[Newsletter April 2020] Taking on the COVID-19 Crisis in Indonesia
these are tragic days. More than 82,000 have died from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that includes 221 Indonesians. Can we trust these numbers? In Jakarta alone, 40% more people were buried in March than in any month of the last two years. Local governments have long been stating: the death toll is much higher than officially known.
Fortunately, CIPS managed to stay safe. We first applied a strict health protocol in the office before we all started working from home four weeks ago.
Besides common concerns about toilet paper and hand sanitizers, people are seriously worried about the stability of their food supplies. After all, Ramadhan is coming in two weeks and price spikes must be expected. This has thrown a spotlight on the work of CIPS. The National Disaster Management Board invited us to their coordination meeting, and we had several ministries among 100 participants of our food security webinar last week.
These days, our researchers make it into front-page news when we suggest relaxing food import restrictions. Bureaucratic procedures for horticultural products have already been simplified after garlic and onion prices went through the ceiling. Prices like these have terrible consequences for the poor. Even without the outbreak, they spend 60% of their income on meals.
But prices are only one concern. We are afraid that Indonesia’s agricultural output might drop by 4-6% this year. One of our op-eds called on the government to be prepared for extensive disruptions and labor shortages in the food industry. Private agritech and food delivery companies have, thankfully, provided an extra hand. We deal with these issues in several policy briefs that we are currently compiling. A paper assessing the effectiveness of non-cash food subsidies was launched this week.
Our policy briefs also include the education sector. School closures and physical distancing rules suggest a switch to online learning. How can that be applied in those low-cost private schools that serve the poorest people in Jakarta? We gave them a call and learned how they make their students do homework and conduct classroom discussions in WhatsApp groups. If they do not have the necessary devices, parents are encouraged to borrow smartphones from their relatives. Most of them have at least one. Supporting these efforts should be among the government's priorities.
Much needs to be done and CIPS is prepared to do what is necessary in this tragedy that affects the poor communities more than anyone else. We will continue to report how things are going. In the meantime, the CIPS team sends you best wishes for your health and safety!
CIPS in the News
The Jakarta Post - Preventing the global food crisis
The Jakarta Post - Import relaxations not enough to secure garlic supply: Business watchdog
Atlas Network - Open Markets are the best antidote against the covid-19 crisis
Where We "Went"
Maintaining food security during the pandemic: Ensuring affordable food especially for the low-income
Our board member Arianto Patunru and researcher Felippa spoke at a webinar organized by CIPS.
Discussion on maintaining food availability during the crisis
Our researcher Felippa attended a conference call with the National Disaster Management Authority (BNPB), alongside other attendees such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, and the national logistics bureau.
Socio-economic impact of COVID-19 to the marginalized community in Indonesia
Our researcher Nadia attended a webinar held by the Knowledge Sector Initiative.
Don't forget to check out and download our policy papers here. Through these papers, we present evidence-based arguments to recommend policy changes that focus on building prosperity and better livelihoods for low-income Indonesians.