Analyzing Indonesia's COVID-19 response offers valuable insights into general debates about the linkage between pandemic management outcomes and a state's economic capacity, regime type, and individual policy decisions. This essay systematically reviews arguments that tie Indonesia's pandemic response to its limited economic capacity and status as a democracy with lower coercive power than autocratic counterparts. It finds that while it is true that Indonesia, now a higher middle-income country, had fewer economic resources to respond to the crisis than fully industrialized states, its response was less effective than those of other, significantly poorer nations. Similarly, Indonesia's democracy controlled considerable coercive resources when the outbreak began, but it opted not to mobilize them to enforce a coherent lockdown. Thus, there is little evidence for the notion that Indonesia's central government was severely constrained by structural predispositions; instead, its response was entirely consistent with the policy preferences of the national leadership, which were set in a climate of growing populism and developmentalism as the dominant ideational streams since the mid-2010s.
|Taiwan Journal of Democracy
|Published - 2020