Tue, 21 Mar 2000

Official says fuel coupon system is safe from misuse

JAKARTA (JP): The coupon system designed by the government to protect public bus passengers and poor families from the increase in fuel prices is safe from misuse, a top government official said on Monday.

Arifin Takyan, a member of the government's information team for fuel and electricity subsidies, said the fuel coupons would be distributed in such a way that only poor people would obtain them.

"First of all, the coupons are not for sale, but would be distributed for free to those people entitled to government fuel subsidies," Arifin, who is also oil and gas expert staff to the Minister of Mines and Energy, said in a press briefing.

The coupons will be printed monthly in different colors. Each color is valid for one month. This is to help discourage people from stocking or reselling the coupons.

The government will introduce the coupon system to protect public bus passengers and poor families from the increase in fuel prices, planned in tandem with the government's efforts to cut fuel subsidies for the April-December 2000 state budget.

Fuel coupon holders are entitled to buy fuel at the current price level.

The government has announced that as of April 1, the price of Premium gasoline will increase to Rp 1,150 ( 15 US cents) from Rp 1,000 per liter, automotive diesel oil to Rp 600 from Rp 550 per liter, industrial diesel oil to Rp 550 from Rp 500, kerosene to Rp 350 from Rp 280, and bunker oil to Rp 400 from Rp 350 per liter.

The government initially proposed a 20 percent hike in fuel prices with a fuel subsidy of Rp 18.3 trillion, but later revised it to 12 percent with a fuel subsidy of Rp 22.4 trillion.

Arifin also suggested that counterfeiting the coupons would be difficult, since they would be printed by the reliable state owned securities paper and bank note printing company Peruri.

He also said people would also not be tempted in trying to make fake coupons due to the small margin for profit.

"For instance, the price difference of subsidized and unsubsidized kerosene is only Rp 70. One must further slash this margin to attract buyers."

Arifin did stress, however, the importance of social control in the use of the coupons, especially for the kerosene coupon which will be distributed in remote villages.

Regarding the gasoline coupon, he said public transportation drivers could only use them at public gas stations where the gasoline would be filled directly into the tanks of their vehicles.

"It would be difficult to stock the gasoline and sell it somewhere else," Arifin said.

He also stated that the central government would distribute the coupons to public transportation owners through the regional Land Transportation Control Agencies (DLLAJR) in accordance with their monthly consumption.

The government estimated fuel consumption for public minivans to be 13 liters per day, while buses are 67 liters per day.

One premium gasoline coupon allows drivers to buy 12 liters of gasoline at a cheap price, while an automotive diesel oil coupon is valid for the purchase of 20 liters.

Arifin said gas stations will first buy fuel from the state oil and gas company Pertamina at normal rates, but they would be able to reimburse the fuel coupon at Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) and Bank Mandiri.

Arifin added the government kerosene coupons would be distributed to some 17.4 million poor families registered with the coordination team of social safety net programs via their regional governments and subdistrict offices.

According to him, a family will receive a quota of 12 liters of kerosene per month, with each coupon valid for the purchase of one liter.

Arifin admitted the government could not guarantee the success of this new subsidy scheme.

"We'll give it a three month trial period," he said.

After this probationary period the government and the House of Representatives will evaluate the results and decide whether to replace the scheme with a new one. (bkm)