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Medan minivan drivers protest against illegal levies

Jakarta Post - October 11, 2001

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Hundreds of drivers and owners of public minivans remained in their offices in Medan on Tuesday, some even choosing not to work temporarily despite their absence from the road on the previous day, when they gathered before the North Sumatra governor's office to launch a protest against unfair levies.

Affiliated with the Public Transport Drivers and Operators Association (Kesper AU), they were calling for a reduction in the motor vehicle tax (PKB), as well as complaining about extortion by local gangs and illegal corporate levies.

Kesper AU chairman Manahan Hutagalung told The Jakarta Post that, so far, public minivan (angkot) operators and drivers in the city had been subjected to a 0.9 percent PKB rate based on the motor vehicle price. It was later discovered that the rate, effective as of the date of the latest fare increase several months back, was not being applied in practice.

Although a regional by-law dictates that the tax rate should be set at 1.5 percent, and despite the provincial administration's decision to put it at 0.9 percent to lessen the tax burden, "in practice angkot drivers and owners have to pay PKB at a rate far higher than 0.9 percent. Since February 2000, the tax has increased by 60 to 70 percent," said Manahan.

Based on the present rate, they are required to pay around 120,000 rupiah a year, but in reality they are charged 190,000 rupiah a year, for the lowest motor vehicle price and cylinder capacity. If the car is the latest model, they must spend 1 million rupiah in PKB a year.

According to him, the high tax is not proportional to the income of drivers, let alone the illegal levies imposed by certain companies and gangs. Corporate levies on drivers in the form of contributions are fixed on the basis of 25 days a month, ranging from 6,000 to 20,000 rupiah. "They must pay contributions though they have more days off," he remarked.

In addition, criminal gangs charge 2,000 rupiah per driver daily, placing further strain on the angkot drivers' meager income. With their gross income of only 25,000-30,000 rupiah daily, some of them hire minivans at the daily rental fee of between 70,000 and 80,000 rupiah.

He admitted that most angkot drivers frequently forced 12-14 passengers into their vans even though the legal capacity of an Espass Daihatsu van was only eight. "This is a mistake and may endanger passengers, but they have to earn some money to survive. They do that just to make ends meet," argued Manahan.

In response to the protest, the North Sumatra regional administration plans to hold another meeting on Thursday to deal with the problem, by also inviting relevant agencies like the highway transport agency, the traffic police, the transport insurance company and the regional revenue office. "Unless the regional government responds to our complaints, more drivers will be launching a total strike," the Kesper AU chairman said.