Tri Indah Oktavianti, Jakarta – A video contest run by the Home Ministry to promote the so-called new normal has sparked criticism from the public and activists, who have called the initiative costing Rp 168 billion (US$11.8 million) unnecessary.
Minister Tito Karnavian said his ministry, in collaboration with the COVID-19 task force, the Finance Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry, the Trade Ministry and the National Agency for Border Management (BNPP), had created the initiative to enhance compliance with COVID-19 health protocol through a competition between regions.
The Home Ministry said on Monday that it had received 2,517 video submissions for the competition titled "Productive and Safe from COVID-19" and had picked 84 winners from various regions.
The competition was divided into seven categories: traditional market, modern market, hotels, restaurants, tourism spots, public transportation and one-stop integrated service (PTSP).
The task was to produce a two-minute video picturing the successful implementation of health protocol in either one, several or all seven categories.
"In creating the video, the regional administration should draft the health protocol involving health experts and stakeholders in the region," Tito said as reported by kompas.com on Monday.
"So there are 84 winners consisting of the first, second and third place for the seven categories and four clusters with a total of Rp 168 billion in the form of regional incentive funds [DID]."
The winners get Rp 3 billion in prize money, while those coming second and third get Rp 2 billion and Rp 1 billion respectively.
However, the initiative did not sit well with members of the public. Anita Wahid, the third daughter of late president Abdurahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, lambasted the initiative through her twitter account @AnitaWahid.
"Rp 168 billion for a video competition. How many people could get mass swab tests with such amounts of money? How many medical staff could be added for COVID-19 patients' treatment with such amounts of money?" she tweeted.
Another social media user, @YBRAP, also challenged the government, saying "Pay me 50 billion and I'll make the greatest video for this country and you can [keep] the rest".
The Finance Minister's expert staff member Yustinus Prastowo explained that the competition was only one of the mechanisms for the central government to distribute the regional funds.
"The DID is a form of support from the central government for regional governments in dealing with the pandemic, [...] so it's not a personal prerogative of the region heads," he said through his twitter account @prastow on Monday, explaining that the prize money would go into the regional accounts, not to individuals, and the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) would take part in monitoring the funds.
"The total funds allocated for the DID is Rp 13.5 Trillion. It is distributed proportionally to each region. Just a little amount of it, Rp 168 billion, is distributed through this competition," he added.