Fri, 03 Jan 2003

Prices of food to rise by at least 5 percent

Ahmad Junaidi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Jakartans would face a harder life as the prices of staple foods in the city were predicted to increase by at least 5 percent, following the central government's decision to increase fuel prices by up to 22 percent starting Thursday, an official said on Thursday.

"We predict that the prices of staple foods would increase by at least 5 percent after the fuel prices increase," head of logistic division of the City Economic Affairs Office Ismar A. Kasim told reporters at City Hall.

Ismar said the increase in staple food prices was mainly caused by the increase in the cost of delivery, which was triggered by the fuel price hike.

He said the affected staple foods would include rice, bulk vegetable oil, beef, goat meat, red curly chili, onions and garlic.

"We call upon traders not to stockpile the staple foods since it would make residents suffer," Ismar said without mentioning what measures, if any, his office would take if traders ignored the call against stockpiling.

According to data available from the office on Tuesday, the prices of staple foods had already begun to rise and stood at the following figures: IR rice, Rp 3,458 per kilogram; bulk vegetable oil, Rp 6,434 per kg; red curly chili, Rp 21,123 kg; beef, between Rp 39,069 and Rp 51,168 per kg; goat meat, Rp 31,369 per kg; onions, Rp 8,114 per kg; and garlic, Rp 6,432 per kg.

The government claimed they had raised the price of fuel in an effort to lift the country out of its economic ills. Premium gasoline was raised Rp 140, from Rp 1,750 to Rp 1,810 per liter, while automotive diesel jumped Rp 340, from Rp 1,550 to Rp 1,890.

For most people, however, the fuel increase will only add to their headaches, since it also coincides with an increase in electricity tariffs by six percent and an average 15 percent hike in telephone rates.

Separately, City Governor Sutiyoso vowed on Thursday to closely monitor markets and control the prices of staple foods following the increase in fuel prices.

"If it is necessary, we will conduct market operations to stabilize prices," Sutiyoso told reporters at City Hall.

He said that the administration anticipated a slight increase, which would be natural due to the increase in the fuel prices.

"We appeal to individuals and groups not to use the increase in fuel prices to their advantage. We also call upon Jakartans not to react emotionally to the increase," he said.

Asked whether the City Land Transportation Owners' Association (Organda) had proposed an increase in their fares, he replied,"Not yet."

He warned the association not to increase their fares arbitrarily following the increase in fuel prices, and asked the City Transportation Agency to monitor the fares.

"We will punish land transportation owners if they are found to be increasing the fares arbitrarily," the governor said.

However, he said if Organda proposed an increase in their fares, the administration would consider and discuss the proposal.

"If their proposal is proportionate and has been processed according to procedure, we will approve an increase," Sutiyoso said.

The increase in public transportation fares is decided upon by the governor following discussions with City Council and the Indonesian Consumers Institute Foundation (YLKI).