61 Chinese tourists in Bali depart for Wuhan in time for Cap Go Meh celebrations

first_imgA flight chartered by the Chinese Consulate-General picked up 61 Chinese nationals from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport on Saturday to bring them back to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China. The tourists, comprising 49 adults and 12 children, had been stranded in Bali since Wednesday following the Indonesian government’s decision to temporarily halt all flights to and from mainland China.Read also: Thousands of Chinese tourists stranded in Bali as govt halts flights to and from China “The China Consulate General said it had picked up its residents today because they want to celebrate Cap Go Meh [15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar] in their home country,” Ngurah Rai Airport general manager Herry Sikado said on Saturday.The flight took off from I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport at 2:11 p.m. local time, having arrived in Bali from Guangzhou at 12.20 p.m.In an attempt to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading, tight procedures were implemented before and after the flight took off. Airport management prepared an isolated parking area for the plane, located as far as possible from the main terminal. None of the flight crew were allowed to get off the plane during take-off preparations. And before takeoff, a joint team consisting of the flight crew and a medical team sprayed disinfectant throughout the aircraft, the cockpit crew and baggage area. The passengers were also required to undergo a medical checkup in a designated area.“All passengers were healthy during their stay in Bali. Before they boarded the plane, the medical team checked their temperatures, which were normal,” Herry said. (dpk)Topics :last_img read more

Italy towns wake to quarantine, queue for food in coronavirus outbreak

first_imgAnother woman, Emanuela, told AFP-TV that residents including her were nervous. “I’m really scared, we’re going through a really tough situation,” said the woman, a nurse who works in the area. Rising infections Blockades were not yet erected, and cars could be seen driving in and around the area of Codogno and Casalpusterlengo, although police cars patrolled the area. It was not clear how authorities would impose the travel restrictions and whether residents would still be allowed to travel from town to town within the affected zones, without surpassing an outer limit.”We’re preparing to set up the checkpoints for the containment zone,” a policewoman told AFP, saying that initially the perimeter would be narrow but could widen over time. “We’re about ten criminal police teams here, so nothing related to this kind of situation, but we’ve been called in from Bologna, Turin and Genoa to give a hand,” she added. For now, the quarantine appears to be largely dependent on individuals to respect the system but the government said those found in violation could face fines and even three months in jail.The government has also said the army was prepared to step in if needed to enforce the perimeter. On Sunday, the head of the civil protection department, Angelo Borrelli, said during a press conference that thousands of beds were at the ready in military barracks or hotels to house quarantined or sick individuals, if needed. The number of those infected with the virus had now grown to 132, including the two people who died, Borrelli said. Topics : Tens of thousands of Italians prepared for a weeks-long quarantine in the country’s north on Sunday as nerves began to fray among the locals faced with new lockdown measures.Two people have died from the virus since Friday and more than a hundred cases have now been reported in Italy, most of them centred around the small town of Codogno, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) southeast of Milan. Over 50,000 residents in eleven towns — 10 in Lombardy and one in the neighbouring region of Veneto — now face what Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday could be weeks of lockdown. Locals wearing face masks were already lined up outside a supermarket in the town of Casalpusterlengo, a 10 minute drive from Codogno, on Sunday morning.Shoppers were made to wait, then allowed to enter in groups of 40 inside the store to stock up on provisions.Although one woman in the crowd downplayed the virus, telling other shoppers it was “not fatal” if properly treated, others were less sanguine.  “It’s inhuman,” said one man who gave his name as Sante. “Fighting over four sandwiches is just disgusting.”  last_img read more

Pakistan confirms first two cases of coronavirus

first_imgPakistan has detected its first two cases of novel coronavirus, a public health advisor to Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted Wednesday, days after Islamabad closed its land border with Iran, where 19 people have died from the virus.”I can confirm first two cases of corona virus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable. No need to panic, things are under control”, tweeted health advisor Zafar Mirza.A statement issued by the southern Sindh province’s health department stated that the first positive case was reported in Karachi in a 22-year-old male with a “history of travel to Iran where he has acquired the virus.” Topics : The officials didn’t confirm where the second case was reported. However, local media said it was in Islamabad.With porous borders, creaking hospitals and large illiterate populations, Pakistan faces a potentially devastating health crisis from the new coronavirus.The virus has spread to more than 30 countries, killing over 2,700 and infecting 80,000, mostly in China. But new outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and in Asia have fanned fears of the contagion taking hold in poor nations which lack the healthcare infrastructure to cope.There are growing fears in Pakistan over how the country would deal with the outbreak. Islamabad has a history of failing to contain infectious diseases such as polio, tuberculosis and hepatitis.center_img Meanwhile Pakistan’s neighbor Iran has emerged as a major hotspot, with a total of 139 cases and 19 deaths. And Afghanistan, which also shares a border with Pakistan, reported its first case of coronavirus on Monday.While Pakistan has closed land borders with Iran, it has maintained air travel to and from China — increasingly a source of trade and commerce for the country.”There is a limited concept of prevention unfortunately. I fear it’s not well prepared at all for any health emergency,” Pakistani public health expert Arshad Altaf told AFP.Pakistan this week moved quickly to quarantine at least 270 people near the Iranian border after a group of pilgrims returned and briefly mixed with other residents.Ziaullah Langove, home minister in southwestern Balochistan province, said there were nearly 10,000 Pakistanis still in Iran, mostly students and pilgrims that Iranian officials were planning to send back in small groups.last_img read more

Lebanon set for debt default as government decides not to pay

first_imgLebanon decided on Saturday not to pay foreign currency debt, official sources said, setting the heavily indebted state on course for a sovereign default and restructuring negotiations as it grapples with a major financial crisis.The decision not to pay maturing Eurobonds and to launch negotiations with creditors was taken unanimously at a cabinet meeting, ministerial sources and a senior politician said.Prime Minister Hassan Diab is set to announce the decision in a speech to the nation at 6:30 p.m. (1630 GMT). A default on Lebanon’s foreign currency debt will mark a new phase in a crisis that has hammered the economy since October, slicing around 40% off the value of the local currency, denying savers full access to their deposits and fuelling unrest.The crisis is seen as the biggest risk to Lebanon’s stability since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.Lebanon has a $1.2 billion Eurobond due on March 9, part of a portfolio of some $31 billion in dollar bonds that sources told Reuters on Friday the government would seek to restructure in negotiations with creditors.The cabinet session followed a meeting between the prime minister, the president, the parliament speaker and central bank governor during which the attendees opposed paying the debt, the presidency said. “The attendees decided unanimously to stand by the government in any choice it makes in terms of managing the debt, except paying the debt maturities,” the presidency said in a statement.Sources told Reuters on Friday Lebanon was set to announce on Saturday that it cannot make upcoming dollar bond payments and wants to restructure $31 billion of foreign currency debt unless a last-minute deal with creditors could be found to avoid a disorderly default.Lebanon hired US investment bank Lazard and law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP last week as advisers.Reforms neededThe financial crisis came to a head last year as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted over decades of state corruption and bad governance – the root causes of the crisis.The import-dependent economy has shed jobs and inflation has risen as the pound has slumped, adding to grievances that have fuelled protests.Lebanon has never before defaulted on its sovereign debt.”This unprecedented event is the result of an accumulation of policies, crimes and choices that exhausted the public finances,” said MP Alain Aoun, a senior figure in the Free Patriotic Movement party founded by President Michel Aoun.”There is no use in crying over the ruins … what is helpful now is starting a rescue plan to get out of the bottom of the abyss as Greece did,” he added, writing on Twitter.Lebanon’s sovereign debt was estimated at around 155% of gross domestic product at the end of 2019, worth about $89.5 billion, with around 37% of that in foreign currency.“It looks very likely they will default,” said Nick Eisinger, principal, fixed income emerging markets at Vanguard, which holds some Lebanese debt but has been underweight in the market for a long time.“Watch now if bondholders can block any deal,” he said. “It’s unclear how quick they can go down the restructuring route or get a deal because they need reforms first or at the same time,” he said.A set of Lebanon’s bond holders are to step up efforts to form a creditor group in the coming days, one of the members of the group said. center_img Topics :last_img read more

Legal experts scoff at Indonesia’s improved rule of law ranking

first_imgThe Rule of Law Index, compiled annually by the United States-based World Justice Project, is a widely used tool to assess whether a country practices the four universal principles of law of accessibility, accountability, openness and fairness.The index makes use of eight indicators, each of which is assessed by 4,000 legal practitioners and 130,000 households around the world.According to the latest index, published on March 11, Indonesia has only progressed on five indicators: constraints on government power, open government, absence of corruption, civil justice and criminal justice.On the other hand, Indonesia experienced a setback in another indicator – order and security – while the scores for two others – fundamental rights and regulatory enforcement – remained stagnant.Erwin bemoaned Indonesia’s performance, saying the government should place more attention on the index, which has long been used as a primary basis for other indices, including Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.He urged the government to focus on improving three particular indicators – absence of corruption, civil justice and criminal justice – as they were still below the global average, despite improved scores on the index this year.Indonesia scored 0.39 in the absence of corruption indicator, well below the global average of 0.57. It also scored 0.39 for criminal justice and 0.46 for civil justice. Both are also below the global average of 0.47 and 0.55, respectively.“These indicators have long been stumbling blocks for Indonesia to achieve a better score on the index. So far, I haven’t seen any effort from the government to improve these indicators,” said the law expert.“Instead, the government has only made contentious gestures that have weakened Indonesia’s score, such as issuing the controversial 2019 Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK] Law.”Separately, Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) chairwoman Asfinawati echoed Erwin’s sentiments, saying that the woeful reality of the current justice system was reflected in the low scores in the three aforementioned indicators, especially criminal justice.“I think the index is really good at capturing such realities,” she told the Post.As the head of a legal aid agency, Asfinawati said she had witnessed impoverished people entangled in criminal cases being discriminated against by law enforcers, simply because they did not have access to legal representation.To prove her point, she recalled several legal proceedings where the police had forcibly detained suspects without any evidence to prove they deserved to be arrested in accordance with the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP).Other times, she noted instances where suspects were unable to file pretrial lawsuits because they were unable to afford an attorney. As a result, they often faced tough sentencing when they could have been cleared of the charges if they had access to legal assistance.These circumstance implied that law enforcement agencies often abused their power, Asfinawati said, adding that this further exacerbated the unfairness within the country’s justice system.“Sometimes poor people have no idea where to even seek out legal aid, but that doesn’t mean that law enforcers can just discriminate against them haphazardly,” she said. “That’s not at all in line with the principles of the rule of law.”The YLBHI leader said she believed legal reforms such as amending the KUHAP to include fair treatment and the implementation of principles from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights would help Indonesia score better on the Rule of Law Index.“[Such reforms] may lift not just one but many index indicators at the same time, including criminal justice and fundamental rights,” she said.Asked separately about the justice system’s shortcomings, Supreme Court spokesperson Abdullah said the public can report judges who have allegedly violated the code of ethics to the Judicial Commission, which would then recommend deserving sanctions for them to the court.In 2019, the Judicial Commission recommended sanctions for 130 judges for breaching KUHAP provisions, which makes up most of the violations committed at the lower courts. Out of these recommendations, however, the Supreme Court has only followed up on 10 reports.“We have also simplified our judicial processes since launching the e-Litigation and e-Court system last year, so I think that should be called an achievement as well,” Abdullah said on Friday. (glh)Topics : Critics saw almost no merit in the slight improvement, but also acknowledged the index’s accuracy in exposing flaws in the justice system, which has long been held back by draconian laws and the pervasive grip of corruption.“The improved ranking might be deceiving as it looks like we have made a significant effort to set up a fair justice system in this country,” law expert Erwin Natosmal Oemar told The Jakarta Post earlier this week.“However, if you look at Indonesia’s score in the last five years, we haven’t improved much at all, meaning the government hasn’t done much to reform the justice system.”The report reveals that positive indicators have not improved significantly, as each score only increased between 0.01 to 0.02 percentage points compared to last year’s ratings. Unimpressed legal experts have called on the government to make the Indonesian justice system fairer despite the country’s improved position in a global rule of law index.Indonesia improved its aggregate score on the 2020 Rule of Law Index from 0.52 to 0.53, the first improvement in the last five years. The index measures a country’s adherence to the rule of law on a 0–1 scale, with 1.0 being the strongest.The slight progress was enough for Indonesia to place 59th out of 128 countries surveyed, four positions better than last year’s results.last_img read more

US imposes fresh Iran-related sanctions despite coronavirus

first_imgUS officials say they plan to keep sanctioning Iran to try to force it to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities despite the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 2,234 people in Iran.Treasury accused those designated of “malign activities” including selling Iranian oil to Syria, smuggling arms to Iraq and Yemen and backing Iraqi militias that attack US forces.The sanctions freeze any of their US-held assets and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.The five targeted companies are Mada’in Novin Traders and Reconstruction Organization of the Holy Shrines in Iraq, both of which are based in Iran and Iraq; Bahjat al Kawthar Company for Construction and Trading Ltd, also known as Kosar Company, and Al Khamael Maritime Services, which are both based in Iraq; and Middle East Saman Chemical Company, which is based in Iran. The action also blacklists 15 individuals who are associated with the companies or officials of the Quds Force and Kataib Hezbollah.Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the boycott of US sanctions, though it was unclear if he was responding to the latest actions. “Does the US want a ‘forever pandemic’? Moral imperative to stop observing the bully’s sanctions,” he tweeted.Humanitarian supplies are exempt from sanctions Washington reimposed on Tehran after President Donald Trump abandoned Iran’s 2015 multilateral deal to limit its nuclear program.However, broader US sanctions deter many firms from humanitarian trade with Iran.The United States and Switzerland this year finalized a Swiss channel to get humanitarian goods to Iran. As of March 19, one transaction had been processed.Separately, Washington renewed a sanctions waiver letting Iraq import electricity from Iran but vowed to blacklist anyone who used it to help terrorist groups. The United States blacklisted five Iran- and Iraq-based companies and 15 individuals on Thursday for supporting terrorist groups, its third round of sanctions on Iranian targets in the last two weeks even as Tehran battles the coronavirus outbreak.In a statement, the US Treasury Department accused those targeted of supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force elite foreign paramilitary and espionage arm and of transferring lethal aid to Iran-backed militias in Iraq such as Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, all of which Washington deems foreign terrorist organizations.The Pentagon blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a March 11 rocket attack that killed one British and two US personnel in Iraq.center_img Topics :last_img read more

COVID-19: Medical workers in East Nusa Tenggara opt to stay in hospital amid gear shortage

first_imgA team of doctors and nurses in Ben Mboi Regional General Hospital in Ruteng, East Nusa Tenggara is working around the clock against all odds to take care of the province’s first patient suspected to have been infected with COVID-19.Amid a shortage of protective gear plaguing almost all medical workers in the country, eight nurses and two doctors have opted to stay at the hospital to treat the patient.The hospital’s public relations head Laurens Guntur said the doctors and nurses were staying in a dormitory specifically designated for health workers.”Some of the doctors and nurses have spouses and children at home, but they opt to temporarily stay at the hospital to treat the patient,” Laurens said.Maggarai regency, where the hospital is located, does not have a referral hospital for COVID-19, however the Manggarai administration decided to establish an isolation room at Ben Mboi hospital to accommodate COVID-19 suspects transferred from local health community centers (Puskesmas).Laurens said a lack of protective gear had forced several medical workers to take creative measures to protect themselves.”Some Puskesmas health workers used plastic raincoats to protect themselves from the coronavirus when they transferred the COVID-19 suspect to the hospital several days ago,” he said.Ben Mboi hospital is also struggling to find protective gear for the team of doctors and nurses treating the COVID-19 suspect at the hospital.”We ordered protective gear for our medical workers some time ago, but due to limited supply we only managed to get 10 sets,” he said.Laurens explained that despite the limitations, the hospital’s health workers always tried to wear protective gear according to the standard implemented by the Health Ministry.”The team members wear several layers of protective gear. Besides overalls, they also wear a raincoat, operation gown, and disposable apron underneath,” he said.Local authorities have reported that 254 residents in East Nusa Tenggara are under general monitoring and have been ordered to self-quarantine. There has been only one patient under close monitoring amid no confirmed cases yet in the province. (nal)Topics :last_img read more

East Java girl, 11, becomes youngest COVID-19 fatality in Indonesia

first_imgThe test result from the Surabaya laboratory dated March 24 came back negative for COVID-19. However, the test result from the Jakarta laboratory dated March 29 came back positive.Upon acknowledging the later laboratory test result, Pamekasan administration instructed those who had been in contact with the patient, especially her close relatives and medical workers in the hospital, to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.”We will also facilitate COVID-19 tests using rapid test kits for those who were in contact with the patient,” he said.Baddrut said that the patient had probably been infected with the virus in Malang where she had lived with her grandmother. On March 17, she was sent home to her parents in Pamekasan after she fell ill. She was admitted to Pamekasan Hospital on March 19 and died on the following day on March 20.Leaked data from the Health Ministry, obtained by the Post on Monday, showed that the girl’s death was most likely the second death of a minor in Indonesia. Earlier, on March 18, a 17-year-old male in West Java died of COVID-19, ministry data showed.Since March 14, from Case 70 onward, the government’s spokesperson for COVID-19 affairs Achmad Yurianto has not provided the age of confirmed patients.The Post is still trying to obtain information from the East Java and West Java authorities whether either of the minors had underlying health issues before they fell sick with the coronavirus.Yurianto said he had just heard about the case and was about to contact the provincial administration of East Java for confirmation.The leaked data provides accumulative data on confirmed COVID-19 cases up to Case 685 on March 24, showing the case number, gender, age, citizenship and treatment status. Some cases had notes such as a brief contact history. The 17-year-old male was recorded as Case 190.According to Indonesian law and UNICEF’s definition, a 17-year-old constitutes a minor or a child, meaning Indonesia has had at least two child fatalities so far. The Post does not have data on the age and gender of patients since Case 685 and cannot say with any degree of certainty whether there have been any other child fatalities among the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia.West Java Health Agency head, Berli Hamdani Gelung Sakti, told the Post on Tuesday that the province had recorded deaths of minors among COVID-19 suspected patients.“Yes, we recorded deaths of teenagers, even a baby,” he said, but he said the agency could not confirm whether they died as a result of COVID-19 because like “many other deaths, there was a comorbidity factor”. Comorbidity is a medical condition that co-occurs with another, according to the Oxford dictionary.Last week, the spokesperson for COVID-19 in Cianjur, West Java, Yusman Faisal, told tempo.co that a “teenage girl” who was a suspected COVID-19 patient, died on March 25 in the former athletes village in Jakarta that is currently being used as an emergency hospital.Berli of the West Java Health Agency did not elaborate on the reported death of the baby.Yurianto did not respond to the Post’s question about the death of the 17-year-old male in West Java. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), which also handles COVID-19 pandemic mitigation, said he had yet to receive any information about the death of the 17-year-old boy.As of Tuesday, Indonesia had recorded 136 deaths among 1,528 confirmed cases spread in 32 provinces.According to Worldometer, the global death rate among the age group of 10-19 years as of Tuesday was 0.2 percent. The highest death rate occurs among the age group 80 years and older, which is 14.8 percent.Topics : An 11-year-old girl who died at the Slamet Martodirdjo Hospital in Pamekasan in Madura Island in East Java earlier this month has been confirmed as the youngest COVID-19 fatality in the country.The girl died on March 20 and had been suspected of being COVID-19 positive. The positive result from her second test came back from a central government lab in Jakarta on March 29.Pamekasan Regent Baddrut Tamam told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that samples from the patient had been sent to both the Health Ministry’s laboratories in Surabaya, East Java, and Jakarta before she died.last_img read more

Volunteers and virtual beer: German fans take fight to virus

first_imgTight-knit structures Known for their ferocious support and stadium protests, the “ultras” are the organized front of German football’s famous fan culture. Earlier this year, ultra groups were slammed for tasteless protests against Hoffenheim club owner Dietmar Hopp, who was smeared as a “son of a bitch” in stadiums across the country.Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge referred to them then as “the ugly face” of football, but in recent weeks they have proved the opposite. Fans at major clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and Schalke have also organized volunteer delivery services similar to the one in Stuttgart, while Bayern supporters have called for donations to food banks.The ultras’ tight-knit structures make it easier to organize spontaneously in times of crisis, Knoedler told AFP.Since 2013, his own group have made annual donations to local causes such as a children’s charity and a homeless center. “We know that we are able to get relatively complex things going in a short space of time. On issues like social media production, telephone contacts and printing flyers…we have a pool of people to fall back on.”Even so, he added, the sheer size of the volunteer network they have built up in the last few weeks is “new ground”.  “We are doing this for our city and our region. That is part of our self-understanding as ultras, that we are ready to help out where we can,” said Knoedler. “In the week after the Bielefeld game it became clear that something would change. We met up and asked ourselves what we were going to do.”Along with other supporter groups across the country, Knoedler and his fellow ultras decided to mobilize in support of their local community. Where he once led thousands of Stuttgart fans in cheering on their football team, Knoedler now organizes around 80 volunteers to pick up groceries and prescription medicines for those who can’t leave their homes. The project sprang up in a few days, and now encompasses six different districts in Stuttgart and the surrounding area.  When their side played promotion rivals Arminia Bielefeld in the German second division on March 9, Stuttgart fans did not realize that it would be the last game before the coronavirus lockdown.A week later, football was suspended in Germany and Stuttgart’s “ultras” were focusing instead on helping the elderly and vulnerable during the health crisis. “A lot of people are ready to put their own egos to one side and come together to help the community,” Clemens Knoedler of Stuttgart ultra group Schwabensturm told AFP. Banners and beers Elsewhere in Germany, football fans have been making smaller contributions to the fight against coronavirus. In cities across the country, ultras have hung up banners outside hospitals and supermarkets.Normally used to display political protests or insult rival teams, the banners now bear messages of support for frontline workers in the crisis. “You are heroes!” read one sign visible form the window of a hospital in Osnabruck. Other supporters have joined together to save their teams from impending financial ruin, with clubs across the board struggling to stem the loss of matchday and TV revenues. At third-tier Hansa Rostock, ultras have urged fellow fans to “panic buy” official merchandise in a bid to boost club coffers.Meanwhile top-flight outfit Union Berlin have given fans the chance to buy virtual beers and sausages online, an idea which has also caught on at other clubs.And Union’s old city rivals BFC Dynamo have gone a step further.The fourth-tier club are selling tickets to an imaginary fixture against “Germany’s most hated club”: a certain “FC Corona COVID-19”.Topics :last_img read more

Rating agencies downgrade Indonesian companies on debt repayment concerns amid COVID-19

first_imgThe rationale behind the ratings decisions varies for each company but revolves around liquidity risks, concerns over debt repayment ability, a sharp rupiah depreciation, low commodity prices and overall weak demand.“The pandemic has disrupted the economy and hit almost every industry there is in Indonesia. It’s no wonder that the rating agencies are casting doubt on the companies’ business processes and their ability to repay their debts,” Anugrah Sekuritas Indonesia fixed income analyst Ramdhan Ario Maruto told The Jakarta Post.The government has projected economic growth to reach 2.3 percent this year, the lowest in 21 years, or contract by 0.4 percent in the worst-case scenario, as COVID-19 disrupts economic activities. Meanwhile the rupiah is expected to hover between Rp 17,500 and Rp 20,000 per United States dollar under the worst-case scenario as foreign investors dump risky assets, including those of Indonesia. International rating agencies are questioning Indonesian companies’ ability to repay their debts and have consequently downgraded their ratings and outlooks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.Moody’s Investor Service has lowered the ratings of property developers PT Agung Podomoro Land and PT Alam Sutera Realty, as well as tire producer PT Gajah Tunggal and coalminer PT Bumi Resources. Fitch Ratings has downgraded private lender PT Bank Central Asia (BCA) and Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has put Alam Sutera on credit watch negative.Credit rating outlooks on several companies have also been revised to negative, from stable previously. This includes oil and gas firm PT Medco Energi Internasional and textile company PT Pan Brothers by Moody’s and property developers Alam Sutera and PT Lippo Karawaci by Fitch Ratings. S&P has also assigned a negative outlook for poultry firm PT Japfa Comfeed and Medco Energi. The situation has forced businesses to close and companies to lay off workers, reducing people’s purchasing power significantly, said Ramdhan.“People will, for instance, be less likely to buy homes at this time. They are more concerned about fulfilling their own basic needs during times like this rather than buying a house,” he said, explaining the reason behind the property developers’ downgrades.Given the widespread impact of the pandemic on the overall economy, Ramdhan also warned that the rating downgrades could also extend to Indonesia’s rating as well, just as Fitch and S&P have done for the United Kingdom and China.Indonesia’s sovereign credit rating from the three top rating agencies currently stands at the lower-end of investment grade, which allows a full range of institutions worldwide to invest in the country’s debt papers. Any downgrade would return the country’s rating to junk, which would result in only selected investors being eligible to invest in the country’s financial assets.“But as long as the government can maintain the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio at a safe level, I think the rating agencies would at least affirm our ratings even during times of hardship like today,” he said. A new government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) would allow the state budget deficit-to-GDP ratio to surpass the previous legal limit of 3 percent as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo expects the budget deficit to reach 5.07 percent of GDP, although government debt-to-GDP would be maintained at 60 percent.For the private sector, the sharp depreciation of the rupiah, Asia’s worst performing currency so far this year, will lead to a spike in debt repayment costs, at a time when demand has been severely hit by the government’s large-scale social restrictions and public health emergency measures.Read also: Indonesia braces for recession, activates crisis protocolMoody’s cited heightening risks over liquidity and ability to repay debts as the primary concerns for Agung Podomoro’s and Alam Sutera’s ratings, while Gajah Tunggal was downgraded because of the company’s lack of mitigation amid the sharp rupiah depreciation that could affect the company’s financial performance.“If sustained, [the rupiah’s depreciation] will drive up debt and weaken earnings before interest, depreciation and amortization [EBITDA] margins,” Moody’s analyst Stephanie Cheong said in a statement on March 31.Moody’s senior vice president Vikas Halan said on March 23 that it was revising Medco’s outlook to negative as it expected the firm’s credit profile to deteriorate if oil prices remain low for a prolonged period.Pan Brothers’ outlook was also changed to negative as concerns grow over the company’s ability to refinance its loan that falls due on February 2021, given the challenging credit conditions and heightened global and regional turbulence.Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings lowered BCA’s rating to BBB- from BBB with a stable outlook: “The downgrades reflect Fitch’s view of the weaker operating environment for Indonesia’s banks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it wrote in a statement on March 24. Such conditions could put pressure on the bank’s asset quality and reduce profitability as a result of higher provisioning, the statement states.The pandemic is also the basis of Fitch’s decision to revise its outlook on Lippo Karawaci, which will have difficulty improving cash flow or launching new projects this year amid the challenging circumstances.S&P’s decision to put Alam Sutra on credit watch negative means the agency could downgrade the company’s rating over concerns of slower-than-expected refinancing efforts on its US$175 million notes due in April 2021.Topics :last_img read more