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Fuel Price Protests in Several Indonesian Cities

Several Indonesian cities were rocked by protests against petrol price hikes in the past few weeks. According to local media reports [id], violence marred some of the protests which resulted in injuries.

Initially, the Indonesian government was planning to raise the petrol price on April 1. There was no official statement about the adjusted petrol price. Currently the subsidized petrol known locally as Premium is sold at IDR 4,500 (USD 0.50) per liter. Without the state subsidy, Premium could cost around IDR 8,400 (USD 0.92) per liter.

Protesters near Parliament Building. Photo from Flickr page of Djembar Lembasono used under CC License

Protesters near Parliament Building. Photo from Flickr page of Djembar Lembasono used under CC License

Gianrigo Marletta, a Jakarta-based video journalist posted the following video on YouTube.

The protests last month and the active military presence [id] in the cities to secure the protests somehow refreshed memories of the nation's past experience with fuel riots. Back in 1998, the country descended into chaos following the government's plan to increase the fuel price. Chinese-Indonesian shop houses were torched by furious mobs, somewomen were raped, student protesters were kidnapped and gunned down, and in the end, Indonesia's longest running president Suharto was forced to resign.

On his timeline, Twitter user @cuapolitik said that it's about time to increase the fuel price. He reasons:

3. Jk BBM tak naik, subsidi untuk solar premium th 2012 ini bs melonjak dari Rp123,6 T menjadi Rp191,1 T. #BBM
4. Pdhl, subsidi itu akan lbh brmanfaat kl dipake utk infrastruktur atau tuk peningkatan pendidikan n ksehatan. Lbh terasa utk rakyat. #BBM
5. Msyrakat yg krang mampu akan menikmati manfaat jk BBM subsidi naik. Sebab, msyrkat kurang mampu bukan konsumen BBM yang terbesar. #BBM
6. Harga jual bbm subsidi yg terlalu rendah dibanding di LN mendorong penyelundupan penyelewengan. Yg untung ya para penyelundup. #BBM
7. Krn subsidi, harga jual bbm subsidi di dlm negeri jauh lebih murah daripada harga barang yang serupa di negara2 tetangga. #BBM
8. Itu sebabnya, para penyelundup justru menikmati perbedaan harga ini, hingga merugikan keuangan negara dan kita semua #BBM
11. Slama ini org2 bilang pmrntah hanya ambil kbjakan menaikkan #BBM subsidi. Salah. Ada kbjakan lain utk atasi defisit. #BBM
17. Kbjakan subsidi ini adlh kbjakan dr masa lampau. Dl bs subsidi, krn kt eksportir. Tp skrg kt importir, n sdh keluar dr OPEC #BBM
18. Slain itu, dl knsumsi BBM kt rendah, jauh brbeda dgn skrg. Karenanya kbjakan subsidi hrs diubah perlahan. #BBM

If we don't raise fuel (prices), the subsidy for the diesel fuel and premium in 2012 will jump from IDR 123.6T to IDR 191.1T.
In fact, it would be better to allocate the subsidy (budget) for infrastructure, education, and health (improvements). The people would benefit more from them.
The least fortunate people will benefit more from the fuel price hike, because they're not the biggest fuel consumers.
The price of subsidized fuel is way too low compared to prices abroad, this triggers smuggling and misuse. Smugglers are the ones who benefit more from this.
Since they're being subsidized, the fuel prices in this country are far cheaper compared to the similar items in neighboring countries.
Therefore, smugglers are enjoying the price differences, they hurt our economy and all of us.
All these times people said that the government created a policy to raise fuel prices. That's wrong, it's a policy to control deficit.
The fuel subsidy is a policy from a by-gone era. At that time, we can have subsidy because we're an (oil) exporting country. Now we're an (oil) importing country, and we're no longer an OPEC member.
Furtheremore, back then our fuel consumptions were low, way different to what we are experiencing today. Hence, the subsidy policy has to change gradually.

Blogger Sony Haryo Prabowo wrote a post on his blog, saying that demonstrators in Makassar, Sulawesi, have wrongly targeted fuel resellers:

sekian banyak SPBU di Indonesia, Pertamina hanya memiliki 74 di antaranya (sumber: Pertamina Retail). Ribuan lainnya dimiliki oleh dealer (swasta).  Dengan demikian, perbuatan para pendemo yang merusak SPBU telah membuat hilangnya lahan mencari nafkah bagi seorang wiraswasta, bahkan mereka juga menghilangkan lapangan kerja andai SPBU tersebut benar-benar berhenti beroperasi.

From numerous petrol stations in Indonesia (baring its name), Pertamina owns only 74 among them (source: Pertamina Retail). Thousands others are owned and managed by private owners. Therefore what the protesters have done by destroying petrol stations are forcing business owners to lose their daily bread, and terminate jobs for the employees if the stations stop to operate altogether.

Sony concluded:

Demo yang mereka lakukan juga menutup jalan, merusak kendaraan pribadi, bahkan kendaraan pengangkut minuman ringan ternama yang mungkin seringkali mereka minum. Saya ingin mengajak para pembaca berdiskusi dan merenung. Dalam demokrasi, demonstrasi memang boleh dilakukan, bahkan harus. Namun, harus selalu diingat bahwa demonstrasi harus dilakukan dengan dasar yang benar dan dengan akal sehat. Demonstrasi yang terjadi di Makasar ini membuktikan ada sebagian mahasiswa di Indonesia ini tidak menggunakan akal sehat dalam berpikir. Mereka hanya ingin melampiaskan apa yang mereka inginkantanpa berpikir apa kerugian yang mereka sebabkan. Bahkan lucunya lagi mereka melakukan demo seakan-akan tahu masalah yang mereka hadapi.

The protesters also blocked the streets, trashed private cars, even hijacked a known softdrink truck. I invite my readers to discuss and reflect. In democracy, demonstration may take place. However, we should start the protest with good base and reasoning. The protest in Makassar proves that some of the students in Indonesia don't use common sense. They only do what they want to do without reflecting on the loss they could cause. More ridiculously, they seemed to protest without understanding the real issue.

Twitter users have maximized the microblogging site to report clashes between the police and students in Jakarta. They also debated if the price increase is appropriate.

@ikovoz: Issue korban meninggal di bentrok salemba itu hoax. skg di RSCM 3 org mahasiswa dan 1 satpam yg msh dirawat

@ikovoz: The rumor about one died during the Salemba clash was a hoax. Now 3 students and 1 security guard are being treated in RSCM  (Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital).

@LBH_Jakarta: Polisi melakukan sweaping ke LBH,47 ditangkap paksa.6 ditangkap di samping LBH.Total 52 org dibawa paksa ke Polda.

@LBH_Jakarta: Police was doing a security sweeping at the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), 47 students arrested by force. 6 arrested near LBH. Total of 52 students taken to the district police.

@komar_hidayat: Terlepas harga BBM naik atau tdk, apakah ada tanda2 nasib rakyat akan membaik?Terbuka lapangan kerja baru?

@komar_hidayat: Aside from the rising petrol price, is there any sign that says the people's life is improving? New jobs are available?

@BankDunia: 40% penerima manfaat langsung subsidi #BBM bagi rumahtangga adalah 10% rumahtangga terkaya

@BankDunia: 40% of those who benefit from the  subsidy scheme are households, 10% of them are the well off  households

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