In an unprecedented and unusual announcement from Indonesia’s usually soft-spoken and painstakingly deferential Chief Executive, President Joko Widodo has threatened “extraordinary steps,” including a Cabinet Reshuffle if members of his Cabinet continue to fail to take the COVID-19 Pandemic seriously.
In a video available on the President’s Youtube.com channel, believed to have been shot at a Cabinet Meeting on 18 June, the President delivered an angry rebuke to his Cabinet questioning why the ministers he selected continue to treat the current unparalleled crisis too lightly.
Quoted by The Jakarta Post and Kompas.com, the animated and agitated President said: “The atmosphere in the last three months and the next three months should be one of crisis. We should not consider [this situation] to be normal. That is very dangerous. And I still see that many of you see this as normal.”
Pointing to the allocated emergency budget for health services as an example, the President pointedly asked why only 1.5% of an allocated US$5.28 billion had been disbursed. “All the money that’s supposed to be for the people is stuck there,” President Widodo complained.
He warned the ministers to get on with handling the emergency at hand. The President demanded that red tape be cut and spending accelerated to stimulate economic activity.
Restating his frustration and annoyance, the President said: “Once again, do not act as if everything is normal. If you need to issue a ministerial regulation, issue it! If you need a presidential regulation, I will issue it!”
He told the Minister of Health to immediately pay incentives promised to frontline health workers engaged in battling the Pandemic.
Underlining that he is prepared to send cabinet ministers packing who fail to rise to the level of crisis managers, Joko Widodo said: “I will take any steps necessary, including extraordinary ones, for our 267 million people. [I might] disband agencies. [I might] reshuffle [the Cabinet]. I have considered many options.”
“I will take any steps necessary, including extraordinary ones, for our 267 million people. [I might] disband agencies. [I might] reshuffle [the Cabinet]. I have considered many options.”Indonesian President Joko Widodo
The 18 June Cabinet Meeting was the first face-to-face gathering of ministers with the President since the COVID-19 Pandemic made live-streaming cabinet meetings over the Internet necessary.
During the speech, President Joko Widodo expressed concern that economists are forecasting that the Indonesian economy may contract as much a 6-7% due to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.