Today, August 10, 2021, Muslims celebrate the Islamic New Year 1443 Hijri. For Indonesia whose majority of the population is Muslim, the Islamic New Year is a significant momentum. This year's Islamic New Year is even more extraordinary, because it falls one week prior to the 76th Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Indonesia and is still struggling to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Joko Widodo in his remarks on the Commemoration of the Islamic New Year of 1 Muharram 1443 Hijri expressed his hope that the momentum of this 1 Muharram could be used to multiply efforts to fight against Covid-19. In his remarks broadcast through the Presidential Secretariat's YouTube account, Monday (9/8), the Head of State also conveyed that the Proclamation of August 17, 76 years ago, was a manifestation of the migration of the Indonesian people to escape from colonialism to become an independent and sovereign nation. President Joko Widodo also emphasized that this momentum must be used to multiply the outward and inward efforts to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Joko Widodo's hope, of course, must be supported by all Indonesian people. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has further strengthened the spirit of Mutual Cooperation (Gotong Royong) for the Indonesian people. Anyhow, this is not enough. Awareness, compliance and discipline of everyone in Indonesia to implement health protocols are the foremost factor. Their strong effort is to precisely make the Indonesian nation shake off from the Covid-19 pandemic. Discipline and compliance in implementing the set health protocols can be the basis for discipline and obediently applying any rules, policies, and appeals in all sectors. The effort looks simple, but it contributes greatly to Indonesia becoming more resilient and continuing to grow.
The core essence of the year and age turn is a change. Of course, it must be in a better direction and conditions. That essence has been stated in the theme of the 76th Independence Day Commemoration, namely "Indonesia is Tough, Indonesia is Growing". This is the duty and obligation of all Indonesian people to make it come true. This effort can be proven by supporting the acceleration of vaccination program. All related stakeholders have to be creative and innovative to rise from the economic downturn affected by the Covid-19. With the real effort by strong belief and prayer of all Indonesian people without exception, God willingness, Indonesia will be more resilient to shake off from the Covid-19 pandemic and grow in all sectors.
There was good news for the Indonesian people last week. The Central Statistics Agency [BPS] announced on Thursday (5/8) that Indonesia's economic growth in the second quarter of 2021 or the April-June period reached 7.07 percent on an annual basis and 3.31 percent on a quarterly basis. This positive growth has pushed Indonesia out of a recession due to negative growth that occurred in the second quarter of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Head of the Central Statistics Agency, Margo Yuwono, Indonesia's economic growth in the second quarter was better than the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, in the same period last year, it was minus 5.32 percent. He also explained that apart from the onset of economic recovery, another factor for the second quarter's economic growth was the low base effect of last year's growth. In addition, economic growth was also driven by an increase in exports. Indonesia's total exports were recorded at US$53.97 billion, up 10.36 percent compared to the previous quarter. According to Margo Yuwono, the global economy in the second quarter also experienced an increase. This could be seen from the movement of the Purchasing Manufacturing Index in March and June 2021, which continues to increase.
Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Airlangga Hartarto said that the government's next homework is to further increase efforts to control the Covid-19 virus. Even though the number of positive cases of Covid-19 has started showing a decline, it has not been fully resolved. The engine of growth, according to Minister Airlangga Hartarto, has moved and is growing positively, while the global potential has also moved.
Meanwhile, according to Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani, one of Indonesia's successful economic recovery strategies came from social assistance. It is able to maintain the level of poverty and household consumption of the lower class. She hopes that the recovery in consumption will also spread to the upper middle class.
Hopefully, with the right fiscal and monetary policies, accelerated vaccination, provision of social assistance, and discipline from all parties in strictly implementing health protocols, the momentum of economic growth will continue until the third quarter, which is predicted to be around 3.7-4.5%.
Indonesia is one of the largest archipelagic countries in the world and does need a strong military capability to maintain the sovereignty of the nation and state. In addition to requiring the main weaponry system as a defense requirement to maintain sovereignty, Indonesia also conducts joint military exercises with other countries to improve military capabilities both in terms of tactics, use of weapons and personnel capabilities. To achieve this, the Indonesian National Army –TNI AD is conducting joint military exercises with the United States in South Sumatra. This joint exercise, entitled 'Garuda Shield 15/2021', is the largest exercise ever carried out by the two countries and involves 2,161 Indonesian Army soldiers and 1,547 US Army personnel. This exercise takes place from August 1-14, 2021.
Quoted from Kompas (4/8), Army Chief of Staff General Andika Perkasa accompanied by Commanding General of The United States Army Pacific, General Charles A Flynn when opening a joint exercise with the Indonesian Army and the United States Army in The Indonesian Army Combat Training Center, Martapura-Baturaja, Ogan Komering Ulu Timur, South Sumatra, Wednesday (4/8) said that the 15th Garuda Shield in 2021 is the largest exercise in the history of military cooperation between Indonesia and the US.
Meanwhile, based on information from the United States Embassy, this military exercise aims to strengthen the US-Indonesia Main Defense Partnership and encourage cooperation in supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. In addition, the United States also believes that Garuda Shield 2021 can provide excellent opportunities for professional and cultural exchanges that strengthen the partnership between the two countries through joint learning and training.
In fact, the first joint Garuda Shield exercise held in Bandung, West Java in 2009 is aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and can also be said to be a real form of defense diplomacy to strengthen military relations of both countries. In addition to the United States, Indonesia also builds joint military exercises with various neighboring countries, such as MALINDO and Malaysia which sometimes includes other countries such as Singapore, Australia and several other ASEAN countries. The purpose of this military exercise is to build strategic cooperation and partnerships with various countries. In addition, the increasing tension in the South China Sea could be a joint military exercise with major countries that will enhance alertness and improve the capability of Indonesian military personnel in dealing with all possibilities that may occur in terms of security and the effects of threats from outside Indonesia's territory. In addition to conducting joint military exercises in Baturaja, South Sumatra, the Indonesian Army and the United States Army also conduct exercises in two other locations: Amborawang, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan and Makalisung, Minahasa, North Sulawesi.
ASEAN now has a new dialogue partner. The addition came after Britain officially agreed to become an ASEAN dialogue partner which previously consisted of only China, the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and New Zealand.
The country has proposed to become an ASEAN dialogue partner since June 2020. By becoming a Dialogue Partner, the UK will formalize its relationship with ASEAN, including attending the annual Foreign and Economic Ministers' meeting and other Ministerial-level meetings.
Britain's participation as a dialogue partner of ASEAN, can make the 10-member organization expand the discourse on Cooperation and play its role not only in the ASEAN region but beyond. As is known, the UK is a country that has considerable influence in the European Union. It is also very likely, the UK's participation as a dialogue partner, will be able to increase understanding and cooperation for the Indo Pacific region. ASEAN can discuss more broadly important issues such as transnational crimes and maritime security. England in history was recorded as a country with not so wide land and sea area, yet had triumphed in the sea due to to its naval power. Thanks to its wide influence, English has now become the main international language of communication and has become the main foreign language taught in schools, including in Indonesia.
But in addition to the benefits that ASEAN will get, the UK can actually benefit from its status as an ASEAN dialogue partner. Britain's exit from the European Union membership which brings economic consequences, is very possible to be balanced by becoming a dialogue partner of ASEAN which consists of 10 countries, including Indonesia. Data shows that the value of trade between the UK and ASEAN in more than a year until the last quarter of the 2021 is worth more than 32.3 billion euros.
The principle of mutual complementarity, mutual giving, and mutual acceptance and seeking joint solutions to increase benefits, must always be put forward in relations between countries. Be it bilaterally, multilaterally, or through regional organizations.
Closing to the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, China began to exert influence in Afghanistan. Among other things, by receiving a visit from a Taliban delegation led by one of its founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, to meet with high-ranking Chinese officials, last week. The official website of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs posts a photo of Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and his delegation in Tianjin before starting the talk. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Afghan government military and the Taliban was still ongoing. The Taliban continues to spread its wings, especially in northern Afghanistan. On the other hand, the government forces, apart from defending themselves, also retaliated against attacks.
The diplomatic narrative emerged from a meeting between the Taliban leadership and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who stated that his government was adhering to a policy of not interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs. The Taliban said via twitter that Afghanistan would not be a hotbed for terrorists.
The United States has responded to the Taliban meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the sidelines of his visit to India, Thursday, July 29, stated that China's involvement could be a good thing, if Beijing could seek a peace resolution.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani responded to the visit of Taliban to China. In essence, he doubts the Taliban's statements or narratives regarding a political solution in Afghanistan.
Whatever the implications, the Taliban's visit to China has happened. The friendly reception by Foreign Minister Wang Yi could at least imply that the Taliban were politically recognized by China. It seems that China sees the strategic position of the Taliban after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. China recognizes that the factor of the Uyghur Muslim minority in its country is a sensitive matter, especially for countries with Muslim majority populations. Including Afghanistan, especially the Taliban, who are known as hard-line Muslims. In addition, China does have a special interest in Afghanistan because parts of the territory of the two countries are bordering each other.
The bronze medal gained by the men's singles badminton player, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting on Monday (2/8) completed the task of the Indonesian contingent at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Previously, the Indonesian people also enthusiastically welcomed the gold medal from the badminton branch by the women's doubles: Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu. Thus, the Indonesian contingent has won 1 gold medal from Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu in women's doubles badminton, 1 silver medal from Eko Yuli Irawan in weightlifting, and 3 bronzes from Windy Cantika Aisah, Rahmat Erwin Abdullah in weightlifting and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in the men's singles badminton. On Monday (2/8), the Indonesian contingent ended their duties at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In regard to this achievement, the Indonesian team can be said to be successful at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, considering that only 8 sports were participated in by Indonesia in the global competition. The Indonesian nation should be grateful to all the athletes who have competed in this international match. It seems that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has haunted Indonesia for about a year and a half, has not reduced the determination and enthusiasm of Indonesian athletes and officials to participate in the Olympics.
It is conceivable how the Indonesian athletes did prepare for the Olympics with all the limited space for selection, training and even financial limitations. Because the fight against the pandemic has drained the country's resources.
The Indonesian people should also be grateful to government administrators who did not put aside Indonesia's participation in the Olympics by reason of focusing on addressing the pandemic. Full moral and material support was given to the athletes and officials. Thus, they could show proud achievements.
Now, the people of Indonesia are waiting for the 20th National Sports Week -PON, which will be held in Papua next October. The pandemic may not completely shake off in the month. The condition of human resources and the economy is also certainly not fully recovered. However, the same support is expected from government administrators so that the national sporting event can also run smoothly. Indonesia can learn from the Tokyo Olympics how to organize a sport event with super-strict health protocols. Thus, all participants of the 20th PON can compete with a sense of security and show their best quality.
The Indonesian government is accelerating a vaccination program to address the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic and reduce the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the distribution of vaccination programs in a number of regions in Indonesia faces problems. In fact, vaccination is one of the major keys in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on experience in a number of countries, the higher the ratio of the population gets vaccinated, the lower the fatality rate is.
The government has also intensified the vaccination program to achieve the target of at least 70% of the total population in order to create herd immunity.
Based on data from the Ministry of Health (Kemenkes), which was released on the Kemenkes.go.id on Thursday (29/7), only 44.6 million people have been vaccinated. This number is equivalent to 16.5% of Indonesia's total population of 270.2 million people in 2020. Meanwhile, 17.9 million people have received the second vaccination or 6.6% of the population.
Logistics problem is also another factor of inequality, because not all Public Health Centers or Puskesmas throughout Indonesia have logistics that support the vaccination program. The limited number of vaccinators is also the reason why the vaccination coverage in Indonesia is uneven. Until now, the Ministry of Health has not specifically released data on the number of corona vaccinators in all provinces. However, the distribution of the number of vaccinators can be estimated from the current data on health workers, considering that health workers are the main profession recruited to carry out the vaccination program.
Based on the Ministry of Health's release, Spokesperson for Vaccination of the Ministry of Health, Siti Nadia Tarmizi admitted that the supply of vaccines was limited, only 30 percent or 151.9 million of the total need for around 462 million doses and there were still various obstacles, especially related to vaccine distribution. Thus, all stakeholders need to join hands and work hard to overcome this.
Hopefully, all of the problems, ranging from vaccine distribution and logistical readiness, especially the limited number of vaccinators, must be addressed and minimized to ensure that corona vaccination is evenly distributed throughout Indonesia. In addition, the determination of the priority scale for regions that receive vaccines, namely in areas with a high number of transmission cases can be resolved. Thus, the herd immunity target set by the government can be achieved immediately.
Relations between South Korea and North Korea are slowly recovering. As a first step, both countries reopened all direct lines of communication or hotlines last Tuesday (27/7). The relations deteriorated last year after the failed meeting of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump, facilitated by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. However, since last April, President Moon Jae-in and Leader Kim Jong-un have continued to seek improvement by exchanging letters.
Reuters as quoted from Kompas on Thursday (29/7) reported, Spokesperson for the Presidential Palace of South Korea, Park Soo-hyun in a press statement explained that from the exchange of letters, both leaders agreed to reopen direct lines of communication between the two countries. He also remarked that the opening of this line of communication is the first step in the process of repairing relationships, regenerating mutual trust and reconciliation.
For both countries, this communication line is actually an important tool to prevent misunderstandings, especially along the heavily guarded joint border area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This direct line of communication is also used to arrange diplomatic meetings, coordinate sea and air traffic, facilitate humanitarian discussions, minimize the impact of natural disasters and establish cooperation in the economic field. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said that the restoration of communication lines with North Korea could open up opportunities for the resumption of talks between North Korea and the United States regarding North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
Hopefully, the opening of direct lines of communication between the two countries this time will not break up as before. Thus, it can really begin to restore relations and reconciliation efforts between the two Koreas. As a result, the reconciliation mission to unite two Koreas comes to be realized.
Cooperatives in general have given a positive contribution to Indonesian economy. Based on Cooperatives and MSMEs Ministry's data as per December 2020, 127,124 active cooperative units in Indonesia contributed 5.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and absorbed 0.45 percent of total national workforce.
In Indonesian's five-year economic development plan, the government targets 5.5% national GDP contribution from the cooperatives and 500 modern cooperatives units development by the end of 2024.
The Covid-19 pandemic becomes a great challenge to achieve the 5.5% GDP contribution target. Minister of Cooperatives and MSMEs, Teten Masduki said that 1,785 units of cooperatives were affected by the pandemic. He further mentioned that the main issues faced by cooperatives amid the pandemic are capital (47%), sales decline (35%), and production decline (8%).
With those issues, cooperatives must be creative to make more sales online amid the pandemic. In addition, the cooperatives can stay productive and achieve the GDP contribution target.
The Indonesian government, as stated by Coordinating Minister for Economy, Airlangga Hartarto on Wednesday (28/7), is encouraging cooperatives modernization to improve their quality in order to stay productive and be able to compete offline and online. With Good Cooperative Governance (GCG), the cooperatives will be able to improve their competitiveness values because of being adaptive towards changes in marketing and technology.
The government also needs to involve the millennials since they are very familiar with technology. This will help in accelerating the modern cooperatives’ growth, which are ready to compete nationally and internationally.
After a long feud, the United States is trying to improve relations with China through a diplomatic approach. At least, that's what the latest developments in Washington-Beijing relations show.
Efforts to overcome the disharmony of relations between the two countries should be marked by the visit of the United States Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman to China this weekend.
Recently, there has been an escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing regarding various sensitive issues. The United States, for example, has again questioned the Chinese government's human rights violations against the Uygur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. The United States Senate has even decided to ban imports from Xinjiang because there are suspicions that the Chinese government has carried out forced labor for Uygur Muslims.
The visit of Wendy Sherman, came from an agreement with China on July 21, 2021 on the basis of consideration of the need for stability in relations between the two countries. The Chinese government, as said by its foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, welcomed the visit and talks as a forum for consultation on various issues. However, Beijing has indicated it will resolutely refuse to discuss its internal affairs, particularly on policies in Xinjiang and principles regarding Taiwan.
On Monday (26/7) China's Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng urged the United States to stop cursing and demonizing China. Xie made this remark during talks with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is on a visit to the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin from July 25 to 26. Xie even said, relations between the two countries are at an impasse and face serious difficulties, basically because the US considers China a “shadow enemy.” (https://www.tribunnews.com International Asia)
Based on that statement, it can be estimated that the restoration of good relations between China and the United States will still require time and further approaches. However, tensions and conflicts should indeed be addressed. This is important because the feud of two big countries that have an impact on geopolitics and the world economy, can have an impact on other countries.