Indonesian passengers protest increases in transport fares 

Spiraling cost.

The afternoon when Maritime Fairtrade met with Sunardi, he preferred to be at the coffee stall at Kenjeran Angkot Terminal, Surabaya, rather than going around in his angkutan kota (angkot), a mini-van, looking for passengers. With the recent increases in fuel prices, he will be making a loss if he cannot pick up enough passengers.

The government has raised the price of pertalite gasoline from IDR 7,650 to IDR 10,000 (US$0.51 to US$0.67) per liter. Angkot is a type of popular public transport found throughout Indonesia, usually owned, operated and used by people in the lower class of society.  The fare is strictly controlled by the government to make Angkot as widely available as possible. In Surabaya, mainly port workers and factory workers in the industrial areas use the angkot.

Sunardi and his angkot.

Sunardi, who owns and drives his angkot, said his life has just turned harder with the increase in fuel price. Even without the increase, Sunardi’s life was hard enough, what with more competition from online booking of motorcycle-taxi service.  Additionally, the ease of getting loans to buy motorcycle for use as taxi is attracting more people to join as drivers.

He said: “The number of my passengers has reduced because many of them switched to online booking of motorcycle-taxi. Now, I get only passengers at 5 am when they go to work and 8 pm when they go home.  They are usually stall operators and port workers at the Tanjung Perak Port in Surabaya. The number is only a few, at most 10 passengers. 

“In the past, I usually go around looking for passengers throughout the day. But with the fuel price increase, I cannot afford to do that. The income from the few passengers I picked up do not cover my cost.”

On a good day with 10 passengers, Sunardi said he could earn IDR 100,000 (US$6.70), from which he has to deduct IDR 50,000 (US$3.35) for fuel. He will use the remaining of the money to buy food for the family and for maintenance of his angkot.

Indonesian passengers protest increases in transport fares
Angkot coming out of terminal.

The Regional Transport Organization (Organda), which is an association of Angkot drivers and owners, is asking the government to increase the fare to defray the increase in fuel price and also to ease the burden of inflation. Sonhaji, head of the Surabaya Organda, confirmed he is representing Sunardi and other drivers and he is in the midst of a discussion with officials from the Surabaya City Government.

Angkot routes on the coast of Surabaya.

Currently, based on Surabaya Mayor Regulation Number 43 of 2013, the fare for angkot is IDR 5,000 (US$0.33) for the first 15 kilometers, thereafter with an increase of IDR 1,500 (US$0.10) for every kilometer.

Sonhaji said: “Organda Surabaya is asking the government to increase the fare to IDR 6,500 for the first 15 kilometers. The requested amount is still modest compared to the increase in fuel price but will help the drivers and owners to breathe a little easier. Driving angkot is the livelihood of many poor people in Surabaya and there will be many unemployed poor people if the government does not help.”

An old angkot not in good condition.

Sunoto, an official with the Surabaya City Government, said discussion on the formulation of the new fare is ongoing and he hoped a decision will be finalized at the end of September. 

On the other hand, Sri Wahyuni, a stall helper at Tanjung Perak Port, Surabaya, is worried as the pending fare increase will add to her monthly expenses.  She said her monthly income is way below the minimum wage as she is an informal worker.  

She said exasperatedly: “With inflation, prices of necessities have gone up. If the angkot fare goes up, I will face even more hardship financially. My salary as a shopkeeper is only IDR 1,000,000 (US$67) per month. It’s impossible to survive now with the increase in fuel price. But what can I do, it’s all up to the government now.”

An angkot on the streets of Surabaya.

Wisnu Wibowo, economist, Universitas Airlangga (UNAIR) Surabaya, said the government has to better distribute fuel subsidies to the intended target groups, which is the poor and impoverished. Currently, middle- and upper-income groups take advantage of loopholes and enjoy the subsidies too.

Angkot terminal in Surabaya.

Top photo credit: iStock/ Haidan Abdan Syakuro. Tasikmalaya, Indonesia June 3, 2021. Angkot passengers.

All other photos credit: Ibnu Wibowo

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