Central and Regional Communication Needs Improvement
In a decentralized system, the regional administrations played a bigger role because they knew better about the conditions of their regions.
Regional administrations have revealed the need to improve communication with the central government during major crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. News media can provide the space for communication.
JAKARTA, KOMPAS — Synchronizing the roles of the central and regional governments is key to the handling of national crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, the problem of synchronization remains unresolved.
Reflecting on the problems faced at the beginning of the pandemic, a centralized system to strengthen institutions in handling crises and infectious diseases is greatly needed. This issue remains relevant.
A webinar titled Collaboration Forum City Leaders Community #APEKSI-Inergy held by Kompas in cooperation with the Association of Indonesian Municipalities (Apeksi) on Friday (25/2/2022) revealed that the roles of the central and the regional governments were not yet in sync. Representatives from 12 municipal governments took part in a preliminary discussion on the theme “Central and Regional Pandemic Management Strategies” chaired by Kompas’ chief editor Sutta Dharmasaputra.
The Covid-19 pandemic of the last two years has revealed many things, including the weakness of the national health system. "This must be tackled with synergy," said National Development Planning Minister and National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) Minister Suharso Monoarfa during his presentation.
Also joining the webinar were the Home Ministry’s Regional Administration Director General Safrizal, mayor of Bogor and chairman of Apeksi, Bima Arya Sugiarto and representatives from the 12 municipal governments.
Suharso said there was still a sectoral ego within local administration institutions that often hampered the central government’s efforts to intervene in solving problems. "Consequently, institutions outside the realm of health are involved, such as the TNI [the military], Polri [National Police] and BNPB [National Disaster Mitigation Agency], so that the workload and work policies can be distributed to the regions more quickly," he said.
According to Safrizal, other countries had also experienced a similar situation, in which from the beginning of the pandemic until now they were also still learning how to handle health crises. As a result, policies for the handling of the pandemic were often modified, such as the change in large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) into tiered restrictions on community activities (PPKM), he said.
In a decentralized system, said Safrizal, the regional administrations played a bigger role because they knew better about the conditions of their regions. Yet regional innovations in maintaining the balance of health care and economic recovery should also be aligned with the central government’s policies, he said.
In this regard, Bima said central and regional governments needed to hold more dialogues in order to break the communication deadlock and at the same time to synergize central and regional programs.
"On the one hand, regions should be well informed about policies and directives of the central government, and on the other hand, the central government should be willing to absorb the aspirations of regional heads," he said.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Tarakan, North Kalimantan, H Khairul said during the pandemic, the municipal government often faced difficulties in sharing the roles of the provincial or central governments. There were also a number of policies made by central and provincial governments that could not be carried out by certain municipal governments due to the lack of transportation access such as airports, he added.
As a result, a number of development plans were postponed, which caused a slowdown in the economic recovery.
In addition, local governments were also often overwhelmed because they had to adjust or reallocate their budgets. As a result, a number of development plans were postponed, which caused a slowdown in the economic recovery, he added.
He suggested the handling of infectious diseases be done through a centralized institution, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. A centralized institution could be more effective in handling health crises in regions because it would operate under the supervision and funding of the central government, he said.
Another situation that often complicates the handling of the pandemic is the lack of data integration from neighborhood and community units (RT and RW), sub-districts/villages, districts/cities, provinces to the central government. It is often found that data such as the number of patients, bed occupancy and vaccination coverage differs from one institution to another.
“The data from the central and regional governments regarding the number of people who have been vaccinated are different. This is a problem in the field," said Tangerang Mayor Arief Wismansyah.
Safrizal, who is also deputy chairman of the National Covid-19 Handling Task Force, acknowledged that data integration was one of the obstacles in handling the pandemic. Until now, there was still a 2-3 percent difference between the Covid-19 data uploaded to the system and that announced to the public.
In addition, it is necessary to anticipate the impact of the pandemic on mental health. "This is a social aspect that must be considered. If left unchecked, it could result in people's distrust of the government," said Pangkal Pinang Mayor Maulan Aklil.
In particular, Sutta said, the media provided a communication space so that the government policies could be well disseminated to the public. (GRE/ESA/JUM/COK)
(This article was translated by Hendarsyah Tarmizi)