names of the doctors and nurses and where they were posted," she was quoted as saying by on Saturday.

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