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Indonesia's finance minister defends stimulus response to pandemic in top court

JAKARTA, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s finance minister defended the government’s $47.36 billion stimulus plan in response to COVID-19 at the Constitutional Court on Thursday, arguing the measure was necessary to weather health and economic crises.

The court was conducting a judicial review of the emergency decree under which the plan was approved after some civilians and a nonprofit organization challenged it on the grounds that it contradicted existing regulations and could potentially breach the 1945 Constitution by bypassing the process to amend the state budget.

The session on Thursday was the first plenary session.

The emergency decree allows the government to roll out 695.2 trillion rupiah ($47.36 billion) of spending in response to the pandemic, widen the budget deficit beyond certain legal limits for three years and cut corporate tax rates.

“This was carried out as an extraordinary step in dealing with the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said. She said the decree was issued in accordance with the constitution.

President Joko Widodo issued the decree in late March and parliament passed it into law in May. ($1 = 14,680.0000 rupiah) (Reporting by Tabita Diela; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Raju Gopalakrishnan)