Politics, Law, Security

Indonesia Martials Volunteers

Faced with limited human resources, the COVID-19 task force has appealed to people, particularly those with a medical background, to enlist as volunteers. “Since we opened the registration process four weeks ago, a total of 28,900 people have registered, of whom, 5,500 are medical volunteers, while the rest are non-medical ones,” the task force’s volunteer team coordinator, Andre Rahardian, said on April 29, 2020. The volunteers come from different regions of Indonesia, and are not solely from Jakarta. Most harbor a humanitarian spirit and inclination for mutual cooperation. Non-medical volunteers constitute about 80 percent of the volunteer force. Following a training course, they are tasked with logistics and general administration pertaining to aid distribution. The task force now needs more medical volunteers as the 5,500 recently recruited volunteers are not yet ready to be placed on duty.

Labor Reforms on Hold

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the House of Representatives have agreed to postpone deliberation on labor issues in the much-anticipated omnibus bill, just in time to persuade workers against holding a mass protest before the May Day amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “The government and DPR have the same view to postponing the discussion of the labor cluster in the job creation bill,” President Jokowi said on Friday, referring the House by its acronym. Jokowi’s administration puts a high hope on the bill to improve the investment climate in the country. The bill aims for sweeping revisions to the country’s existing laws, including the 2003 labor law that many deemed too rigid for establishing an investment climate that is competitive in the region. Two political parties in the President’s party (Nasdem and PDI-P) don’t just want to delay the debate over labor provisions, they want them removed and put in a separate bill. (Jakarta Globe)

Opposition to Food Imports

The tension between local vs imported food has been a perennial issue with food self-sufficiency often being a higher priority than food security. However, Indonesia lives in a region where there are much more efficient rice producers, Thailand and Vietnam. Years of government-imposed import controls (often in abrogation of WTO rules) have not incentivized the production increases they were designed to support and have led to shortages and price spikes. The proposed Omnibus Bill on Job Creation would relax some of these protections and predictably, there is opposition. Several lawmakers of the House of Representatives and a pro-domestic farmer group have voiced their opposition to the domestic food supply provisions in the disputed omnibus bill on job creation, arguing that it could weaken domestic farmers’ production and favor importers. Idham Arsyad of the Indonesian Farmers and Fishermen Awakening Movement (Gerbang Tani) also echoed similar concerns, arguing that the bill could make Indonesia more dependent on food importers. Furthermore, fears have grown among local farmers that they would not be able to compete with foreign commodities that are produced more efficiently and at cheaper costs. For example, the production cost of rice per kilogram in Indonesia is two and a half times higher than in Vietnam. Farmers could indeed lose out to imports, he said. “The bill exists when the country is struggling to break its dependency on imported agricultural products, especially the food sub-sector,” Idham said in a written statement.