The Issues Of Decentralization In Fighting Covid 19 In Indonesia
In Indonesia, lock-down is known as “Karantina” or quarantine which is regulated in Law №6 2018 about “Kekarantinaan Kesehatan”. As stipulated in article 49 point 3, the region quarantine and social restriction on large scale are authorized by Ministry since it is related to national security and defense. This means that the control is in the central government.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown clearly some issues in decentralization in Indonesia. Some local governments, without the permission of the central government, applied local lock-down by limiting and closing access in and out of their area. This is practically causing panic among the people, a situation that is being avoided by the central government. One local government did this, then many other local governments could follow the action, and the situation will be hard to control.
This problem can be analyzed in accordance with the issues of decentralization. One problematic issue, that still exists after two decades of the reform, is the relationship between the central government and local government. Different perspectives in looking at and solving problems often create tension between the central government and local government. The central government, which has the authority to declare public health emergency status, sees the problem of COVID-19 in a wider perspective as a national problem involving many aspects, health, social, economy, and so on. Thus, the option for quarantine is not appropriate for now. On the other hand, local governments, as the leaders in their respective regions, are prioritizing the safety of their own people. They have to manage their own people who in this crisis situation like this demand a solution to this problem. They are pressured by the people, but they cannot decide what the people want. Moreover, the central governments, as reported by several media, tend to do hide some information about the cases of COVID-19. As a result, this creates tension between local governments and the central government.
Another issue of decentralization related to the COVID-19 pandemic is the issue in governments’ response to solve a problem. Although Indonesia has Implemented decentralization and local autonomy, the main system that shapes our governmental system is the unitary system. In this system, as discussed before, the central government holds the highest power and authority, especially for national affairs. Thus, in some cases, local governments must obey the policies made by the central government. This makes the local government slow in responding to issues that happened in their region. In the case of COVID-19, for instance, the local governments must follow the health protocol created by the central government. When the central government slows in creating and distributing this protocol, confusion arises in the local governments. Not to mention the slow response in preparing the health equipment needed in following the protocol.
Viewing the problem from the lens of the central government is also problematic that makes it difficult to make a decision. Although the ‘real’ decentralization has been implemented for more than two decades, many regions in Indonesia are still dependent on the central government for various reasons. The capability of local governments to address the problem of COVID-19 varies between regions. Not all regions can make a good decision for lack of human and also financial capacity, and again the burden goes to the central government.
In short, the root of this issue is because, on one hand, we had already implemented the decentralization and local autonomous, while on the other hand, the central government is still holding the highest authority and controls what the local governments can do.