JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia's president announced a sharp increase in fuel prices on Monday, saying costly government subsidies would be better spent on infrastructure and development.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who took office Oct. 20, announced the price hikes at the state palace, flanked by economic and social affairs ministers.
The price of gasoline will be raised from about 53 cents to 70 cents per liter, and diesel fuel from 45 cents to 61 cents, beginning Tuesday.
Police were deployed to guard some gasoline stations in the capital, Jakarta, as long lines of cars and motorbikes waited to fill their tanks before the increases took effect at midnight.
"From time to time, as a nation, we are faced with difficult choices," said Jokowi, who had vowed to be ready to make unpopular decisions for the sake of the people. "However, we have to choose and make a decision."
He said the government held a series of discussions and decided it was better to switch the subsidies to productive investment.
Students in some provincial capitals staged protests prior to the announcement. Last week, a protest in South Sulawesi's capital, Makassar, turned violent.
The announcement came as the global price of oil has plummeted 31 percent in just five months, a surprising drop after a four-year period of prices near or above $100 a barrel. On Monday the price of oil fell 96 cents to $74.94 a barrel in New York.
Indonesia's last fuel price hike, in June last year, was met by angry protests in which thousands of students took to the streets across the country.