Monday, August 31, 2015

Indonesians Are Feeling the Pinch

Tens of thousands of workers plan to take to the streets on Tuesday as more and more people are beginning to feel the impacts of the country's economic downturn. Price increases coupled with massive layoffs in recent months are the main reasons behind the planned workers' protests.

The people demand wage increases because the inflation has taken its toll on their purchasing power. Many people already complain about rising food prices that have made Indonesia's annual inflation, at 7.26 percent in July, the highest in the region.

Workers also want the government to put a stop to massive layoffs in many labor-intensive sectors, as unions say they expect up to 100,000 job cuts this year alone and unemployment levels continue to rise nationally.

Unemployment in Southeast Asia's largest economy stood at 5.81 percent in February, according to official statistics, but analysts say that doesn't cover the informal sector and the real figure could be much higher.

Annual growth slipped to 4.67 percent in the second quarter because of slumping demand for commodity exports and weak domestic demand.

President Joko Widodo is working hard to speed up infrastructure projects that can employ millions of people. He himself has visited many corners of the archipelago to oversee the launch of the projects but progress is painfully slow. Also, he seems to have largely been working alone, with his ministers often nowhere to be found.

While Joko needs to keep a close eye on these projects, he must make sure that he isn't buried by launching ceremonies that can be attended by other top officials. He needs to stop and think about strategy, like what economic steps the country needs to take to halt the rupiah's slide.

He needs his advisers to tell him the truth and to offer alternative solutions. People around him should take this responsibility very seriously. But we don't know if he has any close advisers left at all, now that his former chief of staff Luhut B. Panjaitan has become the chief security minister.

Police have been quick to announce that they've prepared some 8,000 officers to secure the demonstration in Jakarta on Tuesday, which over 50,000 people are expected to join. Just like we call on workers to express their wishes peacefully, police should try their utmost to refrain from the use of violence. By : Jakarta Globe |Editorial

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