Sat, 04 Jan 2003

The nation's massive debt and budget deficit has forced the government to impose price increases this year in an effort to lift the country out of its economic slump. People are angry with the decision and some have blamed the government for failing to recover the money that was misappropriated by tycoons. Some of them spoke to The Jakarta Post about the issue.

Lubis, 45, has been a sidewalk vendor selling coconuts at Pulomas, East Jakarta, for more than five years. His wife and daughter live in Brebes, Central Java:

I don't know what to say about the price increases this New Year.

Business will turn sluggish because I will have to raise the price from Rp 2,500 a coconut. It is unavoidable because the cost to bring my goods here will go up.

Worse, there will be less buyers because people's purchasing power will soon drop. I think my daily earnings, which range between Rp 20,000 and Rp 35,000, will also drop as a result.

I don't know how to get more income. At the moment, I have to spend about Rp 15,000 on simple daily meals. How can I save up money for my family back home? I usually take home Rp 200,000 a month for my wife.

I swear it's getting harder to survive in the city. It would be better if President Megawati stepped down as she is not capable of governing this country. I don't think a woman is able to lead a country.

Edi Susilo, 31, is an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver in Palmerah, Central Jakarta. He lives nearby with his wife and son:

I'm sure that from my daily earnings, which can go up to Rp 60,000 a day, there will only be enough to survive on for one day. Normally, with that kind of income, my wife can manage to get by for two or three days.

My wife told me that the price of staple food and vegetables has increased. It's sad to hear that.

I'm worried that the price of milk for my son will increase soon, too. How will I get by then? I usually spend about Rp 100,000 a week on milk.

I think low-income earners should unite to protest the government's recent policy. I guess the regime of former president Soeharto was far better for poor people in the country than Megawati's administration.

Yati, 24, is a sidewalk vendor who owns a kiosk selling soft drinks on Jl. Kelapa Puan, North Jakarta. She lives with her husband and their son:

Why the government is so blind to forcibly impose the policy?

The country's leaders, high-ranking officials and the rich will not feel the pinch because of their vast amount of wealth. It is so easy for them to get billions of rupiah in such a short time, but what about the rest of us? I have to stay up all day and night just to earn a little income.

My daily turnover is only between Rp 100,000 and Rp 150,000 and that's not enough to purchase more goods for the business or to lead a decent life. My income only covers my day-to-day needs.

I'm angry about my situation but I don't know who to direct my anger at. The government does not care about the poor and I'm sure they will not listen to any public outcry.

I wish I could protest the price hikes. But what for? It would be of no avail as it will go against the government's wishes. I hate them.

-- Leo Wahyudi S