Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Children take a hike after price increase

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government has allocated a total of Rp 17.8 trillion (US$1.8 billion) to lessen the impact of the recent fuel price hike on the city's poor.

However, the fuel price hike has also affected people in the low-income bracket, who are not classified as poor.

Endang Lesmana, 49, a security officer living in a five meter by four meter house in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, with his wife, three children and daughter-in-law said on Tuesday the fuel price increase had come as a great blow to his household.

"Even before the fuel price hike, my monthly income was barely enough," said Endang, who works for a private company on Jl. Matraman Raya, Central Jakarta.

Endang receives a monthly salary of Rp 700,000 but makes an additional Rp 200,000 a month doing casual jobs.

He said the fuel price hike meant his family would have to do without some things as transportation fares and staple food prices had increased, while his salary had remained the same.

According to him, before the transportation fare increase, he spent around Rp 5,000 on transportation to reach his office, but now spends around 6,500 per day.

He said his wife had complained that retailers had already increased prices. "I just told her to spend what she has wisely as I cannot increase our budget for food," he said.

The government raised fuel prices by an average of 29 percent on Mar. 1, but plans to finance a number of programs, particularly free education, health care and subsidized rice for the poor.

Students, politicians and non-governmental organizations have been among those opposed to the government's decision.

Endang said that both his children have to walk one-and-a-half kilometers to school as he cannot afford to provide them with bus money.

He said that while the fuel price hike had made things harder for him he did not expect to be eligible for any welfare benefits.

"I know that there are still many people whose situation is worse than mine. There are many jobless people who need help. Meanwhile, I have a permanent income although I must spend it carefully," he said.

He said Suparti, 40, his wife, sold nasi uduk (rice cooked in coconut milk) at their house from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. to earn extra money.

"But I cannot rely on that money as she only gets about 10 customers per day," he said.

In middle age, Endang, who dropped out of junior high school, has two main ambitions.

First, he wants his children to finish senior high school, and second, he wants to own a house.

However, Endang confesses that he has no money saved, and that dream seems a long way off.