Looking for Leadership

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe government seems to has lost its way in the fight against the pandemic. Jokowi’s leadership is at stake.

    AS the Covid-19 pandemic becomes more and more serious, the debate that pits public health against economic recovery is increasingly irrelevant. Unfortunately, it is this very debate that surfaced when a number of ministers criticized the implementation of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in the capital.

    Many of President Joko Widodo's aides 'condemned' Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, claiming that the PSBB announcement would have a negative impact on the economy. Among other evidence, they pointed to the collapse in the Jakarta Stock Exchange index, which dropped sharply by 257.49 points, resulting in the suspension of trading.

    This negative sentiment from the bourse may well have been an unavoidable consequence of the PSBB announcement, but the Jakarta administration had little choice. The pandemic is increasingly out of control. The numbers of people with Covid-19 and the fatality rate continue to rise. The wards of a number of referral hospitals are almost full. If the 'emergency brakes' are not immediately applied, public health and Jakarta's economy will both fall into the abyss.

    The problem is that the quality of the public debate is worsening because all sides have become over-politicized. The enforcement of the PSBB has annoyed some because it was a decision taken by Anies, who is a political opponent of the ministers. On social media, netizens are divided between supporters of Anies and of Jokowi.

    The uproar is on the Internet, while in the real world, public support for the policies to control Covid-19 is slipping away. Everywhere, there are violations of health protocols. It is possible that there is a correlation between this and the eroding of public trust in the government that continues to squabble.

    Agreement between officials and real public solidarity is crucial in the midst of the confusion over the capacity of our health system. Because of the failure to anticipate the effects of the pandemic, our health facilities have been hit hard. As of September 17, 117 doctors had died of Covid-19. In red zones, referral hospitals are increasingly unable to accept new patients, while the pandemic curve continues to rise.

    As the pandemic is increasingly out of control, the government seems to have lost direction and to have no clues what to do. The President has repeatedly expressed anger at his ministers who are tardy and short of initiatives. But Jokowi has not acted resolutely. Instead of replacing incompetent ministers, Jokowi has repeatedly established ad hoc teams to deal with the pandemic. However, this simply lengthens the chain of command and slows down the decision-making process. Endeavors to deal with the pandemic seemed to be partial and based on short-term targets, rather than being based on a comprehensive strategy to win the war in the long term. Instead of carefully listening to the opinions of experts, the President has been busy seeking second opinions - even before he has a proper first opinion that he understands.

    Strong leadership is needed, especially at the national level, to increase the capability of the health system while building public solidarity in a short time. Before it is too late, Jokowi must show that he is a resolute leader who is responsive and consistent in leading his cabinet and his people. The quality of a leader is on the line at a time of crisis like this.

    Read the Complete Story in Tempo English Magazine