Every death counts as count rises (Jul 23-30)
No time to be complacent
If you live in Java, you may have already been lulled into the idea that the most devastating COVID-19 wave (or tsunami, as many preferred to call it) is behind us.
One may fall into that trap by looking at Indonesia’s gradually decreasing case numbers, but we would be remiss to ignore the death toll, which has been alarmingly high over the past couple of weeks.
Will we see fewer deaths as hospitals free up in Java, or is this just the beginning as the COVID-19 epicenter moves away from Indonesia’s most populated island? We’ll look into that, and more, in this week’s Indonesia Intelligencer.
Stay safe, stay informed, and we’ll see you next week.
Business and the economy
IMF downgrades projection
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered Indonesia’s GDP growth forecast for 2021 by 0.4 percent to 3.9 percent as the country grapples with the COVID-19 crisis.
The forecast is in line with the Indonesian government’s projection for economic growth this year, which has been downgraded to between 3.7 and 4.5 percent from between 4.5 and 5.3 percent previously.
Driven by the pandemic, Indonesia plunged into a recession last year and recorded negative annual growth for the first time in 22 years. The country is expected to rise out of recession in Q2 2021 and return to a positive, if somewhat moderate, annual growth this year.
PLN’s long game
State utility company PLN says it will increase investments directed at renewable energy power plant construction in anticipation of a five-fold jump in Indonesia’s electricity demand by 2060.
Included in its goal are plans to convert fossil fuel power stations into green energy power plants to reduce carbon emissions. Specifically, PLN will begin phasing out its first generation of steam-electric power stations in 2030 and have them all replaced by renewable energy power plants by 2060.
No time for a travel corridor
Indonesia has delayed plans to establish a travel corridor with Singapore, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said, due to the former’s ongoing implementation of mobility curbs and rising COVID-19 cases.
The ministry planned to open up travel to Bali, as well as Batam and Bintan in the Riau Islands province, which are among top travel destinations for Singaporeans.
Sandiaga said the program will commence as soon as curbs are eased or lifted in both countries.
What a champ
Digital lender Bank Jago (ARTO), whose name roughly translates to “champion bank,” is riding a wave in the stock market with its share value topping IDR18,000 (US$1.24) apiece for the first time ever.
The bank, in which Gojek holds a 22 percent stake, also said it recorded a 695 percent jump in loan disbursements from a year earlier, lately driven by its collaborations with various lending and fintech companies.
Mandiri leaves Aceh
The last three Bank Mandiri branches in Aceh are closing today to comply with the province’s religious bylaw requiring lenders to observe sharia financial law.
Mandiri’s assets in Aceh will be represented by Bank Syariah Indonesia (BSI), which is the result of a merger between the sharia subsidiaries of Mandiri, BNI, and BRI. BSI launched in February 2021 to become the country’s largest sharia bank.
Happier with fresh funding
Indonesia-based online groceries marketplace HappyFresh announced that it has raised US$65 million in Series D funding as it seeks to expand its operational capacity, including by increasing its delivery drivers fleet and improving the user experience.
The investment round was led by Japan’s Naver Financial Corporation and Amsterdam-based Bafina B.V.
HappyFresh said it has seen its traffic grow up to 20-fold in the past 18 months in the three countries it serves, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Indonesia's decision to relax some COVID-19 curbs this week, despite reporting record-high deaths in recent days, is being driven by social and economic concerns rather than epidemiological advice, public health experts said on Monday.
Sri Mulyani’s bold plan to save Indonesia’s economy (Financial Review)
Indonesia is in crisis and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati is fighting for her nation’s future prosperity.
The highly respected policymaker steering south-east Asia’s largest economy is now focused on two key pandemic measures: hospital bed occupancy rates and daily COVID-19 deaths.
BRI Agro’s push to make ‘big bank’, not ‘big tech’ write Indonesia’s digital bank playbook (The Ken)
State-owned banking giant BRI is leaving it to its rural bank subdivision, BRI Agro, to lead digital transformation. An audacious plan, especially with big tech leading the charge everywhere else. But if it works out, it could form a brand new underbanked-focused digital banking order.
Shopee may lead in Southeast Asia, but Tokopedia is putting up a strong fight in Indonesia even as other local players have struggled against Shopee's might.
More Indonesian startups mulling local listing as IDX readies new rules: Pandu Sjahrir (Deal Street Asia)
With e-commerce unicorn Bukalapak set to list on the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) in what is likely to be the bourse’s biggest offering since Adaro Energy’s issue in 2008, there are high expectations of the path the listing will blaze.
Across the archipelago
Indonesia continues to record COVID-19 deaths in the four-digits daily over the past week, with the all-time daily death toll high of 2,069 recorded on July 27. The last time Indonesia recorded under 1,000 deaths in a day was July 16.
At the same time, Indonesia’s overnight infections and daily positivity rate have very gradually decreased, making the deadliest week in Indonesia so far during the pandemic all the more concerning. The past week also represents the peak of Indonesia’s deadliest month, with 30,168 COVID-related deaths — a third of the all-time total — as of July 29.
And yet the death toll could be severely undercounted after an independent organization found that the recent tally does not include regional deaths due to delays in data collection. Data discrepancies have yet to be verified by officials.
Against WHO’s recommendation, Indonesia also does not count deaths of probable COVID-19 patients toward its tally. A Health Ministry official argued that a deceased patient must have confirmed positive for the disease to be counted in order to keep the data “valid.”
Munch in 20 minutes
Despite rising deaths, Indonesia on July 26 loosened some provisions in the 4-tiered Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM), with the latest iteration set to last until at least Aug. 2.
Among the new relaxations is a highly-ridiculed rule that allows dine-in at restaurants for no longer than 20 minutes. The rule applies where Levels 3 and 4 PPKM — the strictest levels of restrictions — are in effect, including throughout major cities in Java and Bali.
Most other PPKM restrictions, such as a full work from home mandate for non-essential sectors and the closure of shopping malls, are still in effect. For domestic travel, COVID-19 vaccine certificates are now not required for entry into areas enforcing Levels 1 and 2 PPKM.
Jakarta has become the first province to introduce mandatory vaccination for widespread access to public services and permission to conduct public activities.
While the province is in Level 4 PPKM, Jakartans must present a vaccine certificate to travel, work at the office, eat at an outdoor establishment, and go the the hairdresser, among other things.
Between flex and diplomacy
The US and Indonesian armies on Sunday will launch the largest joint drill exercise ever conducted by the two countries involving some 4,500 service members.
The drill, held annually, comes amid rising tensions over Beijing's military buildup in the South China Sea. But Indonesia, being a major beneficiary of China’s vaccine diplomacy, is also deepening economic ties with Beijing in a bid to strike a balance between the two superpowers.
As of July 29, Indonesia has secured one silver medal and two bronze medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The silver came courtesy of weightlifter Eko Yuli Irawan’s efforts in the men’s 61kg category, while Rahmat Erwin Abdullah and Windy Cantika Aisah saw third-place finishes in the men's 73kg and women's 49kg categories, respectively.
Indonesia is pinning its hope for gold on badminton, where its men’s doubles and women’s doubles pairings have advanced to the semi-finals of their respective tournaments.
The Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) has apologized and promised to sanction two of its military police officers after they were filmed pinning a defenseless Papuan man on the ground and stepping on his head to humiliate him.
The scene was eerily reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd by American police officers, prompting widespread condemnation against authorities’ systemic racism and oppression towards Papuan people.
Indonesia's pregnant women at risk of dying with COVID-19 and aren't prioritised for vaccination (ABC)
Gesti Wira Nugrayekti tested positive for coronavirus the day before she prematurely gave birth to a baby boy named Salman earlier this month.
Three weeks later, COVID-19 took her life.
Top Coconuts Jakarta stories this week
Indonesian flight attendants caught having affair trigger nationwide meddling
Swab-solutely Bananas: Fritters wrapped in COVID-19 test result terrifies Indonesians
10-year-old Indonesian boy alone in quarantine after parents die from COVID-19
Behind the Glamor: The lows of Jakarta’s high-end fashion industry
Bakso seller tested after he unknowingly served COVID-19 patients quarantining at Jakarta hotel
Top Coconuts Bali stories this week
Bali sees its deadliest pandemic month yet as hospitals start to fill up
Police arrest 7 debt collectors for gang assault and murder in Denpasar
Bali to start producing own oxygen supply next month, governor says
Why aren’t Bali’s viral accounts posting about the escalating COVID crisis?
Jerinx summoned for questioning by Jakarta police in fresh legal complaint