Covid-19 and The Indonesian Economy
Alistair Speirs turned to European Chamber of Commerce Chair and President Director of Danone AQUA, Corine Tap, to see how her members are faring and find out her views on the way in which Indonesia has tackled the crisis.

We have been under social distancing mode, working from home, office closure, hospitality industry (and most retailers) shutdown for over two months in Jakarta. How has that really affected business? NOW! Jakarta’s Alistair Speirs turned to European Chamber of Commerce Chair and President Director of Danone AQUA, Corine Tap, to see how her members are faring and find out her views on the way in which Indonesia has tackled the crisis.

Governor Anies announced the start of the back to normal process for 4th June. Too soon? Too late? Too confused? Just right? 

The best judge as to when is the right time for Jakarta to announce the start of the back-to-normal process are obviously the Jakarta Governor and the Central Government, as they have the facts, expertise, team and full picture to make these important decisions. It is likely that we will have to adapt to a new normal where we live with some viruses around us (particularly COVID-19) and we fully trust the judgement of the authorities and we will continue to work with them in this new phase called ‘back to (new) normal’.

How much damage has been done to the economy and in particular to your members’ business by the PSBB regulation and Covid-19 overall?

The Covid-19 pandemic is the first health crisis of its type in our lives and it’s global reach and impact makes this truly a global health crisis. Having started as a health crisis, we are now facing multiple crises, including economic and social crises that again have a truly global nature. Our humanity made us able to cope and learn at the same time. This unprecedented situation, the PSSB or other limiting regulations that were implemented to slow down the spread of the virus while trying to avoid huge pressure on the healthcare system have brought impact on the economy, across industrial sectors and businesses.

First of all, all companies—no matter in what sector—have implemented rigorous measures and protocols to keep their people safe. Some businesses were asked to temporarily stop operating and obviously this has implications on their income and employees. But even companies, in essential businesses, such as in health or food and beverage sectors that were allowed to continue, had to make radical adaptations to their business model to ensure safe and secure supply and operations.

So the PSBB or Indonesia’s limited lock down was a bitter pill to swallow for businesses, and we know that the aftermath, the recovery period won’t be fast or easy too. Household spending will be less, global supply chains have suffered and tourism will take time to recover. We have to prepare for a recovery that will take a while, at the same time I am hopeful Indonesia’s agility and desire for growth will help the country to recover as soon as possible.

The government seems to have put a huge amount of money into rescue and stimulus programs. Have you seen any evidence that these have worked? 

To some extent, the true impact that the rescue funds or stimulus programs adopted throughout the large scale social restriction (PSBB) period would be difficult and too premature to judge at this point of time. As in all countries affected by the pandemic, the Government took drastic steps to alleviate the impact brought about by the crisis both in terms of access to job opportunities, food as well as other resources. These measures were deemed necessary to overcome or mitigate risks associated with the pandemic. I am also impressed with the care that all our members have shown to support healthcare workers, but also those in need in the informal economic sectors that often do not have access to formal funds or programs

Are the “back to work” protocols making sense? Is this going to work? If not, what should be done?

I believe people have worked harder than ever in the last 8-9 weeks, so I would call it back to office protocols, and I personally think the guidance from the WHO is very helpful. We are all trying to find a way to re-open our offices when the time is right without compromising the health and safety of our employees. If we assume that scare of viruses or health risks in general might be around in the future, these adaptation measures should be crucial beyond our factories but also cover our office operations. We have to reinvent our ways of working.

Has this “crisis’” period changed the way you and your members do business, e.g. Zoom meetings and WFH? Will these be permanent changes or do you prefer to get back to face-to-face?

Yes, it truly has changed the way we operate. I have observed both in Danone and for EuroCham a true transformation in the way we work. Overnight we have demonstrated that we are able to work from home in full time, and conduct all our meetings exclusively through virtual platforms. Overall productivity and efficiency has been very high and I think this has been the biggest learning of this crisis that we will take into the future.

Many online meetings, like webinars, see more participants online than in physical set up as it saves lots of people hours of travel. I am convinced that we will keep a lot of this even in post Covid-19. We do miss the ability to collaborate, brainstorm and network in a face to face manner, but for those meetings, even though I am sure it will come back, it will be in a new way that respect physical distancing and other health measures. This period is teaching us the agility and adaptability of our member companies and of our people, to make the impact and to re-invent the ‘how’.

Is the Indonesian economy going to return to normal soon?

A return to economic growth for Indonesia clearly is our wish and aim for both EuroCham and Danone being one of the larger consumer goods companies in the country. It is in the best interest of both Europe and Indonesia to see to it that Indonesia’s economy returns to normal soon and fully recover from the impact of the pandemic. Eurocham is a policy advocacy platform with a unified single voice of European business that gives mutual benefit to members and stakeholders through collective action in enhancing competitiveness and eases the business climate in Indonesia. This will also be crucial to enhance competiveness in the region and employability in the country.

As such, we provide a pool of sharing expertise and information, open dialogue and constructive approaches, as well as aggregated inputs towards policy decision making through a number of ways. These include through our 15 sectoral working groups and forums, consultative meetings, active participation in public consultation for regulations, submission of concrete recommendations as well as through published materials such as annual position papers, studies, and letters of recommendations.

In addition, over the last year and recent events Eurocham has defined three key areas to support Indonesia’s path to recovery and these are:

  1. Promoting a conducive investment and business climate, particularly through the successful completion of the IEU-CEPA negotiations
  2. Improve import and logistics, and
  3. Promote and Support Sustainability and Energy through the best practices adopted by Europe.

As the Chair of Eurocham but also as the President Director of Danone AQUA, I am convinced that we need to support the government of Indonesia in its recovery journey and doing that in a more sustainable way, for the health of our people and the planet.

Thank you, Corine Tap.

Alistair Speirs

Alistair Speirs

Alistair has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for 25 years. He started NOW! Magazines as the region’s preferred community magazine.