Tue, 21 Jan 2003

Students, workers to continue protests

Students, workers and employers vowed on Monday to continue their street rallies to force the government to make radical changes to economic policies aimed at bailing the country out of its multidimensional crisis.

"We will not stop demonstrating until the economic policy is totally revoked, because there is no guarantee that after the street rallies stop the government will not hike the utility prices again," said Rico Marbun, chairman of the University of Indonesia's Student Executive Council.

"Rolling back fuel prices and electricity and telephone rates will not solve the root cause of our economic problems, which is corruption," he said

Gregorius Budi Wardoyo, chief of the education department for the National Front for Indonesian Workers' Struggle, said workers would continue to demonstrate because the cut in utility rates was inadequate to improve the economic situation.

"We are still in a crisis. Decreasing utility rates will not bring us out of the crisis. The problem is in the IMF-dictated economic reform policy," he said.

The workers, therefore, will continue to urge the government to revoke its IMF-dictated economic policy and adopt a new package, he said.

However, Djimanto, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association, said the government's decision to lower utility rates might avert the risk of massive layoffs.

Yet, employers will maintain pressure on the government to cut the high-cost economy caused by corruption, as this is the only way to survive competition in the region, he said.

"We have three quarters to eliminate the high costs, otherwise businesses will collapse and massive unemployment will be inevitable," he warned. -- JP