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COVID 19 Pandemic: Tackling Strategies of Indonesia and Thailand (Other (Not Listed) Sample)

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A report to conduct a comparative analysis between two countries in their response to covid 19 with reference to their cultural, economic, and political landscape.

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COVID 19 Pandemic: Tackling Strategies of Indonesia and Thailand
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COVID 19 Pandemic: Tackling Strategies of Indonesia and Thailand
Introduction
The COVID 19 pandemic is an unprecedented and unexpected event in recent human history that has shaken the very foundations of human societies across the globe. Indeed, this event has etched an indelible impression on the social, political, economic, and cultural spheres of almost all human societies and cultures. In this respect, underdeveloped South East Asian countries like Indonesia and Thailand have been on the receiving end of the devastating effects of the pandemic. Depending upon their social, political, economic, and cultural context, each country has formulated strategies at all levels to deal with this menace. However, despite the fact that both countries exhibit acute disparity in terms of all the social parameters, one thing that places them in the same boat is a similarity in poor social and economic development.
According to an estimate made by John Hopkins University, out of all Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia has been most severely hit by this pandemic as its infection rate is approximately 223/100,000 (Pepinsky, 2021). On the other hand, Thailand's performance in the early days of the pandemic was relatively better, as indicated by low infection rates; however, later on, due to relaxation given in the Covid 19 restrictions on account of political, economic, cultural, and social factors, the infection rate is very high. According to Bloomberg, as of September 3, 2021, approximately 758 577 Covid deaths have been recorded (Thanthong-Knight, 2021). Therefore, it is crucial to understand the background factors that have drastically impacted these government's efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
This essay makes a comparative analysis of the political, social, economic, and cultural factors that have dictated the efforts of these governments and compelled them to devise policies and work frameworks for minimizing the spread of the pandemic. Afterward, this essay makes a comparison of the weakness and strengths of these policies to evaluate the extent to which this pandemic has facilitated authoritarianism in Southeast Asia.
COVID 19 and Indonesia
Indonesia is a democratic country; however, there is a general trend in the society that good and popular leadership over democratic values. For the same reason, during the pandemic, despite President Joko Widodo's poor performance in handling the issue, by large, people are satisfied with him. However, as one study suggests, they showed their increasing distrust of democratic values (Pepinsky, 2021). Owing to public support, Joko Widodo has made undemocratic decisions during and before the pandemic, and this political context provides a foundation to explain his slack response to the pandemic. Despite being a president of a democratic country, he used the help of the military to devise strategies to tackle the pandemic. Besides, Joko Widodo's hostility towards Islamists also contributed to the decision he made to deal with the pandemic (Pepinsky, 2021)
For instance, he turned a deaf ear to the voice of Islamists for imposing a lockdown in Jakarta, and in order to discourage radicalism and protect the pluralism of the Indonesian society, he put the lives of millions of people on the stack (Pepinsky 2021). This fact is just one aspect of how political tug-of-war can jeopardize public health, and consequently, Indonesia has become one of the worst-hit Southeast Asian countries concerning the COVID 19 pandemic. Another study has confirmed that the Indonesian government's performance rate regarding curbing COVID 19 ranks fourth-worst in the world. Right from the beginning, there has been severe criticism over Indonesian government policies related to the pandemic; many aspects of the government's response reflect this deliberate slackness.
For instance, instead of making effective policies at the center to be implemented throughout the country, the Large-Scale Social Restrictions (PSBB) policy was not implemented throughout the country, but provinces were given autonomy to decide as per their needs (Ayuningtyas et al., 2021). One of the underlying factors behind this hesitancy to implement Covid 19 restrictions was to gain political leverage among the masses and the provincial governments. However, this attempt to gain the political support of people by giving them autonomy to impose restrictions turned out to be catastrophic for the overall health situation of the country. As a result, only 16 cities and two provinces have implemented these restrictions, which indicates the slow response towards danger to public health.
The influence of Indonesian cultural values and norms also somehow shaped the pandemic's policy framework. The ban on outdoor, recreational, and religious activities during the pandemic has substantially changed the cultural façade of the country and introduced new norms, customs, and ways of living. Sensing this cultural impact of the pandemic, recently the president Joko Widodo introduced new cultural parameters to define living during the pandemic. According to this new cultural doctrine or the "new normal," the people must learn to live with Covid 19 by fulfilling all the necessary precautions as a protracted ban on cultural activities is not an option (Disemadi & Shaleh, 2020; Ayuningtyas et al., 2021). Although there are many vital factors behind this new doctrine, keeping the Indonesian culture alive and active is one of them since a culturally alive, active, and vibrant society is a prerequisite for a prosperous society.
Additionally, a religious factor also played a vital role in influencing the opinions of the Indonesian government regarding pandemic strategies. Right from the beginning, the religious leaders showed a cautious response towards the COVID 19 restrictions on religious gathering; accordingly, the spread of misinformation regarding the pandemic, religious skepticism, and lack of supervision by the government led to great confusion among the masses (Nisa, 2021). Consequently, despite the issuance of Fatwas from renowned religious leaders, people, especially conservatives Muslims and their religious leaders, refused to ban religious gatherings, and these gatherings became super-spreaders of the disease (Nisa, 2021). Thus, this discussion hints at the detrimental role that specific religious and cultural aspects have played in discouraging efforts to curb the pandemic.
However, the most significant factor that influenced the Indonesian government's policies for reducing the effects of the pandemic is the country's economic interest. In the first place, in July 2020, out of IDR 450 trillion budget, the Indonesian government allocated only IDR 75 trillion to the health sector while it allocated 150 trillion to the economic sector. This negligence has not been acknowledged well by the health sector (Ayuningtyas et al., 2021). This considerable difference indicates that the government's priority is the recovery of the badly affected economic sector and not improving public health. Consequently, the lack of funds to develop and implement effective policies against the pandemic has led to the country's deteriorating public health situation. This fact also corroborates the notion that finance and economy are the most decisive factors in the effective implementation of government policies.
The Indonesian government seriously considers that the measures taken to halt the spread of the Covid pandemic have deeply harmed the country's economy. Thus, the government is under immense pressure to undertake steps for economic recovery; consequently, it has made several economic policies that clash with policies made to tackle the pandemic. For instance, it has made a policy to support the tourism sector by providing funds for the rapid development of the following tourist spots: Lake Toba, Borobudur, Likupang, and Labuan (Susilawati, 2020). The tourism sector of the economy has welcomed this policy shift as this would ensure its survival and relieve it from the current financial turmoil. However, this strategy is economy-centered as it completely ignores the impact of tourist activities on the spread of Covid 19. This policy shift from public health to economic recovery clearly shows that economic factors are more decisive than public health issues in determining and shaping government policies.
Likewise, the role of the economy in deciding to curb the pandemic came to the fore when one sees how the Indonesian president was reluctant to impose PSBB policy on the whole country because of fear of its devastating economic impact. For the same reason, he initially supported only rapid testing and social distancing as a way out of this pandemic (Arnakim & Kibtiah, 2021). Another instance in this regard is the imposition of a high tariff for the RT-PCR test. A singly PCR test for the detection of viral infection costs Rp 495,000 (around US$34.40) in Java and Bali, and it costs Rp 525,000 in other areas. According to government officials, this strategy will help make improvements in the economy of the country (AHK Indonesia 2021). However, this policy will surely discourage people from getting themselves tested individually and further accelerate the spread of the disease.
The above facts and figures provide an opportunity to reflect on the fact that how economic, cultural, religious, and political factors have influenced the policy-making of the Indonesian government. It is a sad reality that even in a matter like public health, these consi...

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