Date: Sun, 8 Feb 1998 12:41:04 -0500
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: E Phillip Lim <ALSONA@PACIFIC.NET.SG>
Subject: Fwd: ID: Re: In: Ethnic and religious tension
Jakarta forecasts 8 million will be jobless this year
By Susan Sim, Indonesia Correspondent,
in The Straits Times
6 February 1998, p. 1
JAKARTA -- More than eight million Indonesians will
be out of work this year, the government forecast
yesterday as mass lay-offs and new entrants are
expected to double the pool of jobless in the crippled
The new unemployment figure, up from an earlier
forecast of six million, represents almost 10 per
cent of the 90 million-strong workforce that supports
a population of 200 million people.
With fears of rising food prices already resulting in
several riots in Java and elsewhere in the past week,
the government yesterday also pledged to create
more jobs with aid from the World Bank.
Manpower Minister Abdul Latief, who made the
forecast following a meeting with President Suharto,
said that up to 10 trillion rupiah (S$ 2.14 billion) was
available for work programmes.
"The President instructed me to look immediately
for a way to overcome new unemployment as a result
of retrenchment from the economic crisis, which
may reach one million to 1.5 million people," he told
The new unemployment forecast, he said, was based
on the 1998/99 Budget assumption of zero economic
growth for this year.
With no new job openings, the 2.7 million people
expected to join the workforce this year would join
the jobless queue automatically, he said. Added to
the 4.4 million already unemployed, "this means
there will be more than eight million unemployed
this year", he said.
His figure does not, however, include the estimated
50 million people or half the workforce, that trade
union officials project will be underemployed this
The officials had also forecast the number of
unemployed at 13.5 million.
There was some urgency in creating more jobs,
because those laid-off would run out of money
in three to six months, Mr Latief cited Mr Suharto
He said he told the President, however, that he
was "optimistic" the problem could be overcome
using the 1.8 trillion rupiah for unemployment
projects allocated under the state Budget and
US$ 1 billion (S$ 1.7 billion) in aid money.
Visiting World Bank president James Wolfensohn,
who left Jakarta yesterday morning, told reporters
on Tuesday night that the bank had diverted
US$ 600 million from the US$ 10 billion in active
funds allocated to Indonesian employment
Another US$ 400 million would also be disbursed
to buy staple foods and medicines.
The bank was also authorising a nationwide
programme of emergency labour-intensive works,
to provide jobs for workers affected by the ongoing
The programme will create more than 75 million
man-days of low-wage jobs for the remainder of
the year. Some of the projects already in place
pay the workers 5,000 rupiah a day to clean
rivers and city canals, or work on the railroads.
While these crash employment programmes for
the poorest segments in society were lauded by
observers as useful in checking social tensions,
some questioned their effectiveness.
"The payment for taking part in demonstrations
is also 5,000 rupiah for one to two hours of "work".
And participants also have the opportunity to rob
shops," a senior government official told The
He said some social activists and political
elements out to create chaos were responsible
for organising demonstrations, which deteriorated
into looting rampages in several towns in east
and central Java and in Ujungpandung in South
Sulawesi in the past week.
Almost 200 people have been detained for their
involvement so far, reports said. But the military
was well-prepared and able to quell the riots
He said he expected more riots to take place in
the next two to three weeks before next months'
"But they will be short and sporadic because the
military is very strong and there is no political
leadership behind the rioters," the official,
speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
"But it is still disturbing because anti-Chinese
sentiments are growing among the lower levels
of society, ignited by some Muslim leaders who
have been implying that the Chinese tycoons
are responsible for the current economic crisis,"
He stressed the riots would have no significant
political impact. "There will be no change in
regime," he said.
Sources have said up to 20 military battalions, or
16,000 troops, are already on standby in various
locations in Jakarta and surrounding cities.
Officials have quietly staged several mock riots
in recent days, with more planned, to test their
effectiveness and improve response time.
Meanwhile, worred, too, by growing crime here,
several embassies have beefed up security
and geared up their evacuation plans, sources