Jakarta – Working from home (WFH) may be effective in slowing down the spread of COVID-19, but for many in the informal sector with no regular income, this means the loss of their source of income. No work simply means no pay.
Members of the House of Representatives are now taking the lead in donating part or all of their salary to help those whose livelihood has been most affected by the WFH concept.
Returning from the month-long recess on Monday, some House members immediately proposed that their salaries be cut by as much as half and the money given to people who have lost their sources of income.
In the regions, governors and mayors are also taking similar actions to encourage salaried people to donate part of their income.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has imposed "large scale social restrictions" rather than a complete lockdown, but this still means closing down schools, work places and places of worships.
This means more people could lose their jobs and income in the coming months. Most vulnerable are the 55 percent of the 130 million workforce who work in the informal sector.
Lawmaker Nurul Arifin of the Golkar Party faction, one of the proponents of the pay cut, says House members should be able to take a pay cut of up to 50 percent.
National Democratic Party faction chairman Ahmad Ali said the cut could begin with their April salary. He too proposed a 50 percent cut.
House Speaker Puan Maharani of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), however, said the matter should be discussed by the factions first before being brought to the House leadership.
The 575 members of the House receive Rp 4.2 million (US$263) in basic salary and around Rp 61 million in monthly benefits. House speakers and their deputies receive Rp 20 million in additional benefits.
It's not clear if they are proposing to cut their basic salary only, or their take home pay. Nearly half of the House members are businesspeople and more likely to have other sources of income.
The House has been virtually empty and silent in the first three weeks since COVID-19 hit Indonesia at the start of March, primarily because it was during a long recess, which was extended by one week to follow the government's social distancing instruction.
The government has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic with little role played by the House. The House is being brought in now that Jokowi is seeking permission to circumvent the law that bars the government from running a budget deficit of more than 3 percent.
The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) is getting into the act with speaker Bambang Soesatyo telling The Jakarta Post on Tuesday he would donate all his salary for the next three months. He did not say whether he would ask other MPR members to do the same.
In West Java, one of the regions worst hit by the pandemic, Governor Ridwan Kamil announced that he had asked that all staff of the provincial administration including himself, accept a pay cut for the next four months and donate the money to the needy.
"This is our service to the country for the next four months," Ridwan said on Monday, adding that when the idea was proposed, none of his staff objected. He said his office was still calculating the size of the cut, whether they would also cut benefits.
Ridwan has also decided to give Rp 500,000 a month to each family that is listed as poor in West Java.
He appealed to residents to donate any spare money they have through the various religious alms schemes to help the government cope with the pandemic.
Antaranews.com reported that many city mayors had followed suit.
The mayor of Sabang in Aceh, Nazaruddin, has pledged to give all his salary starting in March for the cause even though the city has not had any confirmed COVID-19 cases, his spokesman Bahrul Fikri said.
Mahyeldi, the mayor of Padang in West Sumatra, said he would donate his salary for the next six months. Padang has 94 people being monitored and five under surveillance for COVID-19.
He urged all civil servants to donate at least 7.5 percent of their salary for the next two months," Mahyeli said.
Sulkarnain Kadir, the mayor of Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi, pledged to donate his salary for six months from January to June.
"This is a way of showing my attention and concern for the people of Kendari city, especially those with low income and those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak," he said on Monday (mfp)