News Focus: Govt preparing steps in face of fasting month

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - In the face of the fasting month of Ramadhan in the next two weeks, the government is preparing steps to ensure that Muslims in the country will be able to carry out their rituals solemnly without facing shortages of basic needs and security disturbances.

In order to meet the need of people for basic necessities and other things during and in the post-fasting month festivities, the government is taking steps to ensure the availability of food, the smooth distribution of staples, stabilize commodity prices and ensure enough energy supplies.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday ordered his ministers to ensure the stability of basic commodity prices, and food availability across the country in the run up to and during the fasting month.

According to Chief Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa, the government has prepared four steps in the economic field to anticipate the worst possibilities during the fasting month and during the post-fasting Idul Fitri festivities.

In a coordination meeting last week, the relevant ministers formulated the government steps to be carried out in the fasting month that would likely start on the first day next August. "The first thing is that food must be available in all places," Hatta said.

Food was an essential element during Ramadhan and Lebaran and all people in the predominantly Muslim country must have access to food under whatever conditions, he said.

In this case, National Logistics Agency (Bulog) has assured that it has a stock of 1.6 million tons of rice which are enough until the end of the year.

"Stocks are enough for six months ahead. Our supplies are estimated at 1.6 million tons. God Willing, we will have no problems in the post-fasting month festivities," Head of Bulog Sutarto Alimoesa added.

"We can even guarantee that rice stocks are enough until the end of 2011," he added.

The second thing was that the government would ensure smooth distribution of staple foods and other basic necessaries to all regions in the country. Therefore, transportation facilities and infrastructures must be in good condition, Hatta said. "It must run smoothly. We have decided to anticipate it," he said.

The third strategy is that the government would try its best to stabilize the prices of commodities. After all, the government would tolerate any price hike if it did not go beyond the limits of propriety.

Though now prices have begun to spiral up, yet the government sees that it is still within the reasonable level. Director General for Internal Trade of the Ministry of Trade Gunaryo said prices of commodities at present were still within the stable level so that market operations were not yet needed.

"Prices at present are relatively lower than those in the past year," he said. The director general said that market operations would be launched if prices were too high while stocks in the market were running short. "Market operations will be launched if price increases exceeded 15 percent. This is because we have to protect small traders," he added.

Basically, according to Hatta Rajasa, market operations will be carried out if prices are on the rise. "In case of a price surge we will intervene in the market by launching large-scale operations," he said.

For market operations, Bulog is preparing 800,000 tons of rice to be released into the market. Of the amount, 500,000 would be for market operation and 300,000 tons of commercial rice.

Actually, Bulog has now begun conducting market operations at a number of locations to stabilize the fluctuation rice prices. With the government step, the people should not be worried about shortage of stocks in the face of the fasting month and the festivities thereafter.

The fourth strategy was ensuring energy supplies, particularly electrical power and fuel oils. Therefore, there must be a good distribution system to ensure that energy supplies would reach all parts of Indonesia, the minister said.

But food is the most essential element during the fasting month. Therefore, Director General for Internal Trade Gunaryo inspected on Monday the bubulak abattoir in Bogor as part of the government efforts to assure the availability of food stocks, including meat. .

He said that food stocks, including meat, are enough in the face of the fasting month next August. He guaranteed the availability meat until the post-fasting Idul Fitri festivities. "We have secure stocks of food stuff such as rice, meat, chicken and others. They are enough until Lebaran (Idul Fitri)," he said.

In the meantime to ensure security during the fasting month in the capital city of Jakarta, the Jakarta Metropolitan Police Command is planning to field around 20,000 personnel.

"We have 29,000 personnel and we will field up to 20,000 or two thirds of them for Ramadhan," Jakarta Metropolitan Police Command spokesman Senior Commissioner Baharudin Djafar said.

The police personnel would be assigned until seven days after the Idul Fitri post-fasting holiday. Their operations would include monitoring possible sweeps by community elements on entertainment centers. (*)