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Asia Minute: Indonesia's cut in fuel subsidies leads to widespread protests

Indonesia Fuel Hike protests 090522
Tatan Syuflana/AP
Police officers push back students during a rally against fuel price hikes in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Fuel prices increased by about 30% across Indonesia on Saturday after the government reduced some of the costly subsidies that have kept inflation in Southeast Asia's largest economy among the world's lowest. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Inflation has hit prices around the world — especially when it comes to food and energy. For the largest economy in Southeast Asia, that's led the government to make a move resulting in massive protests.

Protests are growing in cities across Indonesia. News agencies report thousands of people demonstrating in Jakarta — watched over by thousands of police.

The target is the government; the anger is focused on fuel.

Over the weekend, President Joko Widodo raised the price of fuel by about 30% by cutting a government subsidy for the first time in eight years.

Widodo said he had no choice.

He added that the cost to the government from subsidizing fuel has tripled from its original budget to more than $34 billion.

The government is increasing social welfare programs for millions of households, but demonstrators say it's not enough to offset the higher fuel costs.

Some protestors are calling for an increase in the minimum wage.

The fuel subsidy program has a long history in Indonesia — and a potentially perilous one when it comes to the government.

Increases in fuel prices have frequently led to protests — and sometimes to violence.

In 1998, then-President Suharto raised fuel prices by more than 70% — one factor in growing national protests — leading to his resignation within a month.

While the current demonstrations are nothing on that level, they are spreading around the country.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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