03/02/2021, 14.41
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One year after the start of the pandemic, Jakarta suspends VAT on cars and homes

by Mathias Haryiadi

The Indonesian government adopts the new measure to support the economy hit by the collapse of the tourist sector. The poverty index rose to 10.9 per cent. Meanwhile, mass vaccination has begun in Jakarta with priority given to the elderly and clerics, but there is concern about the time it will take to reach the farthest islands.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia today marks a year since the start of the pandemic in the country.

On 2 March 2020, Sita Tyasutami and her mother Maria Darmaningsih, two women from Depok in Bogor Regency (district), suddenly became frontpage news because they had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. A year later, “We are concerned that we do not have precise information about when we will be vaccinated,” they said.

Indonesia has reported so far 1,341,314 cases with 36,325 deaths and 1,151,915 healed. To deal with the emergency, the Ministry of Finance has allocated 579.78 trillion Indonesian rupees (about US$ 40 billion), mostly as economic stimulus and social welfare initiatives. About 63.51 trillion rupees were spent on health.

“Some 50.9 trillion rupees are left to be used in 2021, with 47.07 trillion for vaccine procurement and 3.87 trillion for small business initiatives,” said Finance Minister Sri Mulyani.

To this end, the government made the surprise announcement to suspend VAT (value added tax) payments for those who buy a house or a car for the family between March and May 2021.

The pandemic has especially hit tourism, the entertainment industry, small retail and service businesses and transportation.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the owner of restaurant and a coffee shop, Herman, said that his life had completely changed in recent months. “For years the main clientele had been foreign tourists. Since March 2020 my activities are closed,” he said.

Indonesian authorities claim to have prevented the closure of at least 5,000 companies, but according to Statistics Indonesia (Badan Pusat Statistik, BPS), the poverty index rose to 10.19 per cent, up by 0.97 per cent; a figure that is, however, below the 11.8 per cent estimated by the World Bank.

Meanwhile, mass vaccination began last week, only in Jakarta for the time being, starting with clergy and the elderly. Hundreds of clerics gathered in the square in front of Jakarta’s Istiqlal Grand Mosque to receive the first dose.

A public vaccination service was set up for shopkeepers and others at Tanah Abang Market, Southeast Asia's largest textile market; but after hours of queues and complaints about overcrowding, the initiative was halted.

Other public vaccination sites have been set up in other parts of the capital, which has at least 13 million residents. The real challenge remains reaching the more remote areas of the country, which has thousands of islands over a huge territory.

There is also concern about speed. According to some estimates at the current rate it could take over five years to vaccinate everyone.

Making matter worse, new variants of the coronavirus have appeared in Indonesia as well. Two more cases of the UK variant were identified last night but the chain of infection has not yet been tracked.

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