Jakarta – Indonesia’s Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, gave a subtle remark, criticising the Covid-19 response of countries like The United States and Singapore in response to public opinion on how the pandemic was handled by his country.
Indonesia is in the process of negotiations with key regional governments to create travel bubbles that would jumpstart its international tourism. Mr Luhut, a highly influential member of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet, noted that while they won’t “hurry” the reopening of Indonesia’s borders, the plan to begin accepting foreign tourists beginning September 11 was on track, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
In 2019, Indonesia welcomed more than 16 million visitors, a majority of which travelled to the famous island-destination Bali. The country’s tourism industry accounts for billions of dollars annually, a majority contributed by Australians visiting Indonesia. Like many other countries in the world, the pandemic had caused Indonesia to close its borders as a means of virus containment.
Although Bali officially reopened for domestic tourists on July 31, the provincial government is pushing for foreign tourism to restart. When asked about the plan to reopen during the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club meeting on Monday (August 10), Mr Luhut confirmed they were on track. “Well, yes. I think I heard Australia has a plan to do so (open travel bubbles). They especially love Bali. We can consider that one. The rest so far, with China, yes we are discussing a travel bubble with China,” said the minister.
He mentioned that negotiations with Australia were ongoing. “We will see what happens. I think what they need from us and what we need from them, we have to negotiate on that. Their standards have to be to the standard of here, because no one can claim they are better than others.”
Mr Luhut used the US and Singapore as examples, and said, “Everybody has a problem, you know, I disagree also when people say ‘this country is better than your country’. Which country? Look at America right now. Look at Singapore right now.”
“So we believe that our country, we tackle it our own way. Jakarta, I believe, Indonesia in general, right now (is) quite ok but we have to be careful also. If everybody is disciplined, we can reduce the impact of Covid-19. That’s the key,” he added.
With a 270-million population to protect, critics have commented on the country’s late implementation of a lockdown, reopening too early or not putting more emphasis on testing. A leading epidemiologist in Indonesia had warned that the country could become the third Covid-19 epicentre in Asia after China and India. Daily confirmed cases could reach as high as 4,000 a day unless stricter measures were implemented. To date, Indonesia has 128,776 total cases with 5,824 reported deaths. The latest report indicated 1,693 new confirmed cases.
Regarding plans to reopen borders for foreign travellers, Mr Luhut said, “For international tourists, I have to be honest we are not going to open immediately. We have to carefully select the origin [of] tourists coming over to Bali. I think Australia, New Zealand maybe later on, China of course, maybe South Korea and Japan. We are thinking about that; we study this carefully day-to-day.”
More concrete details on the plan for travel bubbles with a few of their neighbouring countries would be disclosed “this month or at the latest next month,” said Mr Luhut who noted that the move to reopen Bali to domestic tourists had been “stable”.