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Indonesia orders weekend factory work due to blackouts

JAKARTA (AFP) - - Indonesia has issued a decree ordering factories to shift working hours to weekends in a bid to avoid prolonged rolling blackouts across the country, a report said on Tuesday.

The decree signed by five ministers will take force for companies in Java and Bali starting July 21.

"With the decree, moving the businesses' operating hours to Saturday or Sunday is a must for the manufacturers," Industrial Minister Fahmi Idris was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

State power monopoly PLN started two weeks of rolling blackouts in Jakarta last week after six months of frequent outages on the dense Java-Bali grid cost businesses millions of dollars in losses.

"It must be focused first on the companies using lots of electricity but employing fewer workers such as steel factories or foundries," he said.

The rolling blackouts in Jakarta are officially due to maintenance work that will interrupt gas supplies to two state-owned generating stations in North Jakarta.

Analysts have blamed the country's crumbling infrastructure and warned electricity shortages could limit economic growth and discourage investment in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Rising demand for electricity has led to increasing numbers of blackouts across the country in the past few years despite Indonesia's vast resources of oil, natural gas, coal and geothermal energy.

The power crisis appears to be worsening even though only 53 percent of the archipelago's 234 million people has access to electricity.

The government is planning to boost capacity by some 30 percent to about 40,000 megawatts by 2011, but the first new power station is not expected to be operational until mid-2009.

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