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Tom Lembong questions the Indonesian president’s vaccination strategy

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The new omnibus job creation bill, passed on October 5 but not yet entered into force, sparked days of protest across Indonesia with hundreds of arrests.

Rioters throw stones at a burning bus station near the welcome monument in central Jakarta.  Protesters have rallied across Indonesia after the government passed labor laws that it says will spur the economic recovery needed due to the coronavirus.

Rioters throw stones at a burning bus station near the welcome monument in central Jakarta. Protesters have rallied across Indonesia after the government passed labor laws that it says will spur the economic recovery needed due to the coronavirus. Credit:Getty

Lembong said the scientific community widely believed that “Indonesian government official data vastly understates [the number of infections]. We have the lowest testing rate of any major economy in the world. “

Indonesia has now recorded 349,160 coronavirus cases and 12,268 deaths, with daily infections of more than 4,000 people for about a month and test rates remaining stubbornly low – on the order of 25,000 to 35,000 people per day in a country of 270 million inhabitants.

The International Monetary Fund downgraded its forecast for economic growth in Indonesia this week, due to the pandemic, forecasting Southeast Asia’s largest economy to contract 1.5%, from 0 , 3% expected in June.

“Conduct vaccination to catch up with the speed of spread [of COVID-19] gonna be next to impossible, right? He said.

“The government is effectively betting the farm on a successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign in 2021.

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“Because infections are increasing exponentially, it seems mathematically almost impossible, to run the vaccination campaign at a rate that is catching up to the rate of spread of coronaviruss.”

Indonesian state-owned company PT Bio Farma has reached an agreement with Chinese Sinovac for 125 million doses of its candidate vaccine, while separate agreements are in place for Sinopharm (50 million doses), CanSino (20 million doses ) and Britain’s AstraZeneca (100 million doses). ).

Lembong cautioned about the potential complications of rolling out the immunization program.

“In western countries or rich countries, six-monthly flu shots are commonplace. In Indonesia, this is definitely not the case,” he said.

“And the reason I’m talking about this is because like flu shots, most of these COVID vaccines need to be stored at plus 2 to plus 8 degrees Celsius … many need to be stored between minus 20. and minus 70 degrees Celsius, so cold storage logistics around this vaccine are incredibly difficult, especially for countries that don’t already have the infrastructure in place for semi-annual and generalized influenza vaccines like Indonesia . “

Thomas Lembong questioned the opportune moment to ratify this omnibus law.

Thomas Lembong questioned the opportune moment to ratify this omnibus law.Credit:Sydney Morning Herald

Regarding changes to workplace laws, Lembong said he would “defend the modernization reforms, including labor market reforms, which are in the omnibus bill,” to the end, as well as the decision to open more sectors of the economy to private sector investment. , including international capital – a controversial decision in a country that still has strong protectionist impulses.

However, the timing to ratify this omnibus law is extremely difficult, to say the least.

Lembong expressed concern that the omnibus law changes did little to address the immediate burning issues, such as delivering desperately needed improvements to the health sector, nor did they appear to be in line with the strong current global trends in favor of environmental protection or the promotion of green energy.

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“Vietnam, about two years ago, started a solar energy boom. I think it would be easy for Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to decarbonize quickly. China is the biggest producer of everything from solar panels and wind turbines to lithium-ion batteries, so they won. I have no problem decarbonising. “

“But Indonesia is only becoming more and more carbon intensive, as evidenced by the omnibus law that extends tax incentives and regulatory relief to the coal industry and owner-operators of palm oil plantations. “

“I am concerned about the near future in which exports from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and China to the EU will not be affected by the carbon tariffs officially announced by the EU and ours on font “.

President Joko defended the omnibus law citing the “urgent need for jobs” with 2.9 million new job seekers entering the labor market each year, 6.9 million unemployed in Indonesia and 3.5 million million employees affected by COVID-19.

He argued that the bill simplifies business creation and that the bill will reduce corruption by cutting red tape.

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