Against fuel price hike: Laborers
stage a protest against the government's plan to raise fuel prices in front of
the House of Representatives building in Jakarta on Monday. The protest was
aimed at forcing the legislators not to approve the plan at an ongoing plenary
As protests over
the government’s plan to raise the price of fuel continue unabated, the House of
Representatives’ budget committee failed to unanimously agree on a program to
cushion the poor from the impact of the policy.
The failure may
jeopardize President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s plan to raise the fuel prices.
A voting mechanism will be put in place during the House plenary session
on Monday to approve the revised state budget. Revisions include financial
assistance for the poor and the new fuel subsidies budget allocation.
Voting is likely to be a close call as opposition parties — the
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Great Indonesia Movement
(Gerindra) Party, the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) — have
rejected any approval to the revised budget.
The Prosperous Justice
Party (PKS) — the coalition’s rebellious wildcard — also joined the opposition
camp, triggering concerns that politicians from other members of the coalition
may also turn their backs on the ruling Democratic Party.
The PKS and
the three opposition parties only control 196 of the total 560 House seats, but
the coalition majority has occasionally lost votes as individual politicians
defy party directives.
“The plan comes at the wrong time. The
electricity rates are climbing and Idul Fitri is approaching. A fuel price
increase will be a burden on the people,” PDI-P politician Maruarar Sirait said
“I believe lawmakers with conscience will listen to the
concerns of the people,” he said, adding that the opposition camp would likely
win the vote as financial assistance for the poor would only benefit the
Democratic Party and Yudhoyono.
The PDI-P is the third-largest party in
the House after the Democratic Party and Golkar Party — both members of the
Under the revised budget, direct financial assistance — Rp
150,000 (US$15) per month —would be distributed to poor households for four
Over the past few weeks, the government and the House have been
debating this contentious subject. The whopping subsidy —fuel consumption
regularly outpaces the allocated budget — has raised concerns about the
sustainability of the state budget and foreign exchange reserves (forex) as the
majority of fuel is imported.
Last week foreign investors dumped rupiah
assets, which pulled the rupiah to its lowest point since 2009.
than two weeks, the Jakarta Composite Index lost 11.5 percent. Foreign investors
sold their stocks for 13 straight days, withdrawing a total of $1.9 billion from
stocks and rupiah bonds.
“Worries about the burdening fuel subsidies
should be addressed by increased taxes. The opposition camp has been fighting
for this measure,” said Maruarar.
Democratic Party legislator Sutan
Batoegana said the coalition was still trying hard to convince opposition
Golkar deputy secretary-general Nurul Arifin said that all
Golkar lawmakers were still committed to supporting the government’s proposal.
“Direct cash assistance is urgently needed. I think the people are happy
with this plan,” she said.
Nurul said the party had ordered its 106
lawmakers to attend the plenary but could not guarantee they would follow the
Amid the political bickering, on Sunday the Jakarta
Police prepared for the major rallies planned
for Monday. The protests will
take place in front of the House compound on Jl. Gatot Subroto and in front of
Kebon Nanas toll road gate that leads to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
The police are expecting at least 2,000 protesters, comprising students
and labor union activists. In preparation the National Police have deployed more
than 3,500 officers across the archipelago. Officers will also secure gas
stations and depots owned by state energy firm PT Pertamina.
Makassar, South Sulawesi, clashed with police and military personnel between
Thursday and Saturday when they blocked several highways.
North Sumatra, students blocked the main road to Polonia Airport on Saturday,
forcing many airline passengers to walk to the airport.