JAKARTA – The Indonesian government is working on a plan to send thousands of Jakarta-based officials to work remotely from Bali, with the aim of helping the tourism-dependent island’s economy bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Up to 8,000 employees from seven ministries will likely be eligible for the program, which is overseen by the office of the minister responsible for the coordination of maritime affairs and investment. They include workers from the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Transport.
“This is part of the government’s efforts to create demand so that Bali’s hotels and restaurants can survive,” Odo Manuhutu, tourism and creative economy assistant in the minister’s office, told reporters. “In accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines, Bali’s vaccination rate is currently the highest and fastest [among Indonesia’s provinces]… to make sure Bali is safe to visit. “
Manuhutu said the government aims to vaccinate 2.8 million Bali residents aged 18 or older – or more than 60% of the island’s population – by July. Officials had said earlier that they wanted to launch some sort of “Bali work” program this month.
With 80% of its economy dependent on tourism and related sectors, Bali recorded the deepest contractions among Indonesia’s 34 provinces in 2020 and the first quarter of this year – at 9.3% and 9.85%, respectively. The Indonesian economy, meanwhile, shrank by 2.07% and 0.74% in both periods.
Manuhutu said many hotels in Bali have reported occupancy rates of around 8-10% throughout the pandemic, forcing them to lay off their workers. The posting of some officials to work from Bali should encourage private sector workers to follow suit, helping Bali fill its roughly 140,000 hotel rooms.
“We hope that our presence in Bali will create multiplier effects,” Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said on Monday. “We hope [it] will trigger a herd mentality, followed by other sectors – the private sector, academia and communities. “
Most government office workers in Jakarta – with the exception of essential workers – still work 50/50, under which they regularly switch between work in the office and at home.
Vinsensius Jemadu, director of tourism marketing at the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, said one of the plans was to have half of those who work from home do so from Bali – including administrative work. and virtual meetings.
“We can set a quota for each ministry or state institution. Civil servants can take turns working from Bali until the end of the year,” he said.
Jemadu added that the government is still calculating the budget for the program, saying it will be “huge”. Housing alone would cost at least 3 million rupees ($ 209) per month for each employee. They will be concentrated in the resort area of Nusa Dua, which employs more than 7,500 workers directly and 10,000 more indirectly – around 40% have received their vaccines.
“We have already made various efforts to support the tourism industry through grants, loans, etc. – but they are still unable to stimulate demand, ”Jemadu said.
Bali welcomed around 350 foreign arrivals between January and April, up from 1.2 million in the same period last year, according to data from national airport operator Angkasa Pura. Domestic arrivals, meanwhile, fell to 417,000 from 993,000.
Uno said Indonesia has discussed potential travel corridor arrangements with several countries – including Singapore, Vietnam, the UK and Russia. He had previously said that under these programs, certain sites in Bali and Riau Islands province, which are directly neighboring Singapore, will be designated as “green zones” – or COVID-free zones.
The minister added that the government was preparing policies and telecommunications infrastructure to help Bali catch up with the growing trend of digital nomads – a loose group of remote workers and freelancers who travel the world and earn a living anywhere. wherever there is fast and reliable internet connection. This includes a plan for long term visa arrangements.