COVID-19: Indonesia offers free electricity, discounts for poor households hinh anh 1Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Jakarta (VNA) - Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo announced on March 31 that the country will provide free electricity and discounts for poor households to help them cope with the economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said state-owned electricity company PLN would supply free electricity for three months starting from April for 24 million households in the 450-volt ampere (VA) category – the lowest out of six categories listed under existing regulations. 

PLN will also provide a 50 percent discount for 7 million households in the 900 VA category – the second lowest – for the same three months.

Public health is the government’s top priority, the President said in a media telebriefing.

The second priority is preparing social safety net measures for lower income citizens and third is protecting businesses, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises, he added.

The electricity discounts fall into the social safety net category that includes five other schemes, including increased spending on unemployment benefits and the staple foodstuffs programme, after Indonesia announced an additional state spending worth 405.1 trillion Rp (over 24.8 billion USD) to fight COVID-19.

The move came after the President declared a public health emergency, which will involve imposing large-scale social restrictions, as stipulated in the Health Quarantine Law. 

As of March 31, Indonesia recorded 1,528 cases of COVID-19, including 136 deaths, the highest death toll in Southeast Asia and also among the highest globally./.