Monday, July 04, 2005

Residents, YLKI oppose water rate hike

Source: The Jakarta Post

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Immediately after moving into a 400-square-meter house in Karet Kuningan, South Jakarta, in 2003, Sugeng applied for a tap water connection with city water company PAM Jaya.

She hoped the connection would ensure a daily supply of clean water for her family of five.

Sugeng, however, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that she was extremely disappointed with the company's service.

"Last month, the tap water stopped flowing for three days. No official came to explain why. I could not just wait so I decided to hire someone to dig a well, bought a water pump and a water sanitizer," said Sugeng, adding that the work cost her more than Rp 2 million.

Dapot Rolan Simandjutak in Cilincing, North Jakarta, had an even worse experience.

The tap water stopped running to his 100-square-meter house for a week, forcing him to buy sanitized water from a vendor. Every day during the week, he spent Rp 700 for every 10 liters of water from the vendor.

The following month Simandjutak received a bill from PAM Jaya for Rp 100,000, far more than the Rp 30,000 to Rp 50,000 he usually paid each month.

"I went to PAM Jaya's office to protest. I told them I usually paid between Rp 30,000 and Rp 50,000 a month. They said one of their employees had made a mistake in reading the meter," Simandjuntak told the Post on Saturday.

Despite the inferior service, the city administration raised the water rate for poor households on Friday from Rp 550 per meter cubic to Rp 900, an increase of 63 percent.

While the water rate was raised 63 percent for low-income households, middle and upper-income residents and commercial enterprises will only be required to pay between 6 percent and 17 percent more for their water.

The lowest rate increase went to special zones, including Tanjung Priok Port, where the rate went up only 5 percent.

The hikes were part of a memorandum of understanding signed by the Jakarta administration and private tap water companies PT Thames PAM Jaya and PT Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) on the repayment of the city's debts of Rp 600 billion to the companies.

Water rates were also raised last February by between 4 percent and 16 percent, effective as of January 2005.

Palyja, a subsidiary of France's ONDEO (formerly Lyonaisse des Eaux) serves customers in western Jakarta, while TPJ, a subsidiary of Britain's Thames Water International, supplies tap water to customers in eastern Jakarta.

Both Sugeng and Simandjutak were unhappy with the increases but told the Post they could do nothing about it.

"I accept the decision, but only if the water keeps running to my house. If it does not I will cancel my PAM connection and buy water from next door," Simandjuntak said.

Indah Suksmaningsih, chairwoman of the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI), denounced the increases and demanded the Jakarta administration review its cooperation with its private partners, PT Thames PAM Jaya, and PT Lyonnaise Jaya.

"Rather than increasing rates, the Jakarta administration should review its cooperation with its private partners because they have not shown any significant improvement in providing good service," the YLKI chairwoman said.

Indah said she had received reports that many PAM customers in West and North Jakarta were not receiving water despite having tap water connections.

"About 11 percent of the total number of customers have not received water. But they still pay a monthly service charge," said Indah.

Indah said the administration must review its cooperation agreement with the two private companies because many of the targets contained in the agreement had not been achieved.

"The administration should review the cooperation. If it brings more losses than profit, cancel it," she said.