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BOB urges provincial parliament to reject fuel prices increases

Media Indonesia - February 13, 2005

Surabaya (Miol) – The East Java United Opposition Front (BOB) is asking the East Java Regional Parliament (DPRD) to oppose fuel price increases which are planned for March and April.

“We (BOB East Java is made up of eight student groups at the provincial level) oppose the decision to increase fuel prices”, East Java BOB spokesperson Syafruddin Budiman told the Antara news agency in Surabaya on Sunday.

Therefore he said, they are asking the DPRD to oppose the fuel prices if the government does go ahead and increase the price of petrol and diesel fuel by around 2,700-2,800 rupiah per litre.

“We are asking the East Java DPRD to be sensitive and to care about the suffering of the people, because the increase [in the price] of LPG of 40 per cent not long ago set off increases in the price of other goods”, he said.

According to an activist from the East Java Muhammadiyah Student Association, the government must think about the domino effect of fuel price increases because the price of goods which have already increase will increase again.

“If the government want’s to shift subsidies to the poor directly it must also think about the many subsidy shifts which have missed their target”, he said.

He believes that shifting subsidies is not the answer to assist the poor, because of the domino effect which will throttle the people will be greater than the subsidies which will poor in.

“There is another way to assist the people without having to increase fuel prices, that is to make use of distillation technology to turn crude oil into fuel, so that the government doesn’t need to provide subsidies”, he said.

To date he said, the government has exported crude oil to foreign contractors which ends up being imported by the state oil company PT Pertamina in the form of refined fuel and sold with a combination of subsidies to the people.

 “If the government chooses to make use of sophisticated distillation technology certainly it will be expensive, but the alternative to this is cheaper compared with [paying] subsidies year after year”, he said.

He said however, that this method demands that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have the courage to put pressure on the international financial institutions who are intentionally placing developing countries in debt on the grounds of development.

 “This method will also confront domestic obstacles because it requires the internal restructuring of PT Pertamina which is controlled by the old elite who work with the foreign elite”, he said.

He added that if the government is not serious about defending the people then BOB and other Indonesian student groups will undertake procedural means to get the DPRD to sign a social contract rejecting fuel price increases.

 “In any case, the Constitution mandates that any issue which is related to livelihood of large numbers of people is the responsibility of the government, including health, education, electricity, fuel and the like. If the intention is to provide subsidies, the government must also be able to raise taxes and recover money which has been misappropriated, but efforts to develop distillation technology [must] still be prioritised”, he said. (Ant/Ol-1)

[Translated by James Balowski.]
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