Monaco’s Prince Albert II tests positive for coronavirus

first_imgPrince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the principality said in a statement Thursday, adding there were “no concerns for his health.”The titular head of the Mediterranean enclave is continuing to work from his private apartments at the royal palace, the statement said.The announcement came three days after Monaco’s prime minister, Serge Telle, announced that he too had caught COVID-19. Monaco has said all public spaces will be closed to the public starting at midnight on Saturday, including its emblematic casinos catering to the global jet-set, as it joins the ranks of nations locking down in a bid to stem the outbreak.It said Wednesday that nine cases of infection had been detected since the first was announced on February 28.Albert is head of the House of Grimaldi that rules Monaco, the world’s second-smallest country and a haven for the rich and famous because of its low taxes.Topics :last_img read more

COVID-19: Dems calls for cash assistance for poor families, lockdown

first_imgThe government must also ensure the availability of staple foods and prices, especially ahead of Ramadan and Idul Fitri.Read also: Agus Yudhoyono elected as Democratic Party chairman”Don’t let the inflation rate get out of hand,” he said.Agus added that the government should impose a short-term lockdown in areas considered to be hotspots of the disease, despite the impact it could cause on the people and economy. The Democratic Party has demanded that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration enforce a lockdown on urban areas as well as provide financial assistance to low-income households who might lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.“They need financial assistance through cash transfers, Bantuan Langsung Tunai [cash assistance program] or other social safety net programs. We need to maintain the people’s purchasing power, especially the bottom 40 percent,” Dems chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono said in a written statement on Friday. “Public health and safety should be prioritized above all else,” he said.The government, he went on to say, should focus on urban areas considering the population density, saying he was worried that the number of detected COVID-19 cases in Indonesia would increase when it declined in other countries.”Don’t be surprised and late in responding to the virus.”Read also: Indonesian government prepares for worst, including zero percent growth, as COVID-19 hitsThe government announced on Wednesday that it was finalizing a third stimulus package as it reallocated Rp 27 trillion (US$1.8 billion) to fund the healthcare system in fighting the pandemic.It would reallocate up to Rp 10 trillion from the portion of the state budget that was set for ministries and institutions, as well as Rp 17.2 trillion in funds earmarked for regional administrations.These resources, according to Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, would be useful for them in handling COVID-19-related issues immediately as part of the government’s plan to mitigate its effects.She said low-income households and individuals working in the informal sector would be given financial assistance, although she did not provide further details.Topics :last_img read more

Business groups oppose omnibus bill delay as mass layoffs loom

first_imgKey business groups have expressed opposition to the decision to delay deliberation of the labor provisions in the omnibus bill on job creation, saying it will create an unfavorable environment for investment amid the increasing risk of a recession.The Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) issued on Monday an official public statement, claiming that without the labor provisions, the bill would reduce the opportunity to attract labor-intensive investment as well as weaken job creation efforts, undermine the dispute mechanism in labor-intensive companies and lead to a lack of flexibility with regard to nonpermanent workers.“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge spike in the number of layoffs and furloughs and these are expected to continue to rise until the end of 2020. This situation should push us even more to deliberate the bill, including the labor elements, intensively given that after the pandemic there will be a need for massive job creation for the laid-off workers,” Apindo’s statement reads. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced on Friday that the government and House of Representatives had agreed to delay deliberation of labor provisions in the omnibus bill, providing time to explore substantial issues and “accommodate inputs from stakeholders”.The decision was a concession to labor unions, which postponed planned mass protests against the bill despite the COVID-19 outbreak. Labor groups fear the omnibus bill will exacerbate existing conditions with up to 5.2 million people at risk of losing their jobs according to government estimates in a worst-case scenario where the economy contracts by 0.4 percent.Read also: Indonesia delays deliberations over labor issues in omnibus bill amid backlashWhile labor groups commended the government for delaying the legislation process, businesses objected to the decision, citing fears of impending waves of layoffs amid the oncoming economic downturn. “It’s true that we should focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, we also have to simultaneously anticipate the skyrocketing number of layoffs by improving our business climate,” Apindo’s deputy chairman Bob Azam told The Jakarta Post.More than 1.2 million workers from 74,439 companies in both the formal and informal sectors have either been told to stay home or have been laid off as a result of the pandemic, according to Manpower Ministry data released in early April.“Right now, the business sector is collapsing. There are a number of companies that have closed their operations and sold their assets, and we cannot continue doing business-as-usual to survive,” Bob said.Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) deputy chairwoman Shinta Kamdani echoed Bob’s statement and underlined the importance of revising the country’s labor legislation in order to woo investors.“We respect the bill’s deliberation process at the House and support consultation efforts with all stakeholders. However, we would like to point to the importance of continuing the labor provisions’ deliberation, which are an integral part of the bill,” she told the Post.Read also: Millions to lose jobs, fall into poverty as Indonesia braces for recessionShinta added that Indonesia’s labor market and regulations must be reformed to improve the country’s global competitiveness, and create an efficient and productive business climate.The Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), meanwhile, has argued the COVID-19 pandemic makes the omnibus bill even more dangerous as millions of workers are facing layoffs and furloughs.“Of course [the pandemic] made the bill worse. The ‘easy hire-and-fire’ concept could make it easier for companies to lay off their workers,” KSPI spokesperson Kahar S. Cahyono told the Post.“The global economic structure is changing due to the pandemic. Our studies have shown that there is no guarantee that there will be an increase in investment if we lower the bar when investor countries are also focusing on recovering their own economies.”The KSPI expects discussions could be continued objectively with the participation of the public and labor unions in the future when pandemic pressures have eased.Read also: Lawmakers upset over Jokowi’s social media gaffe on job creation omnibus billEconomists, meanwhile, have expressed mixed views on the delay. Perbanas Institute economist Piter Abdullah said the omnibus bill on job creation contained many problematic issues and not only on labor reforms.“The government and the House should delay the deliberations of every provision altogether,” Piter said. “They must first make sure and convince the public that there are no conflicts of interest in any article of the bill.”Topics :last_img read more

PLN profit nosedives 63 percent as costs soar

first_imgAs a result, the company’s electricity sales reached 245.52 terawatt-hours in 2019, up 4.65 percent from the previous year.PLN’s statement added that the company increased its installed power generation capacity by 8 percent to 62,234 megawatts (MW) and its electric network by 11.5 percent to 59,817 circuit kilometers last year.However, analysts warn that at least two of PLN’s ongoing programs this year presented risks for the electricity company’s post-pandemic financial recovery.The first program is PLN’s free and discounted electricity scheme for 31 million of Indonesia’s poorest households. The three-month scheme was expected to cost Rp 3.5 trillion but the government recently announced it would be extended by another three months until September.Government representatives said the state would reimburse PLN but did not mention a timeline. The government still owes PLN Rp 48 trillion for subsidies incurred in 2018 and 2019, said a company executive.“[The profit recorded in 2019] does not close the possibility of PLN making a loss this year,” energy economist Fahmy Radhi of Gadjah Mada University (UGM) said in a statement on Tuesday.The second program is PLN’s Take-Or-Pay policy, in which the company guarantees buying a certain amount of electricity from independently owned coal-fired power plants — even when demand collapses, like what is now happening in the pandemic.The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) estimates in a recent report that payments to such independent power producers (IPP) will become PLN’s largest operating expense by 2021, exceeding the company’s own spending on fossil fuels.“The COVID-19 crisis has upended Indonesia’s financial settings and PLN’s dealings with the Indonesian public and global markets will need to be adjusted to face a new reality,” said IEEFA Asia director for energy finance studies Melissa Brown.Previously, PLN president director Zulkifli Zaini said in April that the company expected this year’s demand to decline by 9.7 percent from the initial target, as emergency measures imposed by the government to halt the spread of COVID-19 had paralyzed many business activities.“Each 1 percent fall in electricity demand means PLN’s revenue falls Rp 2.8 trillion, as a rule of thumb,” Zulkifli told lawmakers via video conference.He projected the company’s revenues to reach Rp 257 trillion this year, 14.7 percent below the initial target of Rp 301 trillion.Topics : State-owned electricity company PLN’s net profit nosedived last year as a result of higher tax expenses and operational costs that had offset its higher income, according to the company’s annual report released on Monday.PLN booked a net profit of Rp 4.32 trillion (US$292.4 million) in 2019, lower than Rp 11.56 trillion in 2018 even though revenue grew 4.67 percent year-on-year (yoy) to Rp 285.6 trillion from improved electricity access in Indonesia. The company also recorded an income of Rp 73.9 trillion from state reimbursements.“[We] added 3.8 million customers,” PLN spokesperson I Made Suprateka said in a statement on Monday, adding that PLN’s consumer base now stood at 75.7 million users. The company’s operating costs rose slightly by 2.3 percent yoy to Rp 315.4 trillion in 2019, but tax expenses ballooned 2.6-fold to Rp 21.8 trillion over the same time period.Company representatives did not respond to questions about its higher tax expenses. The spokesperson also hinted that the higher sales revenue was notable “under the condition that electricity tariffs did not rise in 2019,” suggesting that increases were mainly driven by the wider customer base.PLN and the government raised Indonesia’s electrification ratio — defined as the portion of neighborhoods that can switch on a lightbulb — to a historical high of 98.89 percent in 2019. last_img read more

Pertamina, South Korean consortium to develop Dumai refinery

first_img“We would like to express our gratitude to all parties who agreed to actualize the initiative. I hope the investment will have additional strategic value, as the oil price is currently under pressure,” Bahlil said.Pertamina, through Ignatius, stated that the Dumai refinery upgrade project was prioritized.“With this agreement, Nindya Karya and the South Korean consortium have become Pertamina’s strategic partners in conducting the study on the Dumai refinery upgrade. Our company hopes an important milestone can be achieved in December,” Ignatius said. The MoU, which commissions a joint study on the Dumai refinery upgrade project, was signed by Pertamina megaprojects director Ignatius Tallulembang, Nindya Karya president director Haedar Karim and a representative of the South Korean consortium, DH Global Holdings Co. Ltd. chairman Jung Sam Seung.The refinery upgrade is part of Pertamina’s Refinery Development Master Plan (RDMP) and Grass Root Refinery program.The RDMP lays out a road map for upgrading four refineries: one in Dumai, Riau, one in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, one in Cilacap, Central Java, and one in Balongan, West Java. The Grass Root Refinery program details the company’s plans to construct two new production facilities in Tuban, East Java, and Bontang, East Kalimantan.The upgraded refineries’ total installed capacity will increase 38.2 percent to 1.21 billion barrels per day (bpd), while the new refineries will have a combined capacity of 600,000 bpd. Topics :center_img State-owned oil and gas company Pertamina has agreed to join forces with state construction firm PT Nindya Karya and a South Korean consortium to explore business opportunities for a US$1.5 billion refinery development project in Dumai, Riau.The memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by representatives of the three parties on Wednesday marked progress in Pertamina’s plan to develop its major refineries as Indonesia works toward reducing oil imports and increasing domestic oil production.“This $1.5 billion project would increase the domestic oil and fuel production capacity, which would consequently reduce our dependence on oil imports and trade deficits in the future,” Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chairman Bahlil Lahadalia said during the signing ceremony.last_img read more

A world redrawn: US coronavirus response fatally ‘chaotic,’ says Noam Chomsky

first_imgQuestion: How do you read the current situation in the United States, where coronavirus has killed more residents than any other nation in the world?Answer: There’s no coherent leadership. It’s chaotic. The presidency, the White House, is in the hands of a sociopathic megalomaniac who’s interested in nothing but his own power, electoral prospects — doesn’t care what happens to the country, the world. The president himself has said that it’s none of his business. He’s said that the federal government can’t do anything.Nothing really matters except his personal power and gain. Of course he has to maintain the support of his primary constituency, which is great wealth and corporate power. The United States is on a chaotic path with no federal plan against the coronavirus pandemic as it reduces public health funding and ignores the advances of climate change, according to activist scholar Noam Chomsky, considered the founder of modern linguistics.What follows are extracts, edited for clarity, from an AFP interview with the 91-year-old leftist intellectual, who has authored more than 100 books and is currently a professor at the University of Arizona.For two months he’s been confined in Tucson with his Brazilian wife Valeria, his dog and a parrot who can say “sovereignty” in Portuguese. There’s 90,000 deaths and there will be a lot more…. There’s no coordinated plan.How do you view the political landscape emerging from this crisis in the US and elsewhere?As soon as Trump came in, his first move was to dismantle the entire pandemic prevention machinery. At the start, defunding the Center for Disease Control, which would deal with this. And canceling programs that were working with Chinese scientists to identify potential viruses. So the US was singularly unprepared.It’s a privatized society, very wealthy, with enormous advantages — far more than any other country — but it’s in the stranglehold of private control.It doesn’t have a universal health care system…. It’s the ultimate neoliberal system, actually.Europe in many ways is worse, because the austerity programs just amplify the danger, because of the severe attack on democracy in Europe, the shifting decisions to Brussels…. So Europe has its own problems, but at least it has the residue of some kind of social democratic structure, which provides some support, which is what I think is lacking in the US.As severe as this pandemic is, it’s not the worst problem. There will be recovery from the pandemic at severe cost … but there isn’t going to be any recovery from the melting of the polar ice caps and the rising of sea levels and the other deleterious effects of global warming.Several countries are using technology to track citizens, storing DNA to fight the virus. Are we entering a new era of digital surveillance, and what does this mean for privacy?There are now companies developing technology which make it possible for the employer … to look at what’s on your computer screen and to check your keystrokes and if you get up and walk away for a minute, they’ll send you a warning.That’s being installed right now…. It’s not the future.The so-called Internet of Things is coming along. It’s convenient. It means if you’re driving home you can turn on the stove — but it also means that that information is going to Google and Facebook, to the government, the American government, the French government, it’s an enormous amount of potential control ,surveillance and invasion. But this has happened. It’s not the future.If we allow the huge tech companies, the state, to control our life that’s what will happen. They’ll turn it into something like China, where you have social credit systems and in some cities you get a certain amount of credits, there’s face recognition technology all over the place and everything you do gets monitored.If you cross the street in the wrong place, you can … lose some credits, and so on.It’s not inevitable, just like global warming, that it’s going to happen — unless people stop it.Could it be justified to halt the virus’ spread?It might be — during the period of threat. There’s controls needed during wartime, you have rationing. But it doesn’t have to be permanent…. ‘Yes, we’ll let you have this authority now, but it can be revoked at any time.'”Topics :last_img read more

Govt aims for 10 million MSMEs to go digital by year end

first_img“During the pandemic, we did door-to-door QRIS education and eliminated the QRIS transaction fee to accelerate MSMEs’ digitalization,” he said.Financial technology firm Xendit co-founder and COO Tessa Wijaya said that small and medium entrepreneurs who were already familiar with social media could easily adapt to digitalization.“Partnering with start-ups and companies that focus on MSMEs is also important as they can further incentivize small businesses to go digital,” she said.Read also: Start-ups help SMEs digitalize during pandemicSmall businesses, which make up around 60 percent of the country’s economy, are losing sales because of coronavirus restrictions, which are now being phased out in some places.To help MSMEs, the government has allocated part of its Rp 641.17 trillion economic recovery stimulus to soften the impact of COVID-19. It also planned to spend $49.7 billion on procuring SME products and services. The government aims to have 10 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) go digital by the end of the year to help them ease the financial burden of the pandemic, a high-ranking official has said.Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Teten Masduki said there were currently only around 8 million MSMEs that had an online selling platform, either through e-commerce or social media. The number represents around 13 percent of all MSMEs in the country.“Businesses that can survive and thrive during this pandemic are those that have an online presence,” he said during a keynote speech at an Indonesian Fintech Association (Aftech) online discussion on Tuesday. Teten said that MSMEs also needed to integrate their businesses with digital payment solutions because consumers were switching to cashless payments due to fears of contracting the coronavirus.“Digitalizing payments for small businesses allows them to have transaction records that can be used to apply for loans,” he added.According to a recent survey by YouGov, 75 percent of Indonesian respondents have mostly used digital payments, such as e-wallet OVO, in the last three months, followed by debit or credit cards, which indicates that a large portion of consumers is accustomed to e-payments.Bank Indonesia assistant director Ronggo Gundala Yudha said there were 3.7 million merchants in Indonesia that used the Quick Response Indonesia Standard (QRIS) code, 2.5 million of which were small and medium enterprises, while 600,000 were micro merchants.center_img Topics :last_img read more

Pompeo says US looking at banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok

first_imgTopics : The app, which is not available in China, has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience and has emphasized its independence from China.Pompeo’s remarks also come amid increasing US-China tensions over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s actions in Hong Kong and a nearly two-year trade war.TikTok, a short-form video app owned by China-based ByteDance, was recently banned in India along with 58 other Chinese apps after a border clash between India and China.Reuters reported late on Monday that TikTok would exit the Hong Kong market within days, deciding to do so after China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on Monday that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok.”I don’t want to get out in front of the President (Donald Trump), but it’s something we’re looking at,” Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News.US lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, saying they were worried about Chinese laws requiring domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”last_img read more

Government mulls new social assistance for cash-strapped small businesses

first_imgThe government is mulling over a plan to introduce a grant, or “productive social assistance”, to help hard-hit micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) amid the pandemic slowdown, according to a minister.“We hope it can help micro enterprises,” Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Minister Teten Masduki said in a virtual discussion on Wednesday. “The amount [of the assistance] is quite big.”However, he refused to go into further details as the plan was still under discussion. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which contribute to more than half of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), have been greatly affected by the pandemic, which has forced shops, offices and factories to close to contain the coronavirus, and hit demand.The government is seeking to speed up the disbursement of the current COVID-19 stimulus for small businesses amounting to Rp 123.46 trillion (US$8.4 billion). As of Tuesday, the government had disbursed only 9.59 percent of the budget to more than 1 million cooperatives and MSMEs.The small business stimulus is part of the government’s Rp 695.2 trillion stimulus package to speed up Indonesia’s economic recovery.Teten vowed that the government was “continuing to look for a solution” with regard to designing aid for SMEs, as the number of pandemic-hit small businesses increased faster than the stimulus disbursement. The proportion of MSMEs closing their businesses due to pandemic restrictions rose by 13.1 percentage points to 49.3 percent in April from March, according to a survey of 525 respondents between April 17 and May 22 by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).As the temporary closure stripped the small businesses of their revenue, more than half of them reduced the number of employees in April. Slashing work hours and furloughing employees were the most popular responses among the small businesses.Around half of small businesses surveyed told ADB they were running out of cash or savings. The proportion of cash-strapped MSMEs in Indonesia was larger than in other surveyed countries, namely the Philippines, Thailand and Laos.“MSMEs in all of the countries reported a serious lack of funds to regain their business, especially in Indonesia,” said Shigehiro Shinozaki, a senior economist at ADB.“More concretely, in Indonesia, 88 percent of micro enterprises reported having no cash and savings, and would run out of funds in a month.”ADB also found that most small businesses reported difficulties in getting funding amid the pandemic. As a result, around 39 percent of the small businesses borrowed money from friends and relatives, while one-fourth of them used their own remaining cash or profit.To survive the pandemic-induced downturn, 46.9 percent of the MSMEs were considering asking financial institutions for debt restructuring.Most Indonesian small businesses surveyed expressed hope they could get a loan without interest and collateral, as well as cash assistance or grants.The Cooperatives and SMEs Ministry reported Tuesday that most of the small business stimulus was disbursed through state-owned banks in the form of debt restructuring funds.The second-largest spending of the stimulus was Rp 381.4 billion for investment funds for 34 cooperatives through the Revolving Fund Management Agency (LPDB). The remainder went to the interest subsidy for MSMEs via the micro loan program (KUR).Arief Ramayandi, the principal economist at ADB, said Wednesday small businesses relied on informal sources of funding because they faced issues in accessing funding from formal financial institutions such as banks.Of the surveyed MSMEs, only 1 percent stated they borrowed from banks to get working capital. Other surveyed countries showed a similar picture, with mostly less than 8 percent of small businesses getting loans from banks.“The problem of getting funding from formal financial institutions has not emerged only because of COVID-19, but it has been around all this time,” said Arief.ADB has approved a $1.5 billion loan for Indonesia’s COVID-19 response and a $3 million grant for medical supplies.The Manila-based development bank is currently processing a funding facility worth $500 million for Indonesia’s disaster response, according to Bambang Susantono, the vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development at ADB.Topics :last_img read more

Govt partners with DANA to disburse assistance for pre-employment card program

first_imgThe government resumed this month the pre-employment card program, which combines social assistance with upskilling for people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, after a brief halt following irregularities.With an economy contracting 5.32 percent year-on-year (yoy) in the second quarter, the government is confronted with massive job losses.Around 3.7 million individuals have lost their jobs so far this year due to the pandemic, according to data from the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), a number that is expected to hit around 10 million by the end of the year.With a budget of Rp 20 trillion (US$1.35 billion), the pre-employment card program aims to help pandemic-hit workers and small business owners by offering monthly assistance of Rp 3.5 million for four months to cover training costs and cash benefits. Read also: Preemployment card program resumes, prioritizing pandemic-hit workersDANA CEO Vincent Iswara said the company would distribute incentive funds to pre-employment card program recipients who had completed the training program.“We are enthusiastic that the government trusts us with this partnership. We believe this program is very important and should be supported as it can help people gain new capabilities during this pandemic,” he said.DANA is the government’s latest e-wallet partner for the program, aside from Gopay, LinkAja and OVO.Other private sector companies partnering with the program include e-commerce firms Bukalapak and Tokopedia, as well as edtech companies Mau Belajar Apa, Pintaria, Pijar Mahir and Sekolahmu. (eyc)Topics : E-wallet platform DANA has officially become the government’s latest partner to disburse cash assistance to participants of the pre-employment card program, following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing on Wednesday.The pre-employment card program’s executive director Denni Puspa Purbasari said the partnership with DANA was part of the government’s effort to boost the effectiveness of the program through a digital approach.“The involvement of the private sector is needed to accelerate the implementation of the training that is relevant to the present day demand, as well as to support the registration process and ensure a seamless and safe distribution of funds,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.last_img read more