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Experts chide Indonesian government’s Work From Bali initiative

Experts are criticizing the central government’s Work From Bali initiative this week, as some raise concerns on how the program may be counterproductive while highlighting its contradiction to Indonesia’s other COVID-19 policies. 

Earlier this week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan showed support for the Work From Bali initiative by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with hotels in the Nusa Dua complex, which will see them host employees from the seven ministries under his supervision for stays and events. 

The initiative has been met with criticism, with many raising concerns about how such a policy would fare with the ongoing public health crisis. 

“That policy isn’t appropriate amid a pandemic and might be a waste of budget even when it’s meant to revive tourism. It still uses [state] budget to go there by plane and for accommodation,” Trubus Rahardiansyah, a public policy analyst from Trisakti University, said.

In addition, Trubus also brought up the possibility of people from other regions in Indonesia contributing to further spread of the coronavirus in Bali. 

“There’s no certainty that people from outside Bali won’t bring the virus,” he said.

The same sentiment was echoed by executive director of the Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Mohammad Faisal, who warned that the government should be very careful when endorsing such an initiative. 

“We need to be cautious about how this affects the pandemic. Especially for those coming from high-risk areas, or will be infected during their journey to Bali,” Faisal said.

Though Luhut said this was part of an effort to revive the deeply-battered tourism industry, an economist from the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) Bhima Yudi also noted how the state budget could be put to more strategic use, such as for health or social protection programs, rather than to sponsor travel or accommodation. 

INDEF executive director Tauhid Ahmad, meanwhile, isn’t optimistic that the initiative will have a big impact on the revival of tourism in Bali.

“In my opinion that would only contribute a little, nothing significant because in terms of numbers itself, Work From Bali won’t have that much contribution,” Tauhid said.

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