Wed, 14 May 2003

Public protest toll hike plan

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The toll road operators' plan to increase tolls by about 25 percent at the end of the month has upset local motorists, especially as many have said the companies have not committed themselves to improving services.

"I can't understand why toll road operators need to increase the tolls, considering the poor service and the fact that the roads are always congested during rush hour," Julian, a commuter who uses the inner-toll road, said.

The reason for hiking tolls to cover operators' losses is absurd, said Julian, who is a young executive at a multinational company and spends Rp 220,000 (US$25.75) every month on tolls.

She said that since operators of the city's toll roads most likely take in millions of rupiah a day, their claim of having suffered revenue losses was unfounded.

"I'm worried that I will be handing over my money straight to some large-scale crooks," she said.

Satria Ganefanto, a spokesman for PT Jasa Marga, said that traffic jams often occurred on toll roads during the rush hour.

"If you see that there is no benefit to using the toll road because of a traffic jam, please do not use it," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He said that the tolls should be increased because they had not been raised for many years. The increase is also expected to lure investors, he added.

Some tolls, however, will remain the same. They include the Jakarta-Bogor toll and the toll heading to the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

The increases include a 33 percent hike for the inner-Jakarta toll road network, which is notorious for its lengthy traffic jams during the peak of the rush hour. The toll will increase from Rp 3,000 to Rp 4,000.

The charge for using the Cawang-Taman Mini toll and also the Tomang-Kebon Jeruk toll will go up to Rp 1,000 from Rp 500.

An official from the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) said that the hikes were inappropriate because the operators should first review irregularities and improve services for customers.

Daryatmo, a spokesman for YLKI, told the Post that the reasons of covering operational losses, improving services and to invest in new toll roads were weak, because operators' financial problems were more a result of irregularities and mismanagement.

Moreover, the operators should present a legitimate research- based argument that proves the toll hikes will significantly improve services, he said.

Kompas reported earlier that an audit of PT Jasa Marga revealed the company bore losses of up to Rp 7.556 trillion, of which half was caused by internal mismanagement.

The report was made by public accountant offices Hadi Susanto and Partners and PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), and was based on the activities of the company between January 1995 and December 1999.

Daryatmo said that based on Law No. 13/1980 on highways, tolls had to be based on the benefits a customer gets, not on the value of another investment or on the losses that need to be covered.

The House of Representatives and Minister of Settlements and Regional Infrastructure Soenarno have agreed to the proposed hikes. The minister said public buses would be exempt from paying the increase.

A presidential decree is needed before the toll hikes go into effect.