Urgent Need to Strengthen State Capacity: Learning from Indonesia’s COVID-19 Crisis
Nugroho, Yanuar; Negara, Siwage Dharma | June 2020
Unlike other populous democratic countries like India and the Philippines, Indonesia did not implement a full lockdown to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Arguably, the government was concerned about difficulties in imposing stringent lockdowns, which would have to be extended several times and which would be very costly for the country. From the beginning of the pandemic, there had been a contentious debate about whether a lockdown, which would cost government a lot of money, resources and even political risks, would make much difference in reducing infection numbers. Moreover, the government’s awareness that it lacks the capacity where the healthcare system and the bureaucracy were concerned, forced it to implement a relaxed policy. Despite the government’s claim that it has managed to ‘flatten the curve’ by early May, Indonesia has the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in Asia, with a 6-7 percent death rate among total confirmed cases (Figure 1). Notwithstanding, the figures are perceived to be significantly underreported as the official data did not include deaths of patients suspected to have coronavirus and who were still awaiting tests. Certainly, many factors have been at play, but this reality indicates the country’s lack of hard and soft public health infrastructure to deal with the crisis. This essay examines how the COVID-19 crisis has been exacerbated by the weakness in Indonesia’s state capacity and the bureaucracy, especially in relation to public health governance and disaster response in general. It highlights the urgent need for Indonesia to revisit its state capacity in dealing with the current crisis and in preparing for the ‘New Normal post-COVID-19’ (New Normal, hereafter).
CitationNugroho, Yanuar; Negara, Siwage Dharma. 2020. Urgent Need to Strengthen State Capacity: Learning from Indonesia’s COVID-19 Crisis. © ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute. http://hdl.handle.net/11540/12158.
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