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20
August

 

After 20 years of war, the Taliban managed to wrest power from the Afghan government, which is strongly backed by the United States and its allies. The world was flabbergasted. Some are even trying to digest the fact that Kabul has fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Some are pessimistic about the future of Afghanistan, but others are trying to be realistic.

Since Monday 16 August 2021, the day after the Taliban occupied Kabul, the group has continued to try to change its political style and shift from physical combat to diplomacy. The Taliban continue to try to convince the world of the legitimacy of their rule.

Quoting ANTARA / at a press conference / Taliban's main spokesman Zahibullah Muhajid asked the international community to recognize their rule over Afghanistan. Muhajid also made many promises, including that everyone would be forgiven even those who had worked with the previous government or with foreign governments. The Taliban also promised to respect women's rights but within the norms of Islamic law.

The question is, will the Taliban change and fulfill its promises?

US President Joe Biden said the Taliban would never change, especially regarding the group's basic principles. Although the Taliban vowed to implement a more open government and guarantee women's rights, Biden is pessimistic that the group can implement a democratic system in Afghanistan. Biden insists that economic and diplomatic pressure, not military force, is needed to ensure the Taliban protect and guarantee women's rights in Afghanistan.

The concern of the Afghan people over the rule of the Taliban is very understandable, given the past history. Not only the Afghan people, the world also asks the Taliban to show through concrete actions, not only promises and statements. So they can dispel the fear of many people about the guarantee of freedom and security in the country.

If Biden is pessimistic, then UNICEFF is not. The UN agency which deals with aid for children around the world, is optimistic that it can cooperate with the Taliban, especially in supporting education for children and women.

The Taliban are currently in the euphoria of victory and will continue to speak in an idealistic setting. But they should not only promise. The words must be realized in order to be able to create a positive image that is far from violence. So that they can get recognition and support of the international community.

19
August

 

Right after celebrating Independence Day, Indonesians commemorate Constitution Day every August 18. Back in 1945, after proclaiming independence, Indonesians announced the birth of the 1945 Constitution as the legal basis for the country. The 1945 Constitution is the highest law in Indonesia where almost all legal products always refer to the contents of the 1945 Constitution. The journey of the 1945 Constitution is quite long in the history of the Indonesian state.It was amended the first time during the reformation era, after the New Order fell in 1999. Many later wanted the 1945 Constitution to be changed back into its original version.

Chairperson of the People's Consultative Assembly –MPR, Bambang Soesatyo in the Constitution Day commemoration on Wednesday (18/8) said although the position and authority of the MPR had changed a lot, the soul of this institution that was created by the nation's founders must not change. Therefore, the Assembly must keep bridging people's aspirations from all regions and prioritizing political ethics, by always trying to create a harmony among socio-political powers and groups of interests to justly achieve national advancement.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives –DPR, Puan Maharani said that the 1945 Constitution is the highest law and basis for all state administrators in decision making. It contains the guarantee for the constitutional rights of all citizens, including the health and economic rights during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 1945 Constitution has been amended four times. One of the fundamental changes was the position of People's Consultative Assembly, that now can only inaugurate the president and vice president elected by the people.

Despite the amendment, four pillars of the nation: the 1945 Constitution, Pancasila, Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, and Unity in Diversity or Bhinneka Tunggal Ika are non-negotiable. They are the main soul of every Indonesian. Indonesians must also remember that one of the goals of gaining independence is to achieve people's prosperity and social justice. Therefore, the 1945 Constitution gives authority for the state or the government to do something in order to achieve the prosperity and justice.

18
August

 

The deadline for the withdrawal of US troops and their allies from Afghanistan is not yet over,  but the Taliban has been able to control the country. Taliban leaders and troops, managed easily to  enter Kabul and the Presidential Palace. President Ashraf Gani himself had left without  being known his whereabout.

After that, the Taliban immediately took over the government radio and television. Through the national media, the new head of TV and Radio, Maulvi Ishaq Nizami, stated that the Taliban government granted amnesty to all government officials and employees. According to him, they can carry out their duties without worry and fear.

Under the latest   conditions, many  non-Taliban Afghans must be gripped by fear and uncertainty. Thousands of them, especially those living in Kabul, ran to the airport and scrambled to board planes to leave the country. As reported by various mass media, they consist of young and old, even children, with frightened faces, worried about their fate and future.

In response to the end of the US and Western-backed Ashraf Gani administration, Russia and China have stated that they  would  continue to operate their embassies in Kabul. Meanwhile, Iran views that the existing momentum can be a driving force for the unity of all groups in Afghanistan. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stated this in a phone  call to his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. On the other hand, from London it was reported, British Foreign Secretary Ben Wallace said that his government would not send troops back to Afghanistan. Wallace acknowledged that the Taliban had taken control of Afghanistan, and that this was recognized as a failure by the international community.

So, how about the United States? Joe Bidden insisted that his troop withdrawal was the right decision. Responding to criticism from Donald Trump, Bidden said he remained firm in his stance. However, regarding the latest developments, he had expressed his concerns. He promised to ensure that even under the rule of the Taliban, the rights of women and children would be protected. In its previous reign, before being overthrown by the US and its allies 20 years ago, the Taliban enforced Islamic law that was stricter than any other Islamic country around the world. They require women to wear full body coverings including the face (burqa), and are not allowed to appear and go out in public places, as well as limiting their education.

Of course, it is not only women who are worried, but also other Afghans. The reinstatement of the Taliban in Afghanistan, of course, immediately gave rise to new rulers who said they would implement their version of Islamic law. Very likely, there will be no more general elections. If this is the case, it is still uncertain how the reconciliation process between the various interests in the country will occur.

China and Russia and Iran, which have welcomed the presence of the Taliban, of course on the basis of their respective interests in Afghanistan, cannot yet be seen  as what their next steps will be. Afghanistan is known for its rich mineral resources. In addition, its geographical location is also very strategic and can connect China and Russia to Europe and the surrounding countries. This seems to have led the two countries, plus Afghanistan's other neighbour, Iran, to pay particular attention to the Taliban.

17
August


Today, August 17, the Indonesian people commemorate the 76th Anniversary of the Independence of the Republic of Indonesia. Today's Commentary title is the anniversary theme for 2021.

In his state address at the Annual Session of the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in Jakarta, Monday (16/8), President Joko Widodo linked the phrase 'Indonesia Resilient' with Indonesian nation to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. According to President Joko Widodo, this pandemic is like a candradimuka crater that tests, teaches, and sharpens at the same time. All pillars of life are tested; all pillars of strength are honed. Patience, persitence, togetherness, intelligence, and speed, all of these are tested and honed at the same time.

The pandemic mentioned by President Joko Widodo has also spurred people to change, develop new ways, leave old habits that are irrelevant, and break through the impossible. In fact, he believes, the capacity of state institutions in responding to the pandemic is also increasingly consolidated and more responsive.

The implementation of the phrase 'Indonesia Growing' can be seen from the economic growth in the second quarter of 2021, which reached 7.07% with a controlled inflation rate at 1.52%. Even during the period, restrictions on community activities were implemented in many places due to the spread of Covid-19 transmission. The government's optimism for Indonesia's growth can also be seen from the 2022 State Revenue and Expenditure Budget Bill which was submitted by the President on the same occasion. In 2022, the Government plans a fiscal policy that remains expansive to support the acceleration of socio-economic recovery, but is also consolidative to increase the state budget by strengthening structural reforms.

President Joko Widodo affirmed that there are six main focuses in the 2022 State Budget policy: first by continuing efforts to control Covid-19 while still prioritizing the health sector, second by maintaining the sustainability of social protection programs for the poor and vulnerable, third by strengthening the agenda for improving human resources with superior, integrity and competitiveness, fourth by continuing infrastructure development and improving technology adaptability, fifth by strengthening fiscal decentralization to increase and distribute welfare among regions and sixth by continuing budgeting reform in  implementing zero-based budgeting to encourage more efficient spending, strengthening central and regional synergies, focusing on priority and results-based programs, and anticipating conditions of uncertainty.

What was affirmed by President Joko Widodo in the two speeches may enliven optimism for a better Indonesia. To make it come true, discipline is needed so that the plan is carried out on time according to the target. Hopefully, all stakeholders can move at the same acceleration to realize “Indonesia Resilient, Indonesia Growing.”

16
August

 

The Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly –MPR holds its Annual Session, Monday (16/8). Same as in previous years, the session which is held ahead of the commemoration of Indonesian Independence Day on 17 August, is attended by the President, Vice President, cabinet ministers, members of the Assembly, and other dignitaries whose number is limited due to the Covid19 pandemic.

In the MPR’s Annual Session held along with the House of Representative -DPR and Regional Representatives -DPD this time, President Joko Widodo delivers a speech on the performance reports of state institutions. Afterwards, he also gives a speech delivering the government's introduction/information on the Draft Law on the Indonesian State Revenue and Expenditure Budget (APBN) for the 2022 Fiscal Year and its Financial Note.

This is the second time that the MPR’s Annual Session has been carried out in a simple, not too long, yet effective and efficient manner due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Quoting Antara News Agency, Chairperson of MPR, Bambang Soesatyo said that amid conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, social cohesion and national solidity had become a vulnerable and crucial point. Therefore, the MPR annual session this year focuses on strengthening and building the nation's character. This must continue to be fought for so that it becomes a collective spirit amid the social, national and state life which is being slumped due to the Covid-9.

It is hoped that the MPR Annual Session will be able to become a momentum for the MPR to convey various national messages related to the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, and not only focuses on health and economic aspects but also to be able to remind all elements of the nation that in handling the pandemic must also include aspects of strengthening the life of the nation and state in a bid to be  able to build optimism in dealing with the Covid-9.

As is known, the Covid-19 pandemic has multi-dimensional impacts. The economy contracted, unemployment increased, debt increased, not to mention other social impacts.

Thereby, the 2021 MPR Annual Session should not just be a normative event that will pass, but also be able to answer a number of current and future challenges or the post-pandemic era, with seriousness in creating national independence. In line with the theme of the 76th Anniversary of the Republic of Indonesia, namely "Indonesia Resilient, Indonesia Grows", with the hope that Indonesia will remain strong in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

12
August

 

State-owned oil and gas company, PT Pertamina officially takes over the Rokan block from the previous operator PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia -a subsidiary of a multinational energy company Chevron Corp. Since Monday (09/08), the management of the oil field in Rokan block, Riau Province has been in the hands of PT Pertamina Hulu Rokan.

Indonesian Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Arifin Tasrif said the takeover was a milestone in Indonesian upstream oil and gas industry.

Yes, the government handed over the Rokan block to PT Pertamina. But, can they really manage the Rokan Block? Can they maintain the oil production or even surpass the current oil production?

Based on data from Oil and Gas Special Regulatory Task Force (SKK Migas) as per June 2021 under PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia, Rokan block produced 165,000 barrels of oil per day or around 24 percent of total national oil production.

The greatest challenge faced by PT Pertamina is maintaining the production number or increasing it. Maintaining the production is not easy. Therefore, as posted by PT Pertamina on their Instagram on Wednesday (11/8), President Joko Widodo asked the company to work its fingers to the bone for the sake of the Rokan block's continuity.

PT Pertamina needs to work hard so that bad history does not repeat. When PT Pertamina took over Blok Mahakam, the production dropped significantly. Another decrease in production will be a bad precedent.

To increase production after the takeover, PT Pertamina targets to drill 161 new oil wells in August-December 2021, in the hope that Rokan can maintain their current production and become one of the nation's main oil producers.

In achieving this goal, PT Pertamina needs qualified human resources who truly understand oil block management. It will also need sophisticated techs or at least the ones in the same level with Chevron's in managing the oil well.

PT Pertamina Hulu Rokan must show the world that they can manage the Rokan block and even do better than PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia. Therefore, PT Pertamina will be able to support national energy security.

13
August

 

Saudi Arabia has begun to  accept applications for Umrah from international Muslim pilgrims on condition that they have received the Covid-19 vaccination. The announcement was made through state media, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Sunday (8/8). SPA reported, the relevant ministry would receive Umrah applications from various countries in the world starting Monday 9 August 2021.

Thus, even though the Covid-19 pandemic is not over, Saudi Arabia is estimated to have started granting permits for 60,000 Umrah pilgrims who have been vaccinated. That number will gradually be increased to two million per month. Umrah pilgrims from abroad who are allowed to perform worship in the Holy Land must include an officially recognized Covid-19 vaccination certificate along with other requirements for Umrah.

Saudi Arabia's move to reopen Umrah for international pilgrims is quite bold. It needs cooperation at the international level so that there is no transmission of Covid-19 in Mecca. For Muslims outside Saudi Arabia who want to perform Umrah in the Holy Land, the decision is a breath of fresh air and encouraging.

However, the Saudi Government also imposes quite strict regulations, especially for pilgrims who, even though have been vaccinated, come from nine countries on the list of prohibited entry to Saudi Arabia. They are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Lebanon. They will be quarantined for 14 days in third countries before entering Saudi Arabia. The reason is because Saudi Arabia has recognized only four types of vaccines, namely Pfizer, Moderna, Johnsons & Johnsons, and AstraZeneca. In fact on one hand, the Covid-19 vaccinations obtained by the 9 countries have already been approved and permitted by the World Health Organization -WHO. On the other hand, these countries, especially Indonesia with the largest Muslim population in the world, are known for their large number of Umrah pilgrims and bring in considerable income/foreign exchange for Saudi Arabia. The question is whether Saudi Arabia will relax the conditions in question given this fact.

Each country certainly needs to convince Saudi Arabia that the vaccines given to their citizens, although not included in the list of the Saudi Arabian government, have been tested and received permission from the WHO.

Understandably, the regulations are enforced solely to ensure that Umrah activities in the Holy Land are carried out in a safe manner by implementing all preventive measures and strict health protocols. This is considering that Umrah activities inevitably involve a great number of people with the potential to crowd. Thus, Umrah pilgrims are expected to be protected from the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

11
August

 

Shows of strength and military cooperation are taking place in Asia. Three major countries, the United States, China, and Russia are holding  massive military exercises there.  If Russia holds joint military drills with China. The United States cooperates with South Korea, its ally on the Korean peninsula.

As reported by the French news agency, AFP, South Korea and the United States began holding preliminary joint military exercises Tuesday, August 10, before entering the full-scale Exercise from  August 16-26. The joint action of the two countries was immediately responded to by North Korea. Kim Yo-Jong, the younger brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, considers the joint military exercises a form of betrayal by South Korea. The accusation was made on the basis that communication between Seoul and Pyong Yang that had been cut off, was just  re-opened last month   in the hope that relations would improve.

At almost the same time, two close neighbors of the two Koreas, namely China and Russia, are also holding  military exercises. The location is indeed not in the eastern part which is close to the Korean peninsula. The joint Russian and Chinese exercises, which are being carried out on a large scale, take place in the northwestern region of China and involve at least 10,000 troops.

Seeing the selection of locations that are far from the Korean Peninsula when the United States and South Korea also hold military exercises, it can then be assumed that there are different objectives. Although both have interests and influence on the two Koreas, it seems that the joint Russian and Chinese exercises this time are meant as a show of strength against Europe and America.

The cold war, which gave rise to the terms west bloc and east bloc, politically ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, the struggle for influence between the big countries is still and will continue.

What is interesting now is the joining of Russia and China through large-scale military exercises. Even though it is just a joint military exercise, this could make the United States carry out new foreign strategies and policies, in anticipation of China and Russia's movements. As is known, the relationship between China and the United States, still has problems. Likewise between Washington and Moscow.

Efforts to find a balance of power and influence between the big countries have made the development of international politics more dynamic.

10
August


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.

09
August

 

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%.