JAKARTA: Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said yesterday that there was no other option but for her government to raise utility charges if the nation wanted to shed its dependency on foreign loans.
As she addressed a crowd of thousands in Bali who came to mark the 30th anniversary of the Democratic Party of Indonesia for Struggle (PDIP) which she chairs, opposition to the price increases continued elsewhere.
“I admit that this decision (to increase prices) was not an easy decision to take, but the government had no other options in taking this beloved nation out of the crisis we are facing,” she told the more than 3,000 people gathered in a field here.
Megawati said as president, she preferred to make “unpopular, unpopulist” policies but which were “constructive in the long run.”
She said she was not prepared to take populist decisions which would only sink the nation further in its current debt crisis.
“This decision has been taken so that in the long run, we will be able to reduce our debt so that we will not be always bound by debts as has been the case so far,” Megawati said.
She said for more than 30 years, Indonesians had been lulled by subsidies and cheap prices, paid by unsustainable exploitation of the country’s resources and foreign borrowing.
”This choice, I am certain, will take the people to a better life,” she said, citing improvement in macro economic indicators, and the smaller debt ratio to gross domestic product without providing any figure.
“Indonesia, which is actually rich, can no longer conduct an economic policy which only relies on foreign assistance,” she said.
“With all humbleness, I ask for the understanding of all PDIP members and of the Indonesian nation, so that this choice to rebuild a stronger nation can be understood and supported, even though it is felt really difficult,” she said.
She exhorted all leaders, including government officials, politicians and other public figures, to set an example and live simply.
Earlier, 11 leading student groups called for more mass demonstrations today to protest the price increases.
“We are calling on the people to conduct mass actions on Jan 13at government institutions,” said a joint statement read out at the headquarters of the Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Islamic movement.
Electricity charges were raised by 6% on Jan 1 and three further quarterly increases of 6% will follow later this year.
Telephone charges increased by an average of 15% on Jan 1. – Reuters