Mon, 31 Mar 2003

Power price hike policy must be canceled: NGOs

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have demanded that the government cancel its quarterly power price hike policy as it would only further burden poor people.

They said that an independent review of the policy must be carried out first before the government proceeds with it.

Fabby Tumiwa of the Working Group on Power Sector Restructuring (WG-PSR) said on Sunday that the current power price was already too expensive for lower-income households.

"On average, according to our survey, poor families must allocate 10 percent of their total monthly spending on electricity. This is too much," said Fabby.

The state-owned electricity company will increase its power prices again on April 1 as provided for under the government's power price policy.

Since 2001, PLN has been raising its power prices by an average of 6 percent every quarter. The government's power price policy is aimed at bringing domestic electricity prices up to an average level of 7 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) by 2005.

The higher electricity prices are necessary to help avoid PLN from going bankrupt and attract new investment to the sector to prevent a power crisis in the future.

The current average price level of Rp 488 per kWh is equal to around 5.42 U.S. cents.

But Fabby warned that another increase in power prices would further reduce the purchasing power of low-income people, who have already suffered from years of economic difficulties.

Business Watch Indonesia (BWI), another NGO, shared Fabby's view.

Yanuar Nugroho of BWI said that PLN must not concentrate on boosting profit at the expense of low-income people.

He said that raising power prices would negatively affect the welfare of poor families.

Separately, Suyono, a driver with a courier company who lives in Tangerang, strongly protested the power price hike policy.

He said that his monthly income was only around Rp 1 million, and he had to allocate around Rp 75,000 per month for electricity alone.

"If the price (of electricity) continues to increase, it will place a major burden on our family," he told The Jakarta Post.