Observer: Stowaway passengers behind the national disaster

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President Jokowi has declared the spread of the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to be a national disaster. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – After the government disbursed a budget to overcome COVID-19 through the 2020 National Budget of Rp. 405.1 trillion in early April, President Joko Widodo signed a Presidential Decree (Keppres) No. 12 of 2020 naming the Coronavirus pandemic a national disaster. “Declaring non-natural disasters caused by the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a national disaster,” Jokowi said in Presidential Decree Number 12/2020. 

The presidential decree had several policies as stipulated in the Government Regulation in place of Law (Perppu) No. 1 of 2020. Former Secretary of the Cabinet during the second term of the SBY administration (SesKab) Dipo Alam said that Perppu No. 1/2020 made changes to the norm of at least 8 laws. So, this can be referred to as “Perppu (with a flavor of) Omnibus Law”. The eight laws amended and intervened by the Perppu are (1) MD3 Act governing the authority of the Parliament, (2) the State Finance Law, (3) the Taxation Law, (4) the Customs Law, (5) the Deposit Insurance Act, (6) Law on Government Securities, (7) Law on Bank Indonesia, and (8) Law on State Budget 2020. “I think this pretension to become an omnibus law should be examined and critically addressed by the Parliament and also the civil society. Because, as far as I can note, this is the first time a Perppu wants to change the norms of more than one law at a time,” he explained in the LP3ES online discussion, Wednesday (15/04/2020). 

According to him, there is a potential for abuse of power in this Perppu, because there are articles that give immunity to government officials not to be prosecuted or corrected through any court institution. Indonesia is governed by rule of law, where the administration of government should be controlled by law. The president alone, according to the constitution, can be impeached if he violates the law. That is, the President alone can be accused of violating the law. Now, through this Perppu, the Financial System Stability Committee [KSSK] has become a super body that is even greater than the President, because it cannot be prosecuted. This is a corruption of authority that cannot be tolerated. Dipo further said that Perppu No. 1/2020 cuts a lot of the Parliament’s authority. In Article 28 of the Perppu, the authority of the Parliament in the MD3 Law (MPR, DPR, DPRD, and DPD) is stripped down. Some articles were deleted, namely Article 177 letter c number 2, Article 180 paragraph (6), and Article 182. In Article 2 of the Perppu, almost all budgeting authority was taken over by the government. Starting from determining the deficit, determining the amount of mandatory spending, shifting the budget, issuing debt securities, providing loans, to giving grants. “Because this Perppu has been in force since it was promulgated, and the Minister of Law and Human Rights has enacted it on March 31, 2020, the Perppu is now effective. It means, the Parliament no longer has the authority to discuss adjustments or changes to the State Budget,” he stressed. 

Facing today’s condition, last March the Chairperson of the Budget Section of Parliament also recommended that the Government issue 3 Perppus overcome the impact of the crisis, namely, the Perppu 2020 State Budget, Perppu on the Income Tax Act and Perppu on the revision of Law No. 17/2003 concerning State Finance. Instead of issuing three or several Perppus, the Government issued only one Perppu whose contents change the norms. “Interestingly, the most controversial component in Perppu No. 1/2020 is the matter of granting impunity to the Minister of Finance, the Governor of Bank Indonesia, the Chairperson of the OJK Board of Commissioners, and the Chairperson of the LPS Board of Commissioners in all their decisions; it fully mimics the 2008 JPSK Perppu,” he said. 

According to Dipo, the addition of the 2020 state budget of IDR 405.1 trillion, the composition of the additional budget allocation referred to overcome the Corona pandemic, if examined, turns out that more is to be used to finance economic incentives and corporate tax relaxation without adequate explanation; economic incentives and potential tax relaxation becomes a gray-area policy that would only be used to save the interests of the elite. On April 6, 2020, at a Working Meeting with the Committee X of Parliament, the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, for example, made a statement that artists or musicians would get incentives through the pre-employment card scheme. You know, everyone is affected by the crisis, but is it appropriate for the government to give priority to the upper-middle class?” he said. 

Meanwhile, Malik Ruslan, author of an anti-corruption political book in Indonesia, said that Perppu No.1 / 2020 is controversial. As Article 27 paragraph (1) states the costs incurred by the Government and/or KSSK member institutions in the framework of implementing state revenue policies, including taxation policies, state expenditure policies including policies in regional finance, financing policies, financial system stability policies, and the national economic recovery program, is part of the economic costs to save the economy from the crisis and does not constitute a national loss. Likewise with paragraph (2) and paragraph (3) which states that KSSK members, KSSK secretaries, members of the KSSK secretariat, and officials or employees of the Ministry of Finance, BI, OJK and LPS, and other officials, relating to the implementation of this Perppu, cannot be prosecuted either both civil and criminal in carrying out their duties based on good faith and following statutory provisions. And all actions including decisions taken based on this Perppu are not objects of a claim that can be submitted to the state administrative court. “This is very controversial,” he added. 

Stowaway Passenger 

Meanwhile, Tarli Nugroho, Researcher at the Institute of Policy Studies, said that the budget allocation to handle COVID-19 of IDR 405 trillion is prone to be misused. He also assessed that in every policy it is common to have stowaway interest by design or without design. He considered the issuance of Perppu 1/2020 that works like an omnibus law was intolerable. He regretted the response of the parliament that did not have a voice. “With the strength of executive power, parliamentary control will be even less significant. In this situation Perppu gives power to the KSSK which give it legal force so that the potential for abuse of power is imminent,” he explained. 

In line with Tarli, Chairperson of the LP3ES Board of Directors, Didik J Rachbini said that Jokowi’s government policy opened the opportunity for stowaways in the power circle to get big projects. Didik further said that national disasters could be used as instruments to not fulfill obligations. “This is my suspicion that stowaways have influenced the President, even though it has been neutralized by Mahfud MD, even though a national disaster has been determined, it is not a reason not to fulfill obligations due to the crisis. But Mahfud’s effort is again broken by the Perppu 1/2020,” he concluded. (Dan)