Indonesia: Massive protest against fuel price increase

Working class, the poor and students hardest hit by fuel price increase amid a global inflation.

Indonesian President Jokowi officially raised the price of subsidized fuel (BBM) for pertalite, diesel and pertamax, on Saturday, September 3, even though he previously promised not to increase fuel price until the end of the year.

With this increase, the price of pertalite rose from IDR 7,650 (US$ 0.51) per liter to IDR 10,000 (US$ 0.67) per liter, diesel from IDR 5,150 (US$ 0.35) per liter to IDR 6,800 (US$ 0.46) per liter, and Pertamax from Rp. 12,000 (US$ 0.81) to IDR 14,500 (US$ 0.97) per liter.

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Protesters in front of the DPR/MPR Building.
A big group of protesters.

Responding to the increase, a big segment of society, including students, went to the streets to protest.  Large groups from the Millennial Student Alliance, Islamic Student Association (HMI) and the Indonesian National Student Movement (GMNI) protested in front of the House of Representatives (DPR) and the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR RI). 

Students protesting in front of the DPR/MPR Building.

Students were in front of the Parliament Complex carrying flags and banners rejecting the fuel price increase, at the main gate of the DPR/MPR RI Building and the boundary wall of the Inner City Toll Road.  Student leaders were seen giving speeches condemning the increase and demanding that the government rescind the order.

The chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Student Movement (PMII PB), Abdullah Syukri, said they are against the price increase, and want the government to crack down on the so-called subsidized fuel mafia, who are not from the target group of the poor but still buy the cheap fuel to resell at a profit.  

Syukri added that the government must ensure the subsidies should flow directly to the poor and not to middle and upper classes. He also encouraged the government to open up community involvement in the distribution of subsidized fuel.

Student protesters.

Following the student protests, workers and labor unions are alsotaking to the streets for mass demonstrations throughout the country.  In the DKI Jakarta area, unions protested in front of the DPR/MPR RI Building.

Iqbal, president of the Indonesian Workers Union Conference (KSPI) and also president of the Labor Party, said demonstrations were held simultaneously in 34 provinces. He estimated there were around 5,000 workers at Jabodetabek and the DPR/MPR RI Building, demanding that the government form a special committee to look into lowering the fuel price.  

Students with banners and the Indonesian flag at the gate of the DPR/MPR Building.

Surabaya, Arin, an economist from Muhammadiyah University (UM) Surabaya, said the fuel price increase will have an impact on all society but especially on the lowest strata.  There will be an increase in the price of basic necessities and commodities, a decrease in purchasing power, an increase in unemployment, and an increase in poverty rate.

“Coming on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has slowed down economic growth, this fuel price increase has added another burden on society.  The government has to give more help, like BLT (Direct Cash Assistance) and BSU (Wage Subsidy Assistance),” Arin said.

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All photos credit: Iqbal Ramdhani

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