10/19/2016, 13.42
INDONESIA
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Joko Widodo to end disparities with fuel prices the same in Papua as in Jakarta

by Mathias Hariyadi

The president announces same prices in two remote, hard-to-reach provinces on the island of New Guinea where, in some regencies, petrol can cost up to 14 times than in the rest of the country. Locals welcome the decision but the state oil company slams it because of its hefty price tag of US$ 61 million.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Fuel prices in the provinces of Papua and West Papua will be the same as in the rest of Indonesia, following a decision by President Joko Widodo.

Pertamina, the state oil and gas company, has criticised the move, which it claims will lead to huge financial losses. However, people in the two provinces on the island New Guinea welcomed the announcement, which will end decades of inequality and economic disadvantages.

Widodo made the decision today during a visit to Yahukimo, a regency (district) in Papua, for the inauguration of a new airport. He is the first head of state to visit the place since 1945, when Indonesia proclaimed its independence from the Netherlands.

The region saw violent clashes in 2009 and 2013, when a series of bad harvests caused protests that left scores of people dead.

Because of logistical difficulties in reaching the remote provinces, fuel prices have been 14 times higher than in the other islands of the country.

In Puncak Regency for example, a litre of gasoline costs 50,000 rupees (about US$ 3.85). Before the opening of the new airport, the area could only be reached by ultralight aircraft.

Fuel prices in Papua "were unfair,” said the president. A litre of gasoline costs 7,000 rupees in Java, but almost 70,000 in Wamena. I think it must not be like that."

For a long time, Papua was the only province to remain under Dutch rule after independence. In 1969, through an “Act of Free Choice”, Indonesia annexed the province, but many remain convinced that it was all orchestrated by Jakarta. Since then, separatist movements have operated in the territory. They do not recognise the decision results and demand independence.

These groups argue that the province is being subjected to a "slow-motion genocide" against its ethnic minorities and Christians. High fuel prices have often triggered protests from politicians, governors and civil society groups.

Part of the population welcomed news of price parity, but the state-owned oil company Pertamina said it would lead to losses of more than 800 billion rupees (about US$ 61 million).

For the President, "this is not a question of profit or losses. I ordered the National Enterprises Minister to find concrete solution to address this huge fuel price discrepancy. My concern is how to reduce this”.

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