Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Firms enjoy subsidized fuel in Lampung: YLKI

Oyos Saroso H.N. and Andi Hajramurni, The Jakarta Post, Bandar Lampung/Makassar

The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) has accused around 200 companies in Lampung province of violating the government's fuel subsidy policy aimed at poor people.

The companies allegedly bought kerosene and fuel diesel at subsidized prices instead of prices set for commercial industries, it claimed.

The violation of the subsidy policy, the foundation added, has led to a scarcity of kerosene and diesel fuel across the province.

Lampung's YLKI chairman Subadrayani Mursalim said on Saturday that his foundation had discovered certain companies exploiting fuel subsidies meant for the poor by buying kerosene from non- industrial suppliers. The official price for industrial kerosene is Rp 2,200 per liter, while for public consumption the price is set at Rp 700 per liter.

According to Subadrayani, kerosene has been sold to companies in Lampung for only Rp 2,000 per liter, a saving of Rp 200 over the official price.

Diesel fuel has also become expensive in many parts of the province due to lack of supplies. It was selling for Rp 3,000 per liter, causing many local fishermen to stay in port because they could not afford to pay the higher price.

Subadrayani demanded that police start investigating the case and take firm action against the companies involved.

He said YLKI believed that certain officials of state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina were involved in the illegal practice.

Pertamina head of sales and distribution for Lampung region Doni Indrawan denied involvement of officials from his company in the case.

However, he admitted that around 200 companies in the province use kerosene in their production process but only 22 of them buy the fuel from Pertamina at the industry price.

Doni said companies that refused to buy kerosene from Pertamina bought it from local public kerosene distributors at subsidized prices.

He claimed that Pertamina had tried several times to "explain" the situation to the companies but they continued to use the subsidized kerosene.

Pertamina would therefore start educating companies about the new fuel prices in cooperation with local administrations in order to prevent the misuse of subsidized fuel for industrial purposes, Doni added.

He said Pertamina would form a coordination team to supervise fuel distribution.

Meanwhile, protests against the fuel price hikes continued in several cities across Indonesia on Saturday.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, protesting students hijacked two cars belonging to the Wahidin Soedirohusodo General Hospital and Makassar Treasury Office and used them as podiums to stage a protest.

They also burned tires and waved banners. The protest caused a big traffic jam in front of Universitas 45 in downtown Makassar.

Arguing that the increases burdened the public, especially low- to medium-income people, the students threatened to continue demonstrating until the government revoked the price rise decision.

Protesters said the price hikes have caused suffering as it followed on from increases in the prices of basic commodities, meanwhile public purchasing power remained the same.

No violence was reported during the protest.