Why predict a riot?

Participation, Power and Social Change Research at IDS

Naomi Hossain

Like millions of Indonesians, I watched the protests against the fuel subsidy cut as it was debated in Parliament last week. They were at it (debating, not protesting) into the wee hours; in the end, the protests were big and ugly enough for the opposition and coalition partners to hold the ruling party to ransom. They fudged it, agreeing that if the global fuel price goes up a lot, they will act. Result? Unruly politics – 1; responsible fiscal policy – 0.

Technocrats and policy types all agree the fuel subsidy is A Bad Thing. It cost US$18bn last year- more than half of spending on education (US$£32bn). The Iran situation will increase global fuel prices. 60-70% of the fuel subsidy benefits the richest 40% of Indonesians. But because fuel subsidies are so economically irrational, technocrats and policy types fail to analyse the political responses and easily discount…

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