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Grappling with bureaucracy, new ministers struggle to spend money fast enough: Sri Mulyani

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2020

Yunindita Prasidya, Jakarta – The government is in a race against the clock to deliver funds to the public to cushion the impacts of the pandemic, but for new ministers the bureaucracy is making budget disbursement challenging, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has said.

The state budget had changed "dramatically" in the face of the pandemic, with some budget items being shifted, others cut and allocations reprioritized to best address the shocks the pandemic posed for the country's healthcare system, economy and social welfare, which the new ministers had to adapt to, she said.

"Some of the ministers are new. I thought all of the ministers were like me, who knows the bureaucracy, the policies, the budget documents. But, no, [...] they even never worked in the government before," Sri Mulyani said on Wednesday during The Jakarta Post's webinar Jakpost Up Close: Reimagining the future of Indonesia's economy.

"When COVID-19 hit, the original budget funds needed to be shifted, some of the spending needed to be cut, some of it reprioritized, and then the new money came in for the new priorities. These are all different challenges that they need to manage while we are all working from home," she added.

She estimated that Indonesia's economic growth would be around zero percent this year as economic activity might start to normalize by September. The government is pinning its hopes on the Rp 695.2 trillion (US$46.6 billion) it has allocated to finance the country's fight against the pandemic's impact on the health system and the economy.

However, disbursement of the stimulus funds has been slow. Only around 21 percent or Rp 151 trillion of the allocation has been spent so far.

"President [Joko] Jokowi [Widodo] has asked to pour out the money through the economy, but pouring it out isn't like flushing it down the toilet [...], somebody is going to audit you," Sri Mulyani said.

The minister went on to explain that data and detailed policy implementation were crucial to enable spending accountability.

"The President is asking, this is the time that you [the ministers] have to look on the very details, really working on micro-details on what you need to do in the current situation," the former managing director of the World Bank said.

"The good side is that, actually, with this intensity of video conference discussions, we can virtually work 24 hours a day, every hour back-to-back. Basically, we are just working like crazy at this moment," she noted.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/08/21/grappling-with-bureaucracy-new-ministers-struggle-to-spend-money-fast-enough-sri-mulyani.html