COVID-19: Batam ferry terminal mulls suspending operations amid declining income

first_imgSingapore expanded its new border restrictions on Monday, issuing a Stay-Home Notice (SHN) of compulsory self-isolation for 14 days to returning Singaporeans and visitors who had traveled to countries severely affected by the coronavirus in the two weeks prior to their arrival in the island state.Detailed information on the expanded restriction, including the complete list of restricted countries and any specific conditions, is provided on the website of the Singapore Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).Meanwhile, the Malaysian government announced on Monday that it would enforce a partial lockdown starting Wednesday, March 18, following the country’s recent surge in the number of confirmed cases.In response to the policies, the Sekupang ferry terminal on Tuesday reduced its daily trips to Singapore from 14 to six. “Nowadays, we only serve about 100 passengers every day,” said Jhonson, and that the terminal had transported 1,000 to 1,500 daily passengers before the COVID-19 outbreak.”The new [restriction] states that ferry trips to Singapore can carry only two passengers, primarily returning Singaporean citizens,” he added.“Suspending operational activities is definitely one of our main options, since this port depends on the Batam-Singapore route […],” he said. The ferry terminal operator was also discussing other possible measures regarding the matter, but had not come to a final decision.The ICA announced last Friday that the expanded border restriction would become effective one minute before midnight on Monday, March 16.Batam vice chairman Tjaw Hioeng of the Indonesian Industrial Estate Association (HKI) said that Singapore’s expanded restrictions had come as a shock to industrial companies in the city, many of whose foreign managers were now stuck in Singapore after spending the weekend there.“They are reluctant to return to Batam because the policy will limit their movements. If they return to Batam, they would be quarantined for 14 days,” Tjaw said on Tuesday.He added that while foreign factories in Batam were managed remotely, they would run into problems without their foreign middle and top managers on site to sign the financial documents required to keep running.The partial lockdown in Malaysia would also disrupt the distribution of raw materials to Batam.“We will discuss this matter with the Batam Mayor tomorrow [Wednesday]. We hope [Jakarta] will lobby the Singaporean government to provide an exemption to business activities that require travel to the country,” he said. (dpk)Topics : The Sekupang International Ferry Terminal in Batam, Riau Islands province, which serves routes to Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia, is planning to suspend several routes following Singapore’s expanded border restrictions and Malaysia’s partial lockdown.Sekupang  operations chief Jhonson Gultom told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the ferry terminal operator was considering suspending its services in the next few days if operating expenses exceeded income.“There are only [losses] for us in this situation,” Jhonson said.last_img read more

COVID-19 task force issues call for 4,000 more medical workers

first_imgAndre said that students in their final year of medical school would form the “second front line” in preventing the spread of COVID-1 by providing “medical and [mental health] consultations through an online platform”.The COVID-19 task force is working in collaboration with various universities and NGOs. Anyone interested in volunteering may sign up through the task force’s official website.Earlier on Thursday, Education and Culture Minister Nadiem Makarim called on medical school students across the country to join the task force’s volunteer program.“Our country is currently at war against an invisible enemy that is moving fast and threatening human lives. Therefore, I ask all people to join the fight to defeat this enemy,” Nadiem said on Thursday in Jakarta during a COVID-19 video conference with students.Indonesia’s nationwide figures at the time of publishing stood at 893 confirmed cases, with 103 new case and 78 deaths. The country recorded the highest number of deaths on March 26, with 20 people dying of the disease. (aly)Topics : The COVID-19 rapid response task force has said that Indonesia needs an additional 1,500 doctors and 2,500 nurses to treat COVID-19 patients amid the surge in cases across the archipelago.“Indonesia currently needs around 1,500 doctors, especially pulmonologists, anesthetists and general physicians, as well as 2,500 nurses,” COVID-19 task force volunteer coordinator Andre Rahadian said at a press briefing on Thursday, as quoted by kompas.com.In addition to more doctors and nurses, Andre said that hospitals urgently needed more laboratory staff, administrative staff and ambulance drivers.last_img read more

Kids aren’t coronavirus ‘guinea pigs’: Danish mums rebel as schools reopen

first_imgBut any new infections would be unproblematic in an age group “where few fall ill, and those who do won’t get very sick”.Looking at neighbouring Sweden, which has kept schools open without a drastic rise in infections, children also appeared not to be a major driver for transmission of the virus, he said.Teaching staff are under instruction to keep social distancing in place between children and, with many school buildings staying closed, in some cases preparing chalk for pupils to write with on the playground tarmac.”I don’t think it’s right for the kids not to hug their friends,” said Nonne Behrsin Hansen, a mother of two aged two and four.”We keep the kids home, because the situation in the daycares before the COVID-19 outbreak were not okay, and the conditions they are setting up now are even worse.”For now at least, most members of Momster, an online network of thousands of Danish mothers, do not believe authorities have things under control, according to its founder and CEO Esme Emma Sutcu.”Suddenly, these moms feel like they just have to throw their kids to the frontline and I think their reaction is: ‘Don’t mess with our kids’,” she said.Topics : “I think a lot of parents are thinking, ‘Why should my little child go outside first’,” said the mother of two girls aged five and nine.The month-long lockdown in Denmark, where the virus has infected more than 6,600 people with close to 300 deaths, has also closed shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas and gyms.On Wednesday, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen defended the move, undertaken on health authority recommendations, to ease it by resuming teaching up to fifth grade, saying this would allow parents to return to work and “get the economy going again.”Christian Wejse, a scientist at the department of infectious diseases at Aarhus University, said he understood people’s concerns “because we’ve spent a month trying to avoid contact.” Denmark eased its coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday by reopening schools and day care centers, but concerns they might become breeding grounds for a second wave of cases convinced thousands of parents to keep their children at home.The rate of new cases is falling, but the government’s decision has led to a heated debate over how to balance the needs of the economy and the safety of the population – in this case its youngest citizens.”I won’t be sending my children off no matter what,” said Sandra Andersen, the founder of a Facebook group called ‘My kid is not going to be a Guinea Pig’ that has more than 40,000 followers.last_img read more

Antigraft group urges KPK to investigate preemployment card program

first_img“The appointment is also suspected of violating the provisions in the form of unfair business competition or monopoly,” Boyamin said.MAKI submitted the request for the investigation, along with supporting documents, to the KPK on Monday.Boyamin said the cost per course – between Rp 200,000 (US$13.23) and Rp 1 million – was too expensive when compared to the salaries of school teachers and college lecturers and the production cost of the course materials.“It is also way more expensive than other training courses available on YouTube or those searchable on Google, which are free and only require an internet plan,” he said.Boyamin cited Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) researcher Nailul Huda, who said that the partners could potentially reap Rp 3.7 trillion in profit – Rp 457 billion each.With the potential profits, he estimated the companies would get 66 percent profit from the course fees, higher than the 20 percent profit limit allowed by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP).Read also: ‘Preemployment card ineffective, gimmicky’, CEO participant claimsThe preemployment card program’s stated goal is to help workers and small business owners hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. It seeks to distribute Rp 20 trillion in incentives from the 2020 state budget to 5.6 million eligible recipients.About 9 million candidates have applied for the program since its launch on April 11. More than 2.2 million people have lost their jobs as of April 20 as a result of the health crisis.This is not the program’s first brush with controversy. The appointment of Ruangguru – a startup owned by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s then-expert staffer Adamas Belva Syah Devara – as a private-sector partner led to Adamas’ resignation on April 21.Negative sentiment has also plagued the program, with 81 percent of the 38,000 online discussions of the program containing keywords such as “conflict of interest” and “leaked budget”, according to Indef research between March 27 and April 25.Panji Ruky, the preemployment card program’s management director of communications, however, claimed the partner-selection process was conducted fairly, without any corruption.Perbanas Institute economist Piter Abdullah has also questioned the program’s effectiveness because of the lack of hiring during the outbreak, noting that people needed cash assistance more.KPK acting spokesperson Ali Fikri said on Tuesday that the antigraft body would look into the information provided by MAKI before deciding whether to take further action.”If our analysis finds an indication of potential criminal practice, then there will be a possibility that the KPK will launch an [investigation] into the case,” he said as quoted by kompas.com.Topics : The Indonesian Anticorruption Community (MAKI) has asked the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to investigate the government’s preemployment card program, particularly the lack of transparency in its selection of private-sector partners.“The appointment of the partners was allegedly conducted without a ‘beauty contest’ [competitive applications and bidding], and it did not meet the requirements of administrative and technical qualifications because there was no previous announcement of the requirements themselves,” MAKI coordinator Boyamin Bin Saiman said in a statement on Monday.  In March, the government announced that it had appointed eight digital platforms as partners in the preemployment card program – an initiative that combines cash aid and training subsidies for unemployed workers to augment the social safety net during the COVID-19 crisis. The partners announced were the Manpower Ministry, e-commerce platforms Tokopedia and Bukalapak, as well as online learning platforms Ruangguru, Pintaria, Sekolahmu, Pijarmahir and MauBelajarApa. The e-commerce platforms were responsible for the program’s marketing and sales, while the learning platforms provided the training courses – ranging from marketing to fishing – intended to develop the skills of people laid off as a result of the pandemic.Critics have criticized the partner-selection process as opaque, with no open call for applicants or transparent selection criteria.Read also: Preemployment card draws criticism as workers ‘need cash aid’last_img read more

SOEs minister names new head of railway company PT KAI

first_imgState-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir has replaced the president director of Indonesian railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) following the ministry’s plan to restructure major state companies.“Didiek Hartyanto, previously PT KAI’s financial director, has been appointed the company’s president director, continuing the previous president director’s tenure,” according to a ministerial decree issued on Friday. Didiek replaces Edi Sukmoro, who had led the company since 2014.Meanwhile, Rivan Achmad Purwantono replaces Didiek as the company’s finance director. Prior to his appointment as KAI finance director in February 2016, Didiek worked at state-owned Bank Mandiri as the bank’s executive vice president from February 2011 to January 2016.Erick also appointed Jeffrie Korompis as KAI business development director, replacing Amrozi Hamidi; Magin U. Norhadi as the new commerce director replacing Dody Budiawan; and Agung Yunanto as the new human resources director replacing Ruli Adi.The ministry introduced the restructuring program to improve profitability at state-owned companies as the increases of some of the companies’ asset growth were not proportional to their profit growth.According to a government-commissioned joint study between McKinsey & Co. and Boston Consulting Group, of the 114 state-owned enterprises plotted by the study, only five bring added value to the country. Among the five are banks and a telecommunications company.Topics :last_img read more

COVID-19 kills elderly, haunts the young in Indonesia

first_imgAs Indonesia continues to report hundreds of new COVID-19 cases daily, the government appears to be preparing for the “new normal” by allowing people aged 44 years and below to work outside their homes despite mobility restrictions to contain the epidemic.COVID-19 task force head Doni Monardo triggered criticism after he said last week that the age group in question had a lower fatality rate at 15 percent and was less vulnerable than the elderly. Even so, State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir issued a circular days later, setting out an example of a “new normal” scenario that entails a plan to allow SOE employees under 45 years of age to return to their offices starting on May 25, albeit with several precautions. The above figures do not include hundreds of fatalities among suspected patients reported by local administrations.Soedarsono, the senior pulmonologist and the head of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases at the COVID-19 referral hospital Dr. Soetomo in Surabaya, East Java, said fatalities were indeed more common among the elderly with comorbidity factors, but there had also been cases of young adults with such factors succumbing to the disease.”Young patients aged between 30 and 40 years have died as well, mostly because of underlying health conditions. Young people without such conditions have a higher chance of recovering. The most common conditions are hypertension, heart disease and diabetes,” he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.Read also: COVID-19: Govt to allow people under 45 to work outside to prevent more layoffsSome patients with such conditions might develop complications, and treating these complications was often difficult even after they were cleared of the virus, Soedarsono said.The task force’s data collected from 585 patients show that half of them had underlying conditions, such as hypertension (52.9 percent), diabetes (33.8 percent) or heart disease (20.5 percent). Others include pulmonary and respiratory diseases, cancer, asthma, immune disorders, liver disease and tuberculosis.Around 20.9 percent of the patients with hypertension died, while the death rate for those with diabetes is 15.9 percent, for those with heart disease is 10.1 percent and for those with other conditions in question is below 5 percent.Noncommunicable diseases account for the largest burden on Indonesia’s deficit-stricken National Health Insurance (JKN) — being the cause of 66 percent of morbidity and mortality in 2015, up from about 37 percent in 1990, according to a 2016 World Bank report.While the prevalence of the noncommunicable diseases is indeed higher among the elderly than other age groups, as shown by the 2018 Basic Health Survey (Riskesdas), a growing number of younger people are suffering from such diseases. They were at a heightened risk when exposed to the coronavirus, said epidemiologist Dicky Budiman.Read also: ‘Puskesmas’ move up to COVID-19 front lines amid overburdened health systemThe Riskesdas shows that the prevalence of hypertension in the 35-44 age group is 31.6 percent, in the 25-34 age group it is 20.1 percent and in the 18-24 age group it is 13.2 percent. The prevalence of diabetes and heart disease among the 35-44-year olds is 1.1 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.”The government’s policy to allow people [below] 45 years to work should not apply generally to everyone in that age group. Not everyone in the age group will be safe [if infected],” Dicky said.The stigma surrounding COVID-19, which was “almost worse than with HIV”, coupled with inadequate testing, would likely affect how people sought help, forcing them to only show up at hospitals when it was already too late to treat them, he said.Indonesia has seen 1,148 fatalities in less than three months since it recorded the first two confirmed cases in early March. The tally of confirmed cases rose to 17,514 nationwide on Sunday.Pulmonologist Soedarsono said he believed there were many undetected cases, given the considerably high fatality rate. He cautioned against complacency among young people as even medical professionals still had much to learn about the new virus.He said his teaching hospital was beginning to study possible blood clotting in COVID-19 patients, including in younger people, after studies in several countries found that some patients had developed dangerous blood clots.”With COVID-19 patients, oftentimes there’s incompatibility between patients’ complaints and analyses of lungs, thorax or blood tests. This sometimes makes doctors wonder,” he said.Topics : Data updated daily by the task force show that people aged 60 and above account for 44.2 percent of the deaths as of Sunday, followed by people aged between 46 and 59 years old at 39.8 percent, while those aged 45 and below make up the remaining 16 percent.This is despite data on the distribution of cases showing that the 60-and-above age group only accounts for 16.2 percent of total infections, while the 46-to-59 group accounts for 28.7 percent and those aged 45 and below contribute the majority at 55.1 percent.The task force said no clear age information was available for 9.3 percent of the infected patients.last_img read more

Millions of Indonesians celebrate Eid under social restrictions

first_imgCommunities met with each other after Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Jami ‘Al-Makmur Mosque, Leuwinanggung – Depok, West Java on Sunday, May 24, 2020. (JP/PJ Leo)This year, however, the Indonesian Ulema Council and major Islamic group Muhammadiyah have advised Muslims in the country to avoid Idul Fitri prayers in large congregations at mosques to steer clear of infections. More than 22,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Indonesia, with 1,391 dead, as of Monday.President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo performed Idul Fitri prayers on Sunday with his family and a few aides in front of the Bayurini Pavilion of Bogor Palace in West Java. Meanwhile, the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Istiqlal Mosque held a virtual takbiran (chanting of “Allahu Akbar”) on the eve of Idul Fitri, instead of the usual way of conducting the event at mosques and on the streets involving crowds.President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo (center) performs Eid al-Fitr prayes with his wife, youngest son, and a few aides at the Bogor Presidential Palace in West Java on Sunday (Courtesy of Presidential Press Bureau/Muchlis) Millions of Indonesians are celebrating the most festive time of the year in the country under partial lockdown. Those praying and celebrating at home say they find solace in solemn and modest virtual festivities, but others infringe physical distancing orders.Private-sector employee Risti Oktavisena, 28, decided to stay at her rooming house and call her relatives for a silahturahmi (friendly meeting) to comply with the government’s stay-at-home order. Still, the pandemic has not changed how she interprets the meaning of Idul Fitri.“In fact, the pandemic has actually made this year’s Idul Fitri more solemn, because even though we cannot directly do silahturahmi with family and relatives, we can still feel the warmth of togetherness through our devices when we express our sincere apologies,” Risti said.Food galore, big family gatherings and mass prayers used to be the norm for Idul Fitri celebrations in Indonesia, a two-day national holiday that succeeds a monthlong fasting period for Muslims in the Muslim-majority nation. Read also: Istiqlal Mosque to hold virtual ‘takbiran’ event to welcome Idul Fitri during pandemicIndonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy chairman Muhyiddin Junaidi told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the pandemic should compel people to be more independent in praying at home, led by the head of the family as the imam of the household.“Amid the COVID-19 crisis, we should celebrate Idul Fitri with utmost modesty. Don’t show off your wealth. Instead, we should have a sense of solidarity for our brothers and sisters,” said Muhyiddin.He urged people to be optimistic as people can obtain hikmah (wisdom) from facing the current pandemic.“Don’t neglect worship just because there is a disaster. Worship should continue as usual but with regard to health protocols,” Muhyiddin said, adding that people “have to be able to make changes and follow changes” by using technology.Private-sector employee Aprilian Eka Prananca, 26, said he felt “more devoted” during his Idul Fitri prayers at home, as it allowed him to lead the prayer alongside his wife instead of following directions in mosques.“The Idul Fitri celebration is different, but its essence is the same,” Aprilian said. This year, he had only briefly visited some of his relatives to drop off and exchange gifts but avoided any physical contact while keeping his mask on for the festivity. Before, his family would usually gather in one place, have sleepovers and cook together for the big day.However, not all worshippers follow physical distancing restrictions during the celebrations, with some turning to smugglers and fake travel documents to get around bans on the annual end-of-Ramadan travel, AFP reported, which could send infection numbers soaring.The government has restricted passenger travel starting from April 24 to prevent citizens from participating in the annual Idul Fitri tradition of mudik (exodus) to curb the spread of COVID-19. Coordinating Legal, Political and Human Rights Minister Mahfud MD had also reminded the public that mass Idul Fitri prayers in mosques or public squares were prohibited this year by the Health Ministry’s regulation on large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) and the 2018 Health Quarantine Law.Read also: MUI issues fatwa, implementing ‘social distancing’ for Islamic worshipNevertheless, large groups in the conservative province of Aceh still prayed together – with few masks and little social distancing – as Eid began, and the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in the provincial capital was packed.People attend Eid al-Fitr prayers, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at Islamic Center Mosque in Lhokseumawe, Indonesia’s Aceh province on May 24, 2020. (Photo by IPANK / AFP) (AFP/Ipank)”I did feel worried, but as a Muslim, I still had to perform mass Eid prayers as a form of gratitude to Allah,” one worshipper, Arsi, told AFP.Topics :last_img read more

Same-sex newlyweds in South Sulawesi arrested for forgery

first_imgA same-sex couple who recently held a wedding ceremony in Soppeng regency, South Sulawesi have been arrested and accused of falsifying their sexual identities prior to their marriage.The Soppeng Police have detained the 24-year-old groom, identified only as MTR, and the 21-year-old bride, identified as MT, following a medical check-up and a series of interviews with several witnesses.“We have questioned seven witnesses, including the marriage officiant,” Soppeng Police general crimes unit head Adj. Comr. Amri told kompas.com on Monday. He said that MTR, who was found to have female genitalia, was identified as male on their identity card.Amri said that the bride, MT, had known about her partner’s sexual identity prior to their marriage. However, she refused to disclose such information to her parents as she had already fallen in love with MTR, he said.Read also: Of coming out and acceptance: LGBT youth seek peace in conservative IndonesiaBoth MTR and MT have since been charged under Article 263 of the Criminal Code on document forgery, which carries a maximum punishment of six years in prison, according to Amri. The couple held their wedding on June 9. Despite the smooth proceedings, rumors circulated among the attendees regarding the groom’s sexual identity. The village head said that neither the village administration nor the local Religious Affairs Office (KUA) had issued a marriage license for the couple.MT’s parents reported their suspicion to the Soppeng Police on Saturday.“Our entire family is ashamed, we have become the subject of ridicule because we were lied to. All this time, we thought [MTR] was a man based on his ID card,” MT’s parents said.While Indonesian law does not criminalize homosexuality, anti-gay sentiment has risen in the past few years and same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. (rfa)Topics :last_img read more

50 dead in Japan floods as rescuers ‘race against time’

first_img‘Filled with water’Fourteen of the dead were wheelchair-bound residents of a nursing home unable to escape to higher ground as the waters rose.A rescue worker who searched the facility told NHK: “The ground floor was filled with water and we couldn’t get into it. Some people managed to evacuate to the first floor. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life.”Further complicating evacuation efforts was the fear of spreading the coronavirus.Japan has been relatively lightly affected by the pandemic, with just under 20,000 cases and fewer than 1,000 deaths.But the need to maintain social distancing has reduced capacity at evacuation shelters with hundreds of thousands under non-compulsory orders to take refuge.In Yatsushiro city, authorities converted the local sports gymnasium into a shelter, with families separated off by cardboard walls to prevent the spread of the virus.According to local media, some people were preferring to sleep in their cars rather than risk possible infection at a shelter.The disaster has also compounded problems for businesses already hard hit by the pandemic.”The damage was beyond our imagination. It’s literally a bolt from the blue,” said Yuji Hashimoto, who runs a tourism bureau in the hot-spring resort in Yatsushiro, one of the flood-hit cities in Kumamoto.”The disaster is a double-whammy as our hot spring resort was struggling to weather the impact of coronavirus. We don’t know what will happen to us next,” he told AFP.The rain front is expected to linger for several more days, moving towards east Japan.”Vigilance is required across the nation… the risk level is rising,” warned a JMA official.Japan is in the middle of its annual rainy season, which frequently unleashes deadly floods and landslides. Climate change has intensified the risks, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, including rainfall.In 2018, more than 200 people died in devastating floods in the same region of Japan. Topics : Emergency services in western Japan were “racing against time” on Tuesday to rescue people stranded by devastating floods and landslides that have killed at least 50 people, with more torrential rain forecast.Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA) issued its second-highest emergency warning for heavy rain and landslides over vast swathes of the country’s southwest and said “risks are rising” nationwide.At least 50 deaths have been confirmed in the rains that began early Saturday, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said, but the toll is expected to rise, with two more feared dead and over a dozen reported missing. At an elementary school in Omuta city, dozens of children and their teachers spent the night sheltering on the upper floor of the building after floodwater inundated the ground level.”Shoe cupboards on the group floor were swept away and shoes were floating around,” an 11-year-old girl told a local newspaper after rescuers arrived.”Some children were sobbing because they were worried about not being able to get home and were afraid of the heavy rain.”Kentaro Oishi, who owns a rafting business in the hot springs resort of Hitoyoshi City, told AFP that emergency services drafted him in to rescue stranded locals.”I have 20 years of rafting experience, but I never dreamed” of rowing the boat through the city, the veteran paddler told AFP.”To tell you the truth, I was so scared at first when I saw the water levels rising so rapidly in the river.” “We are racing against time,” Yutaro Hamasaki, an official in the hardest-hit region of Kumamoto, told AFP.”We have not set any deadline or time to end the operation, but we really need to speed up our search as time is running out. We won’t give up to the end,” Hamasaki vowed.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was doubling the deployment of rescue personnel, including police and firefighters as well as coast guards and troops, to 80,000.Rivers overflowing their banks have swept away bridges and turned roads into lakes, making rescue access possible only by raft or helicopter.last_img read more

Corruption risk to Indonesia’s infrastructure push: Experts

first_imgCorruption has become one of the risks to the President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo administration’s push to develop Indonesia’s infrastructure to help boost economic growth, experts have said following several arrests of a state-owned construction company’s former employees for alleged embezzlement.A monopoly by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) weakens the companies’ good corporate governance as it is a certainty that they will get the infrastructure projects as mandated by the government, anti-graft watchdog Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) coordinator Adnan Topan Husodo said on Friday.“The second risk is in the sub-contracting practices as the appointment is prone to corruption,” he said. “Moreover, [infrastructure construction deals] are contracts between government institutions and state companies, which often have vague punishment clauses.” On Thursday, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) announced that it had detained five former employees of state-owned construction company PT Waskita Karya for alleged appropriations for several fictitious projects between 2009 and 2015 that caused about Rp 202 billion (US$13.89 million) in state losses.Public Works and Housing Ministry infrastructure financing director general Eko “Heri” Djoeli Heripoerwanto stressed on Saturday that the company remained committed to completing its remaining projects despite the probe, although he refused to comment on the case.Waskita Karya corporate secretary Shastia Hardiati did not respond to the Post’s requests for comments.Waskita is not the first state-owned company embroiled in a corruption case. In 2018, the KPK named state-owned construction firm PT Nindya Karya a suspect over alleged corruption during the construction of Sabang port in Aceh. Infrastructure development has become Jokowi’s economic policy centerpiece during his terms in office as shown in the huge increase in state budget allocation for the cause. The government has increased its infrastructure allocation by 57.3 percent to Rp 423.3 trillion between 2016 and 2020.The government is also betting on infrastructure to boost economic recovery amid the COVID-19 health crisis as Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto announced the addition of 89 new projects worth an estimated Rp 1.422 quadrillion in investment to the existing 223 national strategic projects.However, corruption has been rampant in such projects as the government usually directly appoints state companies to construct the infrastructure.Read also: Former Waskita Karya officials arrested for alleged embezzlementThe KPK’s 2019 annual report revealed that the agency carried out 26 investigations into suspects linked to state-owned construction companies, the Public Works and Housing Ministry and public works agencies in several regions in Indonesia in the year.“With their large project budgets and varying stakeholders, infrastructure projects are extremely prone to corrupt practices,” Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) director Mohammad Faisal said on Friday.He also warned that corruption could dissuade investors from participating in the projects as the government was betting on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme to fund its infrastructure development.“Reputable private entities will only want to cooperate with their partners, in this case the government, if they trust their track record,” he said. “Investors frown upon a shady deal as it can lead them into legal trouble and take away some of their profit as they need to pay government kickbacks.”The National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) has estimated that the country will need infrastructure investment worth $429.7 billion, equal to 6.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), between 2020 and 2024. The government can only finance 30 percent of the infrastructure projects using the state budget.Infrastructure projects could also lose their main function as a support system for economic growth if the projects have poor planning and are completed below standards as a result of corruption despite a gigantic budget, Faisal said.“Infrastructure projects must be done in accordance with procedure, from planning, tender and implementation to maintenance, in order to ensure their role in empowering the economy,” he said.“We have to connect infrastructure to the region’s economic priority sector. If there is no connection, the infrastructure will not have any impact on the growth of the local economy,” Faisal added.Indonesia’s infrastructure ranked 72nd out of 141 countries, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Index. Indonesia’s road connectivity was the worst performing aspect, ranking 109th with a score of 59.8 out of 100.Overall, Indonesia’s global competitive rank slipped five positions from the previous year to 50th, far below Singapore (1st), Malaysia (27th) and Thailand (40th).Topics : read more