Andi Hajramurni and Apriadi Gunawan, Makassar/Medan – The disbursement of the temporary direct cash assistance (BLSM) to low-income households began on Saturday, but grumpy residents have already complained that the amount would not be enough to cover their daily expenses.
The BLSM, which is set at Rp 150,000 (US$15) per month per household, is given as assistance for the subsidized-fuel price hike, which took effect on June 22. The government has planned to give out the BLSM continuously for four months.
"The food prices have gone up and will become more expensive during Ramadhan. So, the BLSM means nothing," said Nurliah, 40, a BLSM receiver in Makassar, South Sulawesi.
The mother of two said that her family relied on the money earned by her husband, who works as a bus driver. Her husband earns less than Rp 1 million per month.
Nursiah, 53, another BLSM receiver, shared similar thoughts. "Well, I am not directly affected by the fuel price hike because I don't have a car or a motorcycle. But living costs have increased a lot following the rise in food prices at the market," Nursiah said.
"The Rp 150,000 per month is certainly not enough to cover our living costs," she continued.
Mudjiono, a Semarang resident in Central Java, said that residents could not benefit much from BLSM since it was only a short-term aid. "The money would be used up in just a week to buy staple food," said Mudjiono, a becak (pedicab) driver, hoping that the government would provide long-term aid.
In Medan, North Sumatra, residents were left confused during the distribution of the BLSM on Saturday, due to unclear procedures and schedules.
Many of them complained that they had not received a schedule for the disbursement. This caused a chaotic situation as many of the residents arrived at the same time. Many others, who were not scheduled, also came to the Medan Post Office on Saturday.
"I was told to come here, but nobody told me the procedure [for obtaining the BLSM]," said Maysa, a resident.
A different view was seen in Semarang, where the residents confounded predictions of chaos in the distribution of the BLSM, forming orderly lines on Saturday at the post office to collect the cash.
Head of Johar central post office in Semarang, Tedi Permana, said 42,477 households in Semarang would receive payments on Saturday and Monday. "Each beneficiary receives a Rp 300,000 two-month compensation payment," said Tedi.
The BLSM distribution is centered in two places, designated post offices and in communities via local government officials, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In the initial stage, the July-August compensation payments are distributed in 15 cities: Ambon, Bandung, Banjarmasin, Bogor, Denpasar, Jakarta, Makassar, Malang, Medan, Palembang, Semarang, Sidoarjo, Surabaya, Surakarta and Yogyakarta.
It is expected that the BLSM will be completely distributed in 34 provinces on June 25 and in all regencies and municipalities as of July 1. Currently, the government has distributed 5 million of 15.5 million of social protection cards.
"In case a beneficiary is unable to come to receive the cash aid at the post office or other designated payment location, he or she can be represented by other family members by showing an ID, a family card and a letter of authority or a letter of domicile," said Tedi.
The distribution of the BLSM also ran smoothly in Makassar on Saturday, since the government had only disbursed the money for residents in one district, Ujung Pandang, with 485 households.
As many as 484,617 households across South Sulawesi are expected to receive the BLSM, while there are 44,217 low-income households in Makassar itself, according to the state-owned postal company PT Pos Indonesia's retail and property area head, Prihadi.
After months of delay, the government announced late on Friday the increase in the prices of subsidized fuels. Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik declared the new price of fuel at Rp 6,500 (65 US cents) per liter for subsidized Premium gasoline, up 44 percent, and Rp 5,500 per liter for diesel or a 22 percent increase. The rise in fuel prices will save the government Rp 37 trillion.
[Ainur Rohmah contributed to the story from Semarang.]