Rice and bread may be necessities of life, yet to many people energy, more particularly petrol, is the real essential requirement. And access to it a fundamental right. A real expensive one though .
The price of petrol is rocketing. When I bought my first car I paid the equivalent of 2400 Rupiah per litre. Now it’s over 22000 Rupiah at the filling station:(. But we are addicted to that liquid drug. So we groused and grumbled at each hike, but accommodated.
Indonesians are no different. People hate expensive petrol.
But Indonesia’s system is quite different. The Dutch pay a huge excise duty to the state’s treasury for each drop of the liquid gold. But the Indonesian government does ( or did) the opposite. Knowing the price of crude oil has been going up and will continue to do so, it provides subsidy on petrol to keep the price for consumers relatively low. Which means an ever and fast growing amount of taxpayer’s money has to be spend on this subsidy.
The present SBY Administration is trying to put an end to that. Like his first Administration did a number of years ago, this one also will drastically cut the subsidy by the first of April. No wonder on the surface everything was turning on petrol last week.
The increase from 4500 to 6000 Rupiah per litre at the filling station will not bother the four wheel drives of the wealthy middle class too much. Yet a jump of 33% of course equals a shortcut to public anger. But tripling the price for users of gas cookers – which factually will happen- is much worse. It will hit the poor real hard. As does the general rise in the costs of living which the fuel hike will spark.
It also offers a golden opportunity for opposition groups to stage protests. Which they obviously did or tried to do.
Actually nervous authorities and sensationalist media created alarming images. Tempo( “TNI to Secure Palace, DPR and National Monument“), Jakarta Post (“Fuel protests across the country turn ugly“) and Jakarta Globe (“Massive Police, Military Operation Expected in Jakarta on Tuesday“) made me consider emergency plans to repatriate my son’s family from Jakarta (^_-) . I even read references to the killing and looting of 1998. Seemingly Indonesia was on the brink of revolution. Police at the ready, Army on the alert.
They were wrong. Nothing much happened. Some 30000 soldiers and police officers kept an eye on them while, scattered over the archipelago, a very modest number of 90000 peaceful people demonstrated.
Perhaps you tend to loose sight of reality if you belong to the ruling elite or are in the intellectual vanguard too long.
Those Members of Parliament who were sleeping “the sleep of the just” were right after all. Indonesia is too “bourgeois”, too middle class, already. Confronted with inconvenient socio-economic realities of free-market economies people prefer to accommodate. Just like people do in other middle-class -societies. They will decently present the bill at the ballot box.
Sorry for the news-media, but this was another revolution that didn’t come off .