Indonesia to help 115 millions People at Risk of Falling Back Into Poverty

(Jakarta Globe) – The government has extended its social aid programs to offer more financial and food assistance to help Indonesia’s most vulnerable during the peak of the coronavirus epidemic expected to hit the country in the next three months.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Tuesday the government’s cash transfer and food aid programs would now be made available to 4.2 million people in Greater Jakarta and another 9 million people outside the Covid-19 red zone.

The president also announced the National Police would take money from their budget to provide monthly cash transfers for 197,000 taxi and bus drivers.

Close to 24.8 million Indonesians currently live under the absolute poverty line – living with less than $1 a day – and all of them are now eligible to receive conditional cash transfers and food aid.

Around 115 million Indonesians are also likely to fall back into absolute poverty should there be a shock to the economic system, according to a January World Bank report titled “Aspiring Indonesia Report, Expanding the Middle Class.”

The president said the government will protect Indonesia’s most vulnerable from the pandemic, including from the economic impact which might result from policies taken to contain it.

“Our first priorities are providing staple foods to the most vulnerable and increasing the purchasing power of people from lower-income households,” Jokowi said.

He said an additional 2.6 million people in Jakarta and 1.6 million people, or 576,000 households, in its satellite cities of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, would receive an extra stipend of Rp 600,000 ($38) a month for the next three months.

Around 9 million households on the outskirts of the capital, currently Indonesia’s Covid-19 epicenter, would also receive cash transfers of a similar amount.

Jokowi said the extra financial assistance is aimed at people who currently do not receive cash transfers or food aid but have lost their jobs as economic activities in Greater Jakarta came to a near standstill amid its large-scale social restriction.

The government has set aside Rp 19.4 trillion for the program.

It has also decided to use up some of its village fund – a Rp 1 billion discretionary funding for each village and urban ward in the country – for the social aid program.

Jokowi said an additional 10 million households could get Rp 600,000 a month for the next three months from this program, which costs the government Rp 21 trillion.

The National Police would also hold a training program with a Rp 600,000 per month cash benefit for 197,000 taxi drivers and bus operators in the next three months.

The government will also revamp labor-intensive programs managed by ministries which have a budget of Rp 27.1 trillion, Jokowi said.

Earlier, the government said it has already set aside Rp 37.4 trillion for its conditional cash transfers program (PKH) for 10 million households and Rp 43.6 trillion in food aid for 20 million households.

It will also spend Rp 20 trillion on Jokowi’s flagship unemployment benefits program, called the pre-employment card, which will be made available to 5.6 million residents.

The government will also subsidize electricity for residential customers to the tune of Rp 3.5 trillion.