Posted inArticle / Ocean and maritime

Over 80% of fishermen struggle to access subsidized fuel, survey reveals

Fishermen lack institutional support to access subsidy. Bureaucracy, funding, and data collection are major impediments, experts say.

The Fisheries Business Resilience Coalition (KUSUKA) revealed that 82% of fishermen in Indonesia have difficulty accessing subsidized fuel. This problem is caused by various factors, from administrative complexity to lack of infrastructure.

KUSUKA data shows 90% of fishermen are small-scale fishers with 11.34% living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, fuel purchases account for 60-70% of fishing costs. State support such as fuel subsidy can increase fishermen’s income and exchange rate.

The new findings were revealed in a policy brief entitled “Reforming Fuel Subsidy Expenditure for Small Fishermen’s Access” by KUSUKA.

The coalition consists of Perkumpulan Inisiatif — an initiative promoting leadership to improve children’s standard of living, Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Union (KNTI), and the National Secretariat of the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Seknas FITRA).

Dani Setiawan, chairman of KNTI, said that fishermen are faced with ignorance and complexity of obtaining recommendation letters to access subsidized fuel.The recommendation letter in question, said Setiawan, must include other documents such as a small pass (ship nationality certificate) and the marine and fisheries business card (KUSUKA).

The problem is, he pointed out, many fishermen do not yet have KUSUKA cards due to data collection issues.”If this is implemented, these fishers will likely be unable to access subsidized fuel,” Setiawan explained at a press conference in Jakarta (31/10/23).

In addition, fishers have difficulty accessing subsidized fuel due to inadequate number of fishermen’s fuel stations (SPBUN). Setiawan said, until 2023 there are only 397 fuel stations. This is far below the desired number compared to fishing villages spread across more than 10 thousand coastal villages in the country.

Read also: Fishermen struggle as octopus population in Mentawai dwindle

Setiawan said in 2022, the cooperatives ministry, SOEs ministry, and Pertamina pushed for the Solar for Fishermen Cooperatives (Solusi) program, which aims to increase and facilitate SPBUN establishment.

Their observations suggested that the program faced capital constraints at the local level. “Fisheries cooperatives and fishermen cooperatives lack capital to establish fuel stations. Government assistance is needed. While regional permit processing remains problematic,” Setiawan said.

Based on these findings, the KUSUKA Coalition recommends the establishment or empowerment of cooperatives around the coast as fuel sub-distributor agents. This program is expected to facilitate access to subsidized fuel for small or traditional fishermen.

They also urge the finance ministry to create more effective and targeted subsidy policy instruments. As well as urging BPH Migas – the state gas company, Pertamina, and the fisheries ministry to update and improve fishermen’s data, to determine the fuel quota.

System improvement

Presidential special staff for economic affairs, Arif Budimanta said that the government is working on improving fishermen data collection, including through a database called Socio-Economic Registration. Budimanta said the database would cover the entire population, including livelihoods.

“This Socio-Economic Register is an integrated database that can be used so that fuel subsidies, especially for small fishermen, are more targeted,” Budimanta explained via Zoom.

He also encouraged fishing communities to form cooperatives to manage SPBUN. This cooperative, Budimanta continued, can also be used as a platform to make working capital accessible through a credit mechanism.

In addition to data collection, fuel distribution data is another key factor in the low access to subsidized fuel. Teuku Desky Arifin, a Pertamina representative whom Ekuatorial spoke to on Zoom, said that Pertamina only records the uptake of subsidized fuel by fishermen at local fuel stations (SPBUN).

Meanwhile, Arifin suspects that many fishermen access fuel from regular fuel stations. “The report recorded at Pertamina is only data from the SPBUN. It has not collected data from regular fuel stations,” he said.

Arifin believes this technical shortcoming means improvements are needed. He hopes future fuel consumer data will include professional backgrounds, including fishermen.

Read also: Sinakak fishers resort to compressors for better income

About the writer
Themmy Doaly

Themmy Doaly

Themmy Doaly has been working as Mongabay-Indonesia contributor for North Sulawesi region since 2013. While in the last nine years he has also been writing for a number of news sites in Indonesia, including...

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