Indonesian fishermen: We are grateful, but government aid is not enough

On the afternoon when Maritime Fairtrade visited them, Nurahmi and her husband were busy laying out their fish stall with fresh catch. They opened their stall late that day because they were at the Sidoarjo government office to collect their financial aid, given out to the vulnerable and poor, including fishermen, after an increase in subsidized fuel price.

The financial aid, from the State Revenue and Expenditure Budget (APBN) and the Regional Revenue and Expenditure Budget (APBD), is distributed through the local government, police and Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI).

Nurahmi and her husband at their fish stall. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo

Nurahmi said since September 15, her family has received several types of assistance, including cash, basic necessities and fuel for her husband’s fishing boat.

“I received IDR 1 million (US$66) from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Sidoarjo Regency Government, groceries, food packages from the army and police, and 10 liters of diesel from the Sidoarjo Regency Government.”

The police gives out food aid to the poor. Photo credit: Sidoarjo Police

According to Nurahmi, the government aid is not enough given the ongoing inflation and she worried about the future.  To buy subsidized fuel, which is not widely available and always out of stock, her husband has to travel 10 km by motorbike.  Without fuel, her husband could not fish and there would be no money to feed the family.  With the increase in subsidized fuel price, her husband has to spend an additional IDR 50,000 (US$3.30) on fuel for every fishing trip.

Indonesian Army gives out basic necessities. Photo credit: Indonesian Army

Makhrus, a fisherman, said he was grateful to the government for all the different kinds of aid but emphasized the root of the problem is the fuel price hike which triggered a general price increase of many kinds of goods all over the country.

“With the government aid, we can survive in the short term.  But what happens after that? The government will not give us aid indefinitely.  We cannot rise the selling price of our fish because then, no one will buy from us.  Our customers are also from poor families and they cannot afford expensive fish.”

The Sidoarjo Regency government distributes aid to residents.

East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa said in an official statement she has earmarked IDR 257 billion (US$17 million) to help the poor, and the central government has also budgeted trillions of rupiah for the same purpose.  However, Wisnu Wibowo, deputy dean, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Airlangga Surabaya, said the government aid is not a permanent solution.

“The government aid is temporary which only decrease the intensity of the suffering but will not address the root of the problem.  Once the poor used up all the different kinds of aid, they will be back to square one to face the rising cost of inflation. The government should have a long-term policy in place to target the poor to ensure they get out of the vicious poverty cycle.  In the short term, the government has to make sure the aid really reaches the target group, for example, the poor fishermen are able to easily buy subsidized fuel, not the rich guys who drive luxury cars,” said Wisnu.

Fisherman’s village in Sidoarjo. Photo credit: Ibnu Wibowo

Top photo credit: iStock/ Aulia Rahman. Stock photo of Indonesian family.

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