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Indonesia: Protests launched over fuel price increase

September 6, 2022

Fuel subsidies are a sensitive political issue in Indonesia. But with the subsidy budget tripling, the president says he must let prices rise.

Workers and students protest in Jakarta on Tuesday
People have marched across the country demanding fuel price increases be reversedImage: Tatan Syuflana/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Thousands of protesters assembled in Indonesian cities on Tuesday calling for fuel price increases to be rolled back.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced over the weekend that the government would cut fuel subsidies and let prices rise 30%. It was the first price rise in eight years, and comes in the face of soaring inflation and a tripling of the budget for energy subsidies.

The move raised the price of gasoline from about 51 US dollar cents (€0.51) to 67 cents per liter and diesel from 35 cents to 46 cents.

Students and labor groups led marches in the capital Jakarta, as well as the cities of Surabaya, Makassar, Kendari, Aceh, and Yogyakarta. Police say further big crowds are likely this week.

Unions claim the price hike will impact workers and the urban poor the hardest.

"Workers are really, really suffering right now," Abdul Aris, a union official, told Reuters news agency. He vowed to keep fighting until the government caves in.

Demonstrators also demanded an increase in the minimum wage from next year.

Thousands of police officers were deployed across Jakarta, many given the duty of guarding petrol stations.

Protesters at the weekend burned tires, and blocked roads — complaining that they were already reeling from rising food costs and the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government says it is softening the blow by bolstering welfare programs, and setting up hotlines in the country of 270 million people.

"These are very difficult conditions, but if you look at the assistance provided by the government, it is quite large," Minister of Social Affairs Tri Rismaharini told a news conference. "We hope this could help cushion the rise in prices that the people are facing."

Fuel subsidies have long been sensitive in South East Asia's largest economy. For decades now, the government has subsidized fuel, and past increases have triggered student protests.

In 1998, mass riots helped topple longtime dictator Suharto.

aw/msh (Reuters, AP)