Economic and Health
Economic Freedom and Health Rights in Indonesia during the Covid-19 Pandemic

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The government has implemented policies to limit community activities several times since positive cases of COVID-19 were found in Indonesia in early 2020. The restriction policy was deemed necessary to reduce the spread of the virus.

As experienced by people in all countries globally, the COVID-19 pandemic and social restriction policies have had a social and economic impact on the Indonesian people. Head of the Regional Cooperation Sub-Section of the Legal Public Relations and Cooperation Bureau of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights (Kemenkumham) of the Republic of Indonesia, Rini Wulandari, citing data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) of the Republic of Indonesia, that during this pandemic the number of unemployed increased by 2.67 million and the number poverty breaks at the percentage of 10%.

The impact continues even though the government has issued a policy to fulfil the basic needs of its citizens in addition to vaccination policies and other health policies.

"To ensure the basic needs of its citizens in restrictions on social activities, the Government implements basic food and cash assistance policies for the poor," said Rini Wulandari.

Rini conveyed in an online discussion entitled Economic Freedom in a Pandemic Period: Finding a Meeting Point between the Right to Prosperity and the Health Right. The sessions were held in collaboration with the Indonesian Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) with the Institute for Democracy and Social Welfare (INDEKS) and supported by the Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

One of the speakers for this discussion, Iqbal Hasanuddin (Lecturer of Philosophy at UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta), said that social restriction policies such as the Enforcement of Restrictions on Community Activities (PPKM) are no direct restrictions on economic freedom. The policy needs to guarantee Economic freedom amidst the sluggish economy due to the pandemic.

"There should be no restrictions on economic activity. Restrictions on economic freedom will only lead to a shortage of goods and services which will harm the society," explained Iqbal.

According to Iqbal, we should see social restriction policy as an effort by the government to protect the right to life of its citizens. "The right to life is an ethical policy for social distancing policies. The government carries out restrictions on the community so that they can have their health right," he said

In contrast to Iqbal, another speaker in this discussion, Ade Armando (Lecturer at the University of Indonesia), said that social restriction policies could threaten the community's right to life and welfare, especially community groups with middle to lower economic levels.

"For small people and informal sector workers, having to stay at home (because of PPKM) is not an easy thing. That's why I say it's not only about the right to prosper, but also the right to life," said Ade.

Ade explained that currently, all people in the world are facing uncertainty. The WHO says the pandemic will end in 2022. But that's just a prediction that could be right and could be off the mark. In addition, said Ade, no one knows for sure what should and should be done in this uncertain situation. Countries take policies based on their respective contexts.

"So our response to the presence of corona is to adapt. Not with fear or shutting ourselves down because we don't know when this pandemic will end. I believe in the human ability to adapt," said Ade.

Citing the research of Patricio Goldstein et al., using data from 152 countries, Ade said that the lockdown policy was not very effective, and its effectiveness tends to decrease over time. Initially, the lockdown policy was effective in suppressing the spread of the virus. However, in the long term, its effectiveness tends to decrease.

Ade assessed that the PPKM policy implemented in July 2021 seemed effective in reducing new positive cases. However, based on the research conducted in 152 countries, they should not implement this policy for too long. In addition to decreasing its effectiveness, limiting social activities in the long term will make people miserable.

For the upper-middle class and formal workers, continued Ade, limiting social activities is not too problematic. They have a comfortable home, work quietly at home, properly provide for their daily needs, and still have an income. It's a different story for informal workers and community groups with middle to lower economies.

"That's why I criticize the extension of the PPKM term. Because of the fate of the hawkers, street vendors, day laborers, drivers, freelancers. They will only rely on assistance from the government," said Ade.

The following speaker, Nuning Sekarningrum (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises/UMKM doer and owner of Gallery 37), said that as an UMKM doer in the craft sector, she was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Business turnover decreased.

However, she was not discouraged. She encouraged everyone not to stand idly in a pandemic situation like this. Instead, keep working to make money by innovating.

"We cannot rely on the government for our right to prosper, but at the same time, we are not doing anything if we want to be prosperous. In that case, we will change the abbreviation of PPKM to become the Independent Coin Fighting Woman. It's no longer a limitation," Nuning encouraged.

For your information, this discussion consists of two sessions. Session I was presented by the three speakers mentioned above. Meanwhile, Session II presented by Nanang Sunandar (Director of the INDEX Institute), dr. Mahesa Paranadipa Maikel (Chairman of the Indonesian Health Law Society/MHKI and Executive Board of the Indonesian Doctors Association/IDI), and Yuli Asmini (Instructor of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission).

Nanang Sunandar said that economic freedom could be limited. In normal situations, the limitation of economic freedom, according to him, is the freedom of others that is reduced or lost due to our economic freedom activities. Meanwhile, the limitation of economic liberty in a pandemic situation through policies that go through the legislative process and its rules through a reverse proof mechanism should be a consideration.

"So, as long as no one is harmed and proves positive or has COVID-19 symptoms, why should the economic activity be banned?" asked Nanang.

In line with Ade Armando, Nanang said that the society felt injustice very much in the social restriction policy. Individual citizens from the weakest socioeconomic strata and informal workers are the most vulnerable when economic restriction during the pandemic. Groups from higher socioeconomic strata have more ways to "buy" freedom when freedom is scarce.

"I'm not saying that health is not important. But we need to try various options that allow people's right to live decent economically together with a healthy life in the context of this COVID-19 pandemic," Nanang added.

Citing research from Kenneth R. Szulczyk, et al., Nanang said there is no positive correlation between high mortality rates and slack in economic activity in a country. Even countries with high levels of economic freedom tend to have low mortality rates.

The following speaker is dr. Mahesa Paranadipa Maikel emphasized that the current wave II of the COVID-19 pandemic was in an agitated condition. At the hospital where he works, at least five people die from COVID-19 every day. The Emergency Room (IGD) is also full.

"Many patients cannot enter the ER because they have to queue, even though they have breathing difficulties. There is no longer available room and oxygen. It's full," said dr. Mahesa. dr. Mahesa continued, the Indonesian constitution mandates to fulfil the health rights of its citizens. Article 28H paragraph 1 of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia stated, "Everyone has the right to live in physical and spiritual prosperity. To have a place to live, have a good environment and have the right to health services". In addition, Article 34, paragraph 3 of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia stated, "The state is responsible for providing proper health care facilities and public service facilities."

In addition to the responsibility of the Government and health workers, the COVID-19 pandemic is the responsibility of the community. For that, dr. Mahesa encourages everyone to adhere to health protocols. According to him, someone who violates health protocols endangers the safety of others. Their right of movement is supposed to be limited in this pandemic situation to protect many people.

About the economic activities of the community, dr. Mahesa emphasized that the health authorities have never banned the community's economic activities. He encouraged people during their economic activities to pay attention to several things.

"Use a mask; try two layers of masks. Do not remove the mask in a room with many people. Keep your distance to prevent exposure, no crowds. Make sure the room is well ventilated. Wash your hands often, don't touch your face, especially after handling objects. Disinfect frequently touched items. Periodical screening is recommended.

During a pandemic, economic rights are contradicted by health rights. In fact, according to the last speaker, Yuli Asmini, the right to health and the right to a decent life are interrelated and should not be contradicted.

In the context of human rights, the health right and the right to an adequate standard of living are in one group, namely in the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights through Law 11/2005 concerning the Ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights." Yuli confirmed.

The government, continued Yuli, should respect, protect and fulfil human rights, including the right to health and the right to a decent standard of living.

So far, the Government of Indonesia is trying to fulfil its obligations during the pandemic. In the context of fulfilling the right to health and the right to a decent standard of living. However, the realization is still not optimal.

"The incentives hampered for the health workers, the limited implementation of testing and tracing, the vaccination program is running slowly, facilities and health workers are overwhelmed. That's from the side of health rights."

"As for the context of fulfilling the right to welfare," Yuli continued. "Komnas HAM found, Direct Cash Assistance (BLT) was not well-targeted. UMKM stimulus was not well-targeted, layoffs and corruption in social assistance."

During the pandemic period until June 2021, Yuli explained that Komnas HAM had received 1337 complaints from the public regarding the possibility of human rights violations. "Nearly half of the 1337 complaints were related to the right to welfare, which includes the right to health and the right to a decent standard of living," explained Yuli.