JAKARTA: Indonesia is rolling out “rice ATMs” in a bid to ensure those worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak can get the foods they need to survive.
The vending machines are packed with rations of good-quality rice and operated by magnetic cards. Ten machines have been set up in the capital with daily wage earners, the unemployed, those who do not own a house and people who live below the poverty line eligible for the rations.
“Each day we prepare 1.5 tonnes (of rice]) for around 1,000 residents,” said Ibrahim, an army official supervising distribution in a military camp on the outskirts of Jakarta, told a news agency. “We will continue doing it every day, without rest, even on weekends, we will distribute non-stop.”
Stacked with kilos of good-quality rice and operated by magnetic cards, the tall automated teller machines look much like normal cashpoints, only that they pump out grain instead of banknotes.
Indonesia announced a $25 billion stimulus package in March in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, pledging to provide social welfare for up to 10 million households, including food assistance and electricity tariff discounts.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told parliament last week the coronavirus had set efforts to eradicate poverty back a decade.
Residents eligible for the rice ration include daily wage earners, the unemployed, those who do not own a house and people who live below the poverty line.
More than 14,000 Indonesians have contracted the coronavirus since early March, with 991 killed by the disease, the highest death toll in East Asia outside China.
Despite a lack of evidence the government has flattened the COVID-19 curve, or slowed the rate of new infections, the administration of President Joko Widodo is eager to resume economic activity and ease social restrictions–a move critics have described as premature.
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