Saturday, June 11, 2005

Customers oppose plan to raise water rates due to poor service

Source: The Jakarta Post

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Tap water customers in the capital are increasing their opposition to plans to raise water rates in July despite continued poor service, ranging from billing problems to frequent supply disruptions.

"We represent tap water customers (in North Jakarta) who oppose the planned tap water rate hike because we do not seen any significant improvement in service," said the coordinator of a North Jakarta tap water communication forum during a meeting organized by the city tap water regulatory body on Thursday.

He said customers in Kalibaru, Ancol, Rawa Badak, Warakas, Tanjung Priok and Penjaringan, all in North Jakarta, had complained of poor water supplies.

"They complain about cloudy water and say the water supply is only normal from after 9 p.m. until early in the morning," he said.

Another customer representative from the Green Garden housing complex in West Jakarta complained about the faulty billing system, which has forced some customers to pay bills from five years ago.

The tap water regulatory body, which was set up by city tap water company PAM Jaya and its partners to mediate any problems arising from their cooperation, called together tap water customer associations, non-governmental organizations, PAM Jaya and its foreign partners Thames PAM Jaya and PAM Lyonnaise Jaya for a meeting to discuss the planned rate hike.

The hike, which would be the second this year, is part of an automatic rate hike scheme scheduled to raise rates every six months over the next five years, starting this year. Without fanfare, the administration raised tap water rates by an average of 8.14 percent on Jan. 20 this year. The increase ranged from 4 percent to 14 percent, depending on water consumption and customer classification.

"We want a progress report on the latest hike. We hope the administration will not raise rates again before an evaluation of the first increase is done," the coordinator of a West Jakarta consumers association said.

"There are numerous consumers in our association who have for several years suffered from poor water supplies, but they are still required to pay their bills. How can we explain this (planned hike) to them?" he asked.

According to the PAM Jaya's estimates, about 11 percent of more than 700,000 tap water customers across the capital only use tap water as a backup for their groundwater.

The chairman of the tap water regulatory body, Achmad Lanti, said revenue from the rate increase would be used to repay the outstanding debt of Rp 938 billion PAM Jaya owes its foreign partners.

France's Palyja serves customers in the west of Jakarta, while British TPJ, which is a subsidiary of Britain's Thames Water International, supplies customers in the east of the city.

Both TPJ and Palyja said they were still facing difficulties in supplying clean water to their customers, mainly due to untreated water and old pipe networks.

PAM Jaya's debts to the French company and the British company were incurred due to its failure to comply with required hikes stipulated in their cooperation agreement. The foreign companies also say they have invested huge amounts of money in their businesses.