When the Indonesian government slashed fuel subsidies in May 2008, raising the price of petrol by a third, there were angry protests as families felt the pinch. But Mawardi Hasyem, who runs a small petrol station in Panton village, in Aceh Jaya district, says he is benefiting from the hike.
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“Fuel is something people need everyday,” he said. “Now the price is very good. It’s the number one business round here.”
Every day the 46-year-old buys 80 litres of benzene at Rp. 6,000 (around 33 pence) per litre. He sells it on in small amounts, mainly to motorcyclists, at Rp. 6,500 (36 pence) per litre. And if customers are hungry or thirsty, they can pop into his wife Jaflinar’s kiosk next door. Husband and wife have been able to rebuild their livelihoods thanks to a loan they took out against the house the British Red Cross built for them in nearby Pasi Tulak Bala village.
A devastating day
Before the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami hit, killing nearly a fifth of the district’s population of 99,000, Jaflinar ran a small shop. It was not all she lost in the disaster.
“I had two sons. One was washed away and we never found his body. He was 17 years old,” she says, blinking away tears. “I still feel so sad.”
Mawardi, who had his lower leg amputated before the tsunami, explains how he survived by climbing a tree despite his prosthetic limb.
After the tsunami
The couple have slowly rebuilt their lives. They moved into a house built by the British Red Cross, and Jaflinar, now 39, restarted her kiosk with a cash grant. Their remaining son recently graduated from school.
Last August, Mawardi decided to put his new assets to good use by taking out a two-year loan backed by the land title the Red Cross helped secure for owners of the houses it built in the Teunom area.
With the Rp. 6 million (around £330) he borrowed from Bank Rakyat Indonesia, Mawardi bought a becak pedi-cab and set up the petrol station, located on the main road running along the west coat of Sumatra from Banda Aceh to Medan.
It is low-tech, with the fuel decanted into motorbike tanks from a plastic drum through a funnel. But it is popular because people can buy small quantities at a time.
“Every day, we see the benefits,” says Jaflinar. Thanks to their booming businesses, the couple have had no trouble making their monthly loan repayments of Rp. 374,000 (£20).
While they would like access to more cash to expand their businesses further, they are wary of getting too far in debt. “If we take a bigger loan, I’d be afraid we wouldn’t be able to pay back the money. And if the bank took our house, I don’t know where we’d sleep,” says Jaflinar.
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