The Wedding-Panic Benchmark

When I was about 24 or 25 years old, my best friend and I were discussing about “the wedding-panic benchmark”. It is when someone becomes the benchmark for others to start panicking about, “when am I going to get married?”.

My best friend, at that time, confessed that I was her wedding-panic benchmark. And so were our other group of friends.

Perhaps my friends thought that I am Wonder Woman, who vowed to only get married if only evil and injustices vanish from the earth.

wonderwoman-marriage

I’m 31 now and among my group of friends I am actually indeed one of the few single individuals left. Let me first say, “you’re welcome”. I am glad to be of service for your ease of minds considering that you decided to settle down before I did.

But, I think some of my younger or other single friends are still worried about when will it be their turn for their wedding.

Indonesian traditional social norms pressures you into getting married early, have a child, die happy. It is as if people had linear timelines and they all participated in “The Game of Life” board game. They did not tell you that marriage is a lot of work and rearing a child requires even more work and responsibilities. I saw this image going viral on my social media timeline and had a major face-palm moment.

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I also believe Disney is responsible for being the cause of depressed people worldwide for making us believe that marriage is a ‘happily-ever-after’. Disney and porn, perhaps, for creating inflated expectations.

You see, I was fine becoming ‘the benchmark’ when I realised that perhaps I had a benchmark myself: my younger brother. Fate has it, he decided to get married a few weeks ago

I expected the usual “when-is-your-turn” questions, and I must say I have prepared witty remarks such as:

Distant uncle: So, where is your “calon”? (my soon to be partner)
Me: Oh, he’s not here yet.
Distant uncle: Really?
Me: Yes. He will be coming from the future.

However, I mostly answered those “kapan-kawin” questions from relatives whose names I do not even know with a faint smile.

A week after my brother’s wedding, my grandmother passed away.

I was out of town and was not able to attend the funeral, so my father sent me a message. “Eyang has always been proud of you and your achievements. But she said she always wanted to see you get married”.

Oh, Lordy.

Eyang, it’s not like I didn’t try.

The problem is, I am a hopeless romantic who believes that you need to be madly, deeply in love with the person you are married with. I could settle for an arranged marriage*), but, no. I don’t trust my mother to make fashion choices for me, let alone choosing my spouse.

I had my fair share of debates with my mother about marriage as well.

I remember when I was in my mid-20s, I said to my mother, “What if you don’t have to get married? What if you found a calling and that becomes your lifetime devotion?”. My mother raised her voice and asked, “Like what?”. To which I replied, “Well, like Mother Teresa, for instance”. My mother snapped and started to recite a verse from the Koran, something about how God has created a match for everyone. The debate didn’t end well. I am well aware that I am not Mother Teresa material and I know now to not start a topic like that when you’re driving in the car alone with your mother.

When I was in my early 20s, my mother said, “I hope you settle down with a kind, smart, Sundanese Moslem man”. When I turned 25 she said, “I hope you settle down with a kind Moslem man”. Then, when I turned 30 she said, “I hope you settle down”.

I am happy that now my mother has realistic expectations of me.

For a while, I thought that I have a fear of commitment. I envied people who are able to make a commitment to fall in love over and over again with the same person over the years. This is coming from someone whose longest commitment so far is with a gym membership. And it’s only been a year or so things have ‘worked out’ between us after four years of status.

Some would also say, “Oh, you’re too picky”. To which I always answer, “How can I be too picky if I have no one to pick?”.

Truth to be told, I have had my share of heartbreaks as well in the quest for love and being with “the one”. Over the course of my failed relationships I realised I wanted love so bad that in the end I did not love or take care of myself. I yearned for the other person’s affection yet neglected what is needed for my soul, and what is needed for me to grow.

It is dangerous when you change yourself to be accepted by the subject of your interest. It may start from something simple. You start listening to the same music (you said you are open to metal but you know you’re more into jazz, really), you start going out to the same place (you hated dance clubs and prefer coffee shops but – oh, there’s this rave party invitation thing that they asked you to come to), and without you realising, over the course of time you start to stop becoming you. You got lost.

Sadly, I have witnessed friends or relatives who got married, found themselves as individuals, had different priorities, grew apart, and divorced.

Those distant family members will then start making small talks in the next Halalbihalal, asking “Where is your spouse?”  — even though they knew the separation was recent — in lieu of “when-is-your-turn-to-get-married” questions.

Loving — and eventually marrying yourself is important. At first, I find the story behind “self-marriage” quite bizarre, whether it was Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City or Sue Sylvester from Glee. Essentially, committing to yourself does not necessarily mean you are being selfish, but more of making a vow, “I will never leave me”.

Leaving or being left by someone who is important to you is hurtful, no matter the circumstances. People who have their heart broken usually recover by doing the things that they enjoy or love the most. However, finding your true self after your core have been heavily influenced by another individual is usually the hardest.

When you have promised yourself that you will not leave you, you find peace from within and do the things you enjoy or love the most, and eventually get rid of society’s unnecessary pressure for you to be married with someone.

There is really no need to panic for a wedding date. Find yourself from within and be content with who you are. If you found someone to move in the same direction as you are, in the right timing, that’s just a bonus.

 —

*)Note: Special shoutout to my Indian friends who taught me there’s a thing called a ‘love marriage’. “Aren’t all marriage supposed to be based on love?” In which my friend answered, “Fika, obviously you have not met an Indian family. Most of us go through an arranged one”.

Global Demand for Seafood Tests Indonesia’s Sovereignty

Since April 1, Thailand has closed its Andaman Bay for commercial fishing and will maintain the policy until June 30. In a similar maneuver, China will adopt a moratorium on fishing in its waters from the Yellow Sea to the East China Sea and the South China Sea from May 1 to September 1.

Altogether more than 250,000 fishing vessels will be affected, and many of them will venture further to catch fish to avoid the costs of stopping operations completely.

To put this into context, China is the world’s largest net exporter of seafood, while the number one net importer of seafood is the US. However, China will soon become the world’s biggest seafood importer due to a rise in its people’s average income. China’s import volume has grown by 8 percent annually.
By 2020, the Chinese government projects that as marine resources deplete, the country’s fisheries production will shrink to around 10 million tons, a contraction of 3 million tons compared to its 2015 volume.

Growing Chinese demand for seafood, however, will stress existing global fisheries stocks unless proper sustainability measures are rigorously applied.

In comparison, the US government recently enacted a rule on seafood traceability seeking to prevent imports of illegally caught fish. However, major US seafood companies have filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that the policy will increase operational costs by up to US$1 billion per year – because in practice, large volumes of US seafood are exported to processing hubs mainly in China and then reimported by US companies.

Witnessing these dynamics, the global demand for seafood will impact countries with relatively healthy fisheries stocks, including Indonesia.

Overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) has been a global problem for decades but it is only recently that the Indonesian government has increased its awareness of sustainability challenges in its maritime domain, as part of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s global maritime nexus vision

Indonesia’s zero-tolerance of poaching has quickly shaped the policy debates in the regional, and to some extent global, trade in seafood. Up to two years ago, Indonesia’s seafood entered the world markets without proper accounting and controls.

Thailand, with its Thai Union Group, is the largest canned tuna exporter in the world, but it imports 90 percent of its tuna sources, mainly from Indonesia. In the past, a large number of Thai fishing vessels operated illegally in Maluku waters, employing migrant workers in slavery-like conditions, exposed only after the Indonesian government slapped a fisheries licensing moratorium and transshipment ban in late 2014.

Thai Union’s revenue in 2014 stood at $3.44 billion, completely dwarfing Maluku’s regional revenue from fisheries, which amounted to less than $1million that year.

Stark numbers have also emerged in Merauke in Papua, where the Chinese fishing firm Pingtan Marine Enterprise Ltd (NASDAQ: PME) has operated in the rich waters of Arafura. In its public investor presentation, PME reported a decline in revenue from $233 million in 2014 to $60.7 million in 2015. The report detailed that 156 of their Chinese-flagged fishing vessels stopped operating in Indonesian waters following the moratorium policy, a bizarre statement given that foreign-flagged vessels have been banned from operating in Indonesia since 2005.

PME claims that a vessel operating in Arafura can earn a net income up to $1 million per year, which as it happens equals Papua’s total revenue from fisheries in 2014.

Reforms are underway to realign the gap in Indonesia’s seafood potential with actual performance. Those who have benefited from shady past practices dislike such reforms and continue to fight policies implemented by the government, claiming that such policies have “hurt” exports and the industry.

It is naïve to only see the performance of Indonesia’s seafood industry through its export figures. Domestic seafood consumption should instead top our concern, since protein from cattle will not be enough. Indonesia still largely imports its beef, despite the fact that its prices have been volatile and lower income groups cannot afford to buy it.

Hence, people will resort to seafood as an alternative source of protein. The Indonesian Central Statistics Bureau (BPS) has reported a deflation trend from 2014-2016 for fish prices in the domestic market, meaning fish has become more affordable for consumers.

As is the case for China, Indonesia needs to realize that prioritizing domestic demand will be a challenging task with 260 million mouths to feed, the fourth-largest population in the world after China, India and the US.

Making sure that there is enough fish caught by Indonesian fishermen for generations to come, through proper sustainability measures, is the only way to ensure the President’s vision of making the “oceans the future of the nation” a reality.


#HidungFika – Desember 2016

Kumpulan tulisan fiksi #HidungFika tentang ulasan berita terkini di bulan Desember 2016. Enduslah tulisan ini dengan akal dan humor yang sehat.


“Payung Biru”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (5 Desember 2016):

  1. Brigjen Teddy Hernayadi dinyatakan terbuki bersalah dan dijatuhkan vonis seumur hidup oleh Pengadilan Militer Tinggi II atas kasus korupsi di Kementerian Pertahanan. Brigjen Teddy terbukti merugikan negara sebesar USD 12 juta atas penyelewengan dana pembelian pesawat tempur F-16 dan helikopter Apache sejak 2010-2014. Sebagai alternatif alutsista, dikabarkan mulai tahun depan Kementerian Pertahanan menjalin kerjasama dengan negara-negara di Timur Tengah untuk pelatihan pilot permadani terbang.
  2. Forbes telah mengeluarkan daftar nama 50 orang terkaya di Indonesia tahun 2016. Lima orang terkaya di Indonesia adalah Budi & Michael Hartono (BCA), Susilo Wonowidjojo (Gudang Garam), Anthoni Salim (Salim Group), Eka Tjipta Widjaja (Golden Agri-Resources), dan Sri Prakash Lohia (Indorama). Meskipun sudah ada program Tax Amnesty, Menteri Keuangan Sri Mulyani menyayangkan bahwa Mukidi juga belum masuk ke dalam daftar Forbes tersebut.
  3. Setelah sukses menyelenggarakan aksi #SuperDamai212, Gerakan Nasional Pengawal Fatwa (GNPF) MUI yang dimotori oleh Front Pembela Islam (FPI) dikabarkan akan menjadi promotor dan organizer Jakarta Marathon 2017. Ditanya alasannya, perwakilan Kementerian Pariwisata menyatakan, “Ya, karena kami ingin menarik jumlah massa yang besar dan sterilisasi jalan Jakarta yang efektif secara bersamaan”. Ditambahnya, “Alhamdulillah, Bayclin juga sudah sepakat untuk menjadi sponsor utama di tahun depan”.
  4. Revisi UU Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik (ITE) mulai berlaku semenjak 28 November 2016. Salah satu pokok dalam revisi UU ITE adalah pemberlakuan prinsip “right to be forgotten” yakni seseorang boleh mengajukan penghapusan konten atau informasi tidak benar tentang dirinya yang dipublikasikan di masa lalu. Dikabarkan oleh pengamat digital Keenan Pearce, inilah penyebab mengapa film “Terjebak Nostalgia” yang dibintangi Raisa ditunda rilisnya sampai Desember ini.
  5. Desy Ratnasari (muncul kembali dalam headline #HidungFika) dikabarkan telah dikontak oleh perusahaan rekaman Cikeas untuk recycle lagu, “Payung Biru”.

“Olahraga Jantung”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (12 Desember 2016)

  1. Setelah Operasi Tangkap Tangan (OTT) Walikota Cimahi dan suaminya yang juga bekas Walikota Cimahi (2002-2012) atas dugaan penerimaan suap, KPK mengingatkan agar lebih berhati-hati dalam memilih calon kepala daerah dari dinasti politik. Melihat fenomena ini, dikabarkan Badan Ekonomi Kreatif sedang negosiasi dengan Fox Broadcasting Company untuk memulai Spin-off dari serial TV “Empire” di Indonesia.
  2. Polisi menemukan bukti transfer pendanaan makar setelah penangkapan 10 orang pada Jumat dini hari sebelum #AksiDamai212 berjalan. Dikabarkan oleh pengamat intelejen, dana Rp. 300 juta yang diduga diterima oleh Rachmawati Soekarnoputri ternyata adalah dana mahar (bukan makar) untuk down payment suatu pernikahan. Seorang wedding organizer mengamati, “Sis, harga segitu di Jakarta sekarang cuman cukup buat katering Sari Roti sama Equil”.
  3. Ormas yang menamakan dirinya Pembela Ahlus Sunnah membubarkan acara Kebaktian Kebangunan Rohani yang tengah berlangsung di Gedung Sabuga ITB, Bandung (6/12/2016), dengan alasan kebaktian harus digelar di gedung gereja, bukan gedung umum. Dikabarkan Dinas Pertamanan dan Pemakaman DKI Jakarta sedang mempelajari proposal untuk pengalihan biaya pemeliharaan lapangan Monas sebagai perpanjangan kompleks Masjid Istiqlal.
  4. Presiden terpilih AS Donald Trump menerima telepon dari Presiden Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen dan mencuitkan hal tersebut di akun Twitter-nya. Hal ini membuat geram Tiongkok karena selama 4 dekade, AS tidak pernah melanggar protokol komunikasi langsung dengan Presiden Taiwan demi menghargai kebijakan “One China Policy”. Dikabarkan Vanness Wu akan diberikan medali kehormatan oleh Taiwan atas keberhasilannya dalam menjalankan diplomasi “Meteor Garden”.
  5. Selanjutnya ke berita olahraga — Timnas Indonesia lolos ke final Piala AFF 2016 setelah menyingkirkan Vietnam dengan skor agregat 4-3, meskipun Vietnam menguasai permainan dengan penguasaan bola 74 persen. Fu Ming, wasit dari laga terakhir tersebut dikabarkan akan direkrut oleh RS Harapan Kita sebagai pelatih terapis jantung.

“Ginkgo Biloba”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (19 Desember 2016)

  1. Polri berhasil menggagalkan upaya pengeboman Istana Negara yang akan menggunakan bom panci berisikan Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) yang dapat meledakkan segala hal dalam radius 300 m. Tiga tersangka teroris telah dibekuk di Bekasi dan salah satunya adalah Dian Yulia Novi, perempuan mantan TKI di Oman yang akan dijadikan “pengantin” atau pelaku bom bunuh diri yang terdoktrin ISIS. Tim Redaksi #HidungFika tidak ingin berkomentar mengenai kejadian ini karena khawatir dipanggil Bareskrim apabila ini dibilang pengalihan isu Ahok sebagaimana dialami Eko Patrio yang dikutip tanpa persetujuan oleh 7 media online.
  2. Untuk isu Ahok sendiri — banyak Netizen yang opininya terpecah mengenai sidang perdana kasus penistaan agama oleh Gubernur Non Aktif DKI Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok). Netizen menyesali bahwa perdebatan lebih disorot kepada air mata Ahok di persidangan dan bukan substansi perkara. Namun dikabarkan lebih banyak Netizen yang menyesal dan berderai air mata setelah menyadari realitanya tidak akan ada abang ojek yang seganteng Hamish Daud Wyllie.
  3. Pegawai MA, Dora (nama sebenarnya) menjadi perhatian setelah videonya memukul, mencakar, dan menarik baju Polantas Aiptu Sutisna viral di sosial media. Dikabarkan sejumlah pengamat transportasi menyatakan akhirnya kampanye menggolkan proyek tilang elektronik, “Berhasil! Berhasil! Berhasil! Hore!”.
  4. Dikabarkan setelah laga final sepakbola AFF 2016 antara Indonesia melawan Thailand, sejumlah musisi Indonesia mengakui Timnas adalah sumber inspirasi lagu-lagu patah hati. Ini dikarenakan alur ceritanya yang konsisten, “ketika aku mencintaimu setengah mati, selalu saja menjadi yang kedua”.
  5. Kemudian untuk berita luar negeri — pasukan pro-rezim Presiden Bashar al-Assad di Suriah kembali menyerang Aleppo timur, kawasan dimana pasukan pro-pemberontak masih bertahan. Selain menggalang dana untuk bantuan kemanusiaan di Aleppo, dikabarkan sejumlah aktivis juga menggalang pengedaran Ginkgo Biloba di markas PBB untuk mengingatkan mengenai apa yang terjadi di Bosnia dan Rwanda.

“Om, Telat Om”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (26 Desember 2016):

  1. Tim redaksi #HidungFika turut berduka cita atas jatuhnya pesawat Hercules C130 HA-1334 milik TNI AU di Wamena, yang menewaskan 12 awak dan 1 penumpang. Ini menambah daftar kecelakaan udara di tahun 2016, yakni Skytruck M28 P-4201 milik Polri (jatuh di Pangkalpinang), Helikopter Bell 412 EP HA-5166 milik TNI AD (jatuh di Malinau), Helikopter Bell 205 HA-5073 milik TNI AU (jatuh di Yogyakarta), Helikopter Bell 412 EP HA-5171 milik TNI AD (jatuh di Poso), dan Pesawat Super Tucano TNI AU (jatuh di Malang). Kami mendoakan agar sayap malaikat merupakan alat penerbangan yang lebih diandalkan daripada sistem alutsista Indonesia.
  2. Dikabarkan grup musik asal Skotlandia, Franz Ferdinand, akan mengganti namanya menjadi Andrei Karlov. Hal ini dikabarkan setelah kejadian Dubes Rusia untuk Turki tewas ditembak oleh seorang Polisi Turki di sebuah galeri seni di Ankara, beberapa hari sebelum pertemuan antar Menlu Turki, Rusia, dan Iran untuk membahas proses perdamaian di Suriah.
  3. Kementerian Kehutanan dan Lingkungan Hidup dikabarkan sedang melakukan investigasi terhadap kasus deforestasi tinggi hutan cemara secara mendadak milik Perum Perhutani. Menurut sumber kurang terpercaya, dikabarkan ini akibat dari sweeping dan pemaknaan berlebihan terhadap fatwa MUI yang melarang penggunaan atribut Natal.
  4. Bank Indonesia mengeluarkan mata uang Rupiah dengan desain dan warna baru. Dengan adanya kontroversi seputar pemilihan pahlawan yang ditampilkan di mata uang baru, tidak berjilbabnya Cut Meutia, logo BI yang mirip palu arit, dan indikasi kemiripan dengan Yuan, maka pengamat ekonom aliran klasik mengusulkan agar Indonesia kembali ke sistem barter. “Ya, baiknya kembali ke masa dimana rempah-rempah ditukar dengan kemerdekaan kita”, ujarnya.
  5. Kementerian Kesehatan bersama Kementerian Pemberdayaan Perempuan dan Perlindungan Anak dikabarkan telah meluncurkan kampanye kesehatan reproduksi bertepatan dengan Hari Ibu tanggal 22 Desember 2016. Dikabarkan tagline baru mereka adalah, “Om, Telat Om”.

Sekian recap berita bulan lalu dari #HidungFika; enduslah tulisan ini dengan akal dan humor yang sehat.

Research Paper on MUI – The Unsuccessful Bureaucratization of Islam in Indonesia

During my graduate studies I took an independent study module on Political Islam and Governance. My paper was titled “Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI): The Unsuccessful Bureaucratization of Islam in Indonesia”.

In my paper, I argued that the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Council of Ulama – MUI) illustrates the case of an unsuccessful effort to bureaucratize Islam under the state. The bureaucratization effort was unsuccessful because the establishment of the quasi-official MUI has been the endeavor of Soeharto particularly to use the ulama to legitimize his New Order regime and its government policies, but MUI during the New Order period has never been really controlled by the state and after 1998 it has become more independent in its stance. To a certain extent, MUI in its recent development has also become a player to reckon with in regard to the Islamization of the state.

My argument would firstly be based on the understanding of the bureaucratization of Islam and why this was the necessary approach taken by the government in the early phase of post-independence. Based on the writing of other scholars who have closely examined the fatwas and tausiyahs issued by MUI, I then demonstrate how MUI has gradually distanced itself away from the state and have made efforts to appease the ummah (community of believers). Last but not least, I will explain why MUI serves as the venue for contestation in the future trajectory of political Islam in Indonesia, as it shapes the agenda of the state instead of the other way around.

You can download the paper here. Since this paper was done in 2012, it has not been updated to reflect the current developments, but in the purpose of policy research and constructive engagement, I am open for feedback and discussion.

#HidungFika – November 2016

Kumpulan tulisan fiksi #HidungFika tentang ulasan berita terkini di bulan November 2016. Enduslah tulisan ini dengan akal dan humor yang sehat.


“Lebaran Kuda”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (published 7 November 2016)

  1. Siapapun ahli ramal Pak SBY, saya mau pakai juga. Karena canggih, sebelum ada tuduhan tunggang-menunggangi demo 4 November 2016 beliau sudah klarifikasi 2 hari sebelumnya. Saya dan segenap crew #HidungFika (saingan Mata Najwa) mengucapkan selamat hari raya Lebaran Kuda.
  2. Dikabarkan penjualan produk topi cowboy dan jaket bomber meningkat. Sejumlah pemilik olshop mengucapkan terima kasih kepada Pak Jokowi. Akhirnya Menteri Keuangan Sri Mulyani memikirkan ulang mengenai rencana pengenaan pajak untuk endorser.
  3. Pemilu Presiden AS minggu ini dan hasil polling antara Clinton dan Trump menunjukkan hasil yang tipis semenjak Direktur FBI menyatakan ada bukti baru terkait kasus email server Hillary Clinton. Dikabarkan sejumlah anggota DPR meminta Kongres AS studi banding ke Indonesia untuk melihat pemakaian Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook yang masih marak dilakukan oleh PNS di Indonesia.
  4. Pak Ahok dikabarkan akan duet dengan Young Lex. Ahok akan special appearance di lagu “Bad” khususnya di bagian “Memang gue anak nakal seringkali ngomong kasar tapi masih batas wajar”. Ditanyakan tanggapannya, Iwa K berkomentar, “Bebas! Lepas! Tinggalkan saja semua beban di hatimu”
  5. Jessica Wongso akan menjalani hukuman penjara selama proses banding vonis 20 tahunnya. Dikabarkan ada petisi Change.org meminta agar Jessica dipindahkan ke Sukamiskin dan dijadikan barista di sana.

“Saatnya ke Mars”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (published 14 November 2016)

  1. Donald Trump terpilih menjadi Presiden AS setelah memenangkan 306 dari 270 electoral vote yang dibutuhkan, sementara Hillary Clinton meraih 232 electoral vote, meskipun memenangkan popular vote. Dikabarkan Elon Musk mendapatkan tambahan investasi untuk segera menyelesaikan proyek misinya ke Mars setelah website imigrasi Kanada crash.
  2. Menyaksikan kemenangan Trump, warga Kabupaten Bekasi merasa tidak terlalu bersedih dengan kemungkinan Ahmad Dhani menjadi Wakil Bupati. Namun sejumlah anggota masyarakat memastikan kembali kepada Mahkamah Konstitusi bahwa pasal Penghinaan Presiden benar-benar dihapus sebelum Setya Novanto dan Fadli Zon foto bersama dengan Ahmad Dhani di 2019.
  3. BPS rilis angka pertumbuhan ekonomi nasional di Q3 2016 yakni 5,02%. Beberapa analis ekonom menyebutkan kontraksi ekonomi ini karena ekspor yang menurun dan pemotongan anggaran yang menyeluruh di seluruh kementerian. Melihat situasi ini, dikabarkan bahwa Dimas Kanjeng Taat Pribadi dan tujuh mahaguru-nya akan diangkat sebagai Tenaga Ahli di Kementerian Keuangan.
  4. Mantan ketua KPK Antasari Azhar mendapatkan status bebas bersyarat dari LP Kelas 1 Tangerang setelah ditahan selama 7,5 tahun atas kasus pembunuhan Nasrudin Zulkarnain yang diduga terlibat cinta segitiga dengan caddy golf Rani Juliani. Baju korban yang hilang sebagai bukti kunci dari kasus ini masih merupakan misteri. Pengamat politik menyatakan ini sama misteriusnya dengan alasan pernikahan Rey Utami dan Pablo Putra Benua.
  5. Gubernur BI Agus Martowardojo diperiksa KPK terkait kasus korupsi proyek e-KTP. KPK sudah menetapkan mantan Dirjen Dukcapil Irman dan mantan Direktur Pengelola Informasi Administrasi Kependudukan Ditjen Dukcapil Kementerian Dalam Negeri Sugiharto sebagai tersangka. Kerugian negara dari mark-up proyek e-KTP ditaksir mencapai Rp. 2,3 T dan KPK menduga kasus ini akan melibatkan lebih banyak tersangka. Dikabarkan sebagian dana mark-up digunakan untuk memproduseri lagu “Alamat Palsu” dari Ayu Ting Ting sebagai jingle dan promosi penggunaan e-KTP.

“Daddy Wes”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (published 21 November 2016)

  1. Presiden Jokowi menghadiri Munas Alim Ulama PPP dan menyatakan penyesalan terhadap penggunaan akun sosial media yang tidak bijak, yang isinya saling menghujat, adu domba dan provokasi. Menurut Pak Jokowi, hal semacam ini tidak mencerminkan tata nilai bangsa Indonesia. Menanggapi hal ini, seorang pakar komunikasi menyarankan Pak Jokowi lebih sering membuka bagian komentar Youtube Awkarin dan Instagram @lambe_turah.
  2. Warga dunia menyaksikan fenomena “Supermoon” pada tanggal 14 November 2016. Fenomena purnama raksasa ini merupakan yang paling besar dan terang semenjak 26 Januari 1948. Seorang pengamat astrolog menyatakan bahwa ini kemungkinan besar penyebab banyaknya perempuan Indonesia yang hormonal atau moody. “Ya, antara ini atau ekspektasi berlebihan terhadap pasangan yang tidak tersampaikan setelah melihat pernikahan Sandra Dewi di Tokyo Disneyland”, ujarnya.
  3. Gubernur DKI Jakarta non aktif, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama ditetapkan sebagai tersangka dalam kasus penistaan agama. Dikabarkan oleh Kemristekdikti bahwa terjadi peningkatan minat program studi Bahasa Indonesia, seiring dengan meningkatnya permintaan ahli bahasa yang #dipakai dalam persidangan pencemaran nama baik, penistaan agama, dan perkara libel lainnya yang marak di Indonesia.
  4. Presiden terpilih AS Donald Trump berencana menerapkan kebijakan database imigran Muslim seperti era administrasi George Bush di tahun 2002-2011. Sejumlah kritik mengatakan kebijakan ini seperti “internment camps” keturunan Jepang-Amerika paska kejadian Pearl Harbor. Namun demikian, beberapa jomblo melihat hal positifnya terhadap kemungkinan peningkatan opsi calon pasangan di MuslimMatrimony.com.
  5. Dikabarkan setelah selesai masa tayang “Golden Ways” di Kompas TV bulan Oktober lalu, Mario Teguh berencana bermitra dengan sebuah klinik fertilitas untuk membuka chain klinik tes DNA “Daddy Wes”. Deddy Corbuzier dikabarkan tertarik untuk menanamkan sahamnya dan juga membuka layanan perawatan rambut di klinik tersebut.

“Obliviate!”

Komentar kejadian terkini minggu lalu (published 28 November 2016)

  1. Mendikbud memutuskan untuk menghentikan sementara sistem Ujian Nasional (UN) mulai tahun depan dan ujian akhir siswa diserahkan ke pemerintah provinsi (untuk SMA, SMK, atau sederajatnya) dan pemerintah kabupaten/kota (untuk SD, SMP atau sederajatnya). Nantinya, kelulusan siswa tidak ditentukan oleh ujian akhir namun ditentukan oleh sekolah masing-masing. Mengetahui hal ini, dikabarkan sejumlah calo soal UN akan beralih profesi menjadi calo tiket konser Coldplay.
  2. Setelah video viral Mannequin Challenge dari Satlantas Aceh Besar dan Satlantas Brebes, juri kompetisi Mannequin Challenge Nasional, Desy Ratnasari, memutuskan pemenangnya adalah TMC Polda Metro Jaya. Ditanya alasannya, Desy menjawab, “Iya, karena mereka konsisten tidak bergerak setiap jam pulang kantor di jalanan Thamrin dan Sudirman”.
  3. Perwakilan Gerakan Nasional Pengawal Fatwa (GNPF) MUI yang juga Sekjen FPI, Novel Bamukmin menegaskan untuk tetap melakukan demo besar di jalanan utama Jakarta pada tanggal 2 Desember 2016. Hal ini mengundang polemik dari sejumlah tokoh nasional. Namun pengamat Robbie Abas menyarankan daripada demo di jalanan akan lebih bermanfaat untuk demo masak bersama Chef Aiko.
  4. Perdana Menteri Belanda Mark Rutte melakukan pertemuan bilateral dengan Presiden Jokowi. PM Rutte datang untuk menawar namun hanya mendapatkan koin Rp. 1.000 dari Presiden Jokowi meskipun sudah memberikan 1 keris sebagai simbolis pengembalian 1.500 benda yang ada di museum Belanda.
  5. Pemerintah dikabarkan sedang melakukan penelusuran apakah Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) beroperasi di Indonesia. Hal ini karena adanya indikasi mantera Obliviate yang digunakan secara massal menjelang terpilihnya Setya Novanto menjadi Ketua DPR kembali.

Sekian rangkuman berita bulan ini dari #HidungFika — enduslah tulisan ini dengan akal dan humor yang sehat.

2016 Blog Update

It’s been almost two years since my last post and I have been noticing a surge in my stats due to a recent online article. Though I have been meaning to write again, I find it very difficult to maintain a steady stream of my usual blog posts and analysis in English due to my work load.

My close circles have been reading my daily “Devil Wears Prada”-meets-“Scandal” rants on my Path social network under the hashtag #CatatanAsrot, but I have started writing an Indonesian weekly satire news update titled #HidungFika on my Medium account.

The idea behind #HidungFika is to copy the popular Indonesian talkshow Mata Najwa (Najwa’s eyes). But why not Mata Fika? Because Fika’s eyes are small so better to see Fika’s nose that you can easily notice from far away.

Anyways. After getting some feedback, I might be cross-posting those posts here as well, just to make sure that there are no spiderwebs in this blog, and online journos who have been secretly reading my blog and writing articles about them will have something to do in the end. I just hope they understand my sense of humor and not spin it out of control.

New Year’s Note

I don’t really believe in coincidences, but I guess sometimes it happens. And it happens when you least expect it.
2014 was a good year for me, for my personal character growth and my professional development as well. Although I still want to maintain this blog as a policy blog, I’d like to share a bit of my personal story as well, particularly about a string of coincidences that has put me in a job where I am today.
***
New York, September 2014. I was assigned to assist Pak Kuntoro, my boss in the Presidential Delivery Unit (UKP4) for a mission during the UN General Assembly. We had lunch in Le Pain Quotidien, the one in 2nd Avenue.
It was one of my most memorable chats with him, as he told me a valuable lesson about trust.
“Fika, there are a lot of smart and capable people in this world, but what makes you different is about trust. When you are chosen or trusted by someone to do a job, do your best to not break that trust and work as hard as you can”.
Pak Kuntoro was referring to his experience when he was assigned by President Yudhoyono as the Chief of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation for Aceh and Nias after the 2004 tsunami and earthquake. He didn’t have any experience about disaster management, he’s not Acehnese, and at the time he knew that there are more “experts” for the job. But he took the job anyway and by the time BRR was dissolved in 2009, they managed USD 7.2 billion for reconstruction in Aceh and Nias, a feat that cannot be done if the global community didn’t have trust to manage that amount of money.
With Pak Kuntoro in Le Pain Quotidien, 2nd Avenue, New York
***
Jakarta, 10 October 2014. I was accompanying Pak Kuntoro for a book launch on the 10 year commemoration of the Aceh Tsunami. That day was actually the first time I met Ibu Susi of Susi Air.
Pak Kuntoro and Ibu Susi were long time friends during Aceh times, and when I was introduced to Ibu Susi, my first impression about her was someone who has heart in what she does and an unbelievable compassion for others.
She was also quick to tell me about numbers and data about the operation involved in extinguishing the forest fires and haze in Riau. And then I noticed that figures and numbers are something that Ibu Susi is also good at, in addition to observing that she will not hesitate to tell things as it is, even though I just met her.
20141008_190932
Ibu Susi and Pak Kuntoro in Aceh tsunami 10 year commemoration book launch event
***
Cabinet announcement, October 2014. I remember the days before, I texted Pak Kuntoro saying that I had a dream about him not becoming minister in President Jokowi’s cabinet. I told him how I actually felt relieved, instead of feeling disappointed that he won’t have a ministerial position in the next government. He then called to say thank you.
So, when the ministers are announced, and Ibu Susi’s name was called by the President, I texted Pak Kuntoro a simple message, “Pak Kun, we should help Ibu Susi”. I meant we as a team and didn’t mean myself personally.
However, a week later on a Sunday night, I got an unexpected phone call from Ibu Susi. When I picked up my phone, a deep, raspy voice greeted me, “So Pak Kuntoro told me you want to help me? Are you sure? My speed is not like him so you better be prepared”.
And that’s how it all started.
IMG-20141224-WA0001
Landing in Simeulue, Aceh. December 2014. Photo by Didik Heriyanto.
***
In the course of my early days assisting Ibu Susi, one of the most memorable conversations that I got from her is about courage. We had lunch one day in her residence, eating fish from Pangandaran which she insisted is not like the fish in Jakarta.
“Fika, do you know what’s lacking in this country? Courage. We can’t teach courage to people unless our leaders put themselves at risk”.
And so she did. The fishing license moratorium and anti transhipment policy, her strong stance against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, have definitely irked some people, but on the other side we have been getting support as well. You just can’t please everybody. Policymakers need to see things from a broader and strategic view for the long term, and sometimes it means taking actions that may seem unpopular for the short term.
***
So, 2015. I don’t know what kind of coincidences will happen in the days to come. I’m still young and I have a lot more to learn. I’m also a person who do not like to be in the spotlight, but I guess my job right now means this is inevitable.
I’m grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to learn a lot of things, not just about trust and courage, from people who have throughly experienced it. I hope once in a while I can share it through this blog and use this as another form of communication.
Happy new year!

Clarification

Due to recent online articles about my appointment, my blog have been getting a lot of page visits, particularly on my last post.

The main referrer for that particular post was this link below:
http://manado.tribunnews.com/2014/11/22/tulisan-fika-fawzi-asisten-cantik-menteri-susi-mengkritik-kabinet-jokowi

First and foremost, I would need to point out that despite my appointment as a government officer, I am a professional whose loyalty is for the Republic of Indonesia, regardless who is the President. I do not have any political or corporate affiliations. All I have is my freedom of mind.

Thus, I have maintained my personal blog as a collection of analysis and opinion pieces as a public policy scholar.

All of my writings here, should be attributed to me and if someone else quotes it, they should have the courtesy to contact me before posting it somewhere else. Furthermore, if someone would like to translate it to Bahasa Indonesia, please do it properly and do not use Google Translate.

Regarding the said article above, it is a misleading headline and if one is diligent enough to understand the tone of my writing, it is an analysis of President Jokowi’s style of leadership, his choices of policies and ministerial appointments. I am cautious about how the media highlights the spectacle of the ministerial announcement more than the rationale behind the decisions. As responsible citizens, we need to apply critical thinking and monitor how the government implements its policies to ensure that they work for our benefit and not the benefit of political/corporate elites.

My hope is that the media does these kind of analysis instead of focusing on the personal profile of ministerial assistants such as myself. It is more unfortunate that the focus is on my looks particularly, instead of my competence.

Therefore, allow me to do my job properly, as I want only the best for this country and its people. And as of now, I believe that working with Ibu Susi is one of the best ways to do so.

Help us to focus on the performance of our programs and policies, report to us what’s being implemented on the ground, and let us know if we’re doing a good job or a bad job – and we will improve it. No more Asal-Bapak-Senang (or Asal-Ibu-Senang) reports.

This is a new era of governance and I wish the Indonesian media can keep up with real journalism to support it.

I thank you for your attention.

Men in White

©2014 merdeka.com/arie basuki
©2014 merdeka.com/arie basuki

Indonesia is a country of symbolism. Stemming from the Javanese culture, which comprises a majority of the population, every ritual and events will be embedded with subtle messages in the form of symbols and gestures which is not explicitly stated or written – or in some cases, it is used to accentuate what has already been stated or written. Those who can master these symbolisms will surely be able to send the right messages to the right people, win hearts, and even win elections.

President Jokowi, a Javanese man himself, is someone who understands and knows how to play these symbolisms.

The cabinet announcement last week, was held on the lawn of the Presidential Palace. His ministers, was donned in white shirts and black pants like the trademark attire of the President himself. When introduced, each of them was asked to run to the President. Hence, the “Working Cabinet” or Kabinet Kerja, was symbolised as the President’s men and women, who follows the same instruction of the President. They are ready to work, starting with a clean slate, different from the past regimes.

At least this is what they would like to portray.

The earlier canceled cabinet announcement was supposed to be held in Tanjung Priok, arguably Indonesia’s busiest port, and working helmets was prepared for each of the ministers. Tanjung Priok would have been a good show of priority for Indonesia’s maritime revival, similar to President Jokowi’s first speech after the presidential election announcement in the old harbor of Sunda Kelapa. Perhaps it is good that the Tanjung Priok plan did not materialise, because some were already quick to critique whether President Jokowi is someone who prefers “being with the people” instead of someone who can work efficiently from the palace.

As far as intended symbolism goes, there are others who can read between the unintended symbolisms as well. For example, why is Puan Maharani, daughter of PDIP Matriarch Megawati Soekarnoputri did not run towards President Jokowi when introduced as the Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, and instead used a golf cart when other ministers walked in the palace.

Symbolisms may also be used to tone down the realities on the ground.

Despite the focus on the maritime sector, the newly created post Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs needs a lot of hard work since the institution is practically still Indroyono Soesilo as an individual. There are no staff, no budget, and no programs to manage yet, although thankfully BPPT is quick to lend an office for his daily work.

In the other ministerial posts, we also need to observe how the massive institutional shifts and mergers will play out:

  • The Directorate General for Higher Education under the Ministry of Education will now be merged with the Ministry of Research and Technology
  • Ministry of Public Housing will now be merged with Ministry of Public Works
  • The Directorate General of Spatial Plan under the Ministry of Public Works will now be merged with The National Land Agency – supposedly to have regulatory powers when transformed as the Agrarian Ministry
  • The Ministry of Forestry will now be merged with Ministry of Environment

The latter is even more worrisome, as environmentalists were quick to point that the two ministries have different paradigms as one is for exploitation, and one is for protection. When combined with spatial planning powers, conversion of natural forests into palm oil plantations or mining concessions will be expedited without proper checks and balances. One could have faith if the strategic ministerial posts were given to professionals, but we should be wary since these two posts are given to the Nasdem Party. One should also be even more cautious when the downstream and trade sector have the risks to be captured by corporate interests that will benefit from such arrangement.

There is a risk that in the early days of the government, ministries will be busy doing internal reorganisation work instead of strategically thinking about what they want to do in terms of policies and programs. Not to mention that there is a risk of delay since the apparatus of the parliament is not yet ready to discuss budgeting and program planning due to the recent DPR leadership crisis. The media is also not helping by highlighting the idiosyncrasies of the newly-appointed ministers rather than scrutinising on what they think the government should and can do.

Symbolisms may be useful, but despite all the media spins, tattoos-and-whatnot, what is more important is the actual performance of these ministers. After all, white is a colour that can easily get tainted.

Setting the stage

All the spotlight on an empty stage. Source: TRIBUN/Herudin
All the spotlight on an empty stage. Source: TRIBUN/Herudin

In a few hours, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will announce his cabinet. Despite promises for an early announcement, the pressure surrounding him to make his dream team is immense and hence, the delay. The end product, based on the various versions of the list of names being spread around, is beginning to look more of a product of compromise rather than a product of someone who can make his own decisions.

President Jokowi’s greatest strength is in his ability to communicate and gain the trust (and votes) of the common people. At the same time, however, this may irk the elites that are still clinging on to power. Shaping his cabinet seems to be the work of accommodating the interests of those who put him into power in the first place.

Jokowi_political_landscape

The quality of my doodle and handwriting aside, I would like to point out that we have a very popular President backed by an army of volunteers who would be willing to be mobilized at his will (but erratic and uncontrollable at times). However, President Jokowi has to manage the interests of Ibu Megawati and PDIP, his Vice President Jusuf Kalla (I’m observing that he is an autonomous political actor who does not stand entirely with the President and a veteran political operator himself), the Indonesia Hebat coalition (with Surya Paloh, Wiranto, etc) and the opposition, the Merah Putih coalition (with Prabowo, Aburizal Bakrie, etc) who is already giving the President a challenging landscape in the parliament. Military actors are operating as well in each of these camps (not as an institution ever since the erasure of “dwifungsi” by de jure), with the Islamists split between the two coalitions, the moderates tending to side with Jokowi.

President Jokowi’s track record in Surakarta and Jakarta should be applauded, but this is national politics. He would need maneuvers to outwit his opposition and prove that he is a man of himself and not a puppet of his political backing. What he did with KPK and PPATK to “screen” his ministers is one way for him to say “no” – along with the help of the media who can still back him up as long as he is still popular. Thus, his compromised cabinet may seem understandable, but in the very short run President Jokowi would need to prove that he can make his cabinet work – because he can’t run the government by himself. The stage is now set, and this will truly test his capabilities as a leader of change we voted for.

Jokowi's new "cabinet". Source: Twitter/@liputan9
Jokowi’s new “cabinet”. Source: Twitter/@liputan9

What is it with the beef import quota?

I think the beef import quota corruption case is going to the wrong directions. Instead of focusing about the case and the economic impact of the underlying import quota policy, most of the media’s focus is increasingly becoming on the women or the sex scandal surrounding it. I’m kinda pissed with the whole spin and I feel that I (at least) have the obligation to unpack the real issues that we should be debating instead of ‘proper’ nicknames for Javanese or Arabic girls.

Moving on. I think we firstly need to look at the structure of our beef market. Second, the implications of the import quota policy and of course, the ongoing corruption case on the beef import quota.

What needs to be in our urgent attention is that the current average price of beef in Java is about Rp. 85.0000-95.000/kg (USD 8-9/kg), and this is a significant jump from last year’s average price which is about Rp. 76.000/kg or Rp.60.000/kg in 2010. You look at the numbers (Ministry of Trade website), and you would see that there is roughly an increase of 20% in beef prices in just two years. Not normal.

Production-wise, if we look at the cattle sensus data, the number of beef cattle have shown an increasing trend. If we have an abundant of cattle why is the price so high? I need to quickly point out, provided that our data is valid, the production data shows the number of available cattle, not the number of meat available for consumption. The data that is largely missing is the number of meat stock we have in our abattoirs or traders (the middle supply chain).

Simple beef supply chain

We import beef in two forms: live beef cattle – so you can put them in feedlotters and make them plump (productivity counts), and frozen meat. Percentage-wise, we import about 60% of our import quota for live cattle, while 40% of our imports are frozen meat. We also limit the places where the imported beef can enter in our territory (only in certain ports), so it doesn’t disrupt the local market. You do want the poor cattle farmers to increase their welfare, no? No? You want cheap beef instead?

Now we go a bit to the rationale for the import quota. Basic microeconomics (for which I have mostly doodled during class – sorry Prof) tells us that if we have the price according to the world market (Pw), you have suppliers willing to sell at a cheaper price (and perhaps better quality too), while the local suppliers can’t compete and can only supply a small amount at that price. So let’s say the government imposes a quota and there is going to be a limit on how many beef products are available on the local market. Thus, this gives the opportunity for local cattle farmers to compete but alas, consumers might have to bear the more expensive price (Pq) as quotas affects the price indirectly. Voila, increase of producer surplus and decrease of consumer surplus, yadayadayada. The difference between quota and tariffs, the government can get the revenue from the tariff, but if it’s a quota – then whoever becomes the importers can get all the profit.

Import Quota

So who decides which importers can import the beef?

Now this is where the beef gets juicy (horrible pun, sorry).

In  January 2013, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) caught red-handed the handing over of money from Juard Effendi and Arya Arby Effendi, two executives from PT Indoguna Utama (a well-known beef importer), to Ahmad Fathanah (AF) – known to be the close acquaintance of Luthfi Hasan Ishak (LHI), the president of the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera) at the time. Now the case is on trial and what is at stake is the government’s credibility in setting the import quota policy, as well as PKS’ credibility as a major Islamic party that sells itself as a clean and corruption-free party – with die hard grass root sympathizers (more on this political Islam aspect on another blog post).

But it’s not that easy for KPK as well. In order to prove that the importers paid a sum of money to AF and LHI to get the beef import quota, they need to prove that LHI in fact has an influence over the Ministry of Agriculture (with Minister Suswono, a PKS cadre, at its helm) – to give a recommendation for Indoguna as an importer – which is later decided in a coordination meeting between related ministries (i.e. Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Industry). In this meeting, apart from deciding which firms have the license to import based on the listed criteria, the government also decides the quotas – which have been decreasing for the past two years (compared to 2010).

Quota Influence Cycle

Seeing that this is quite a challenge, that’s why KPK (along with the help of PPATK) also use the Money Laundering Law on the suspects because the burden of proof shifts to them – they need to prove that the flow of money and all the financial transactions that goes through them is legit. And this is where the “many women of AF” story gets messy and convoluted the beef import story because there’s so many unanswered flow of money that goes to these women through AF.

Since the beef import quota case is still on trial, it is too early to know whether any of the suspects are going to jail or if any other actors are going to be implicated. But what we do know now is that the whole import quota policy is based on an unreliable production data, driven by a self-sufficiency policy that is not adding any value to cattle farmers, nor giving the consumers affordable meat.

With rising income in Indonesia, you’ve got an increasing demand but you’re limiting the supply and you expect things to be cheap? Do the math.

The BP Migas Tsunami

Some bad news and good news for the Indonesian oil and gas industry. After the unexpected ruling from the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi – MK) to dissolve BP Migas – the state’s regulating body for upstream oil and gas and contracts – many were left in limbo with questions regarding the status of the existing contracts and of the future of the industry as a whole. The good news is, perhaps this is could be an opportunity for governance reform in the industry. Oh and, perhaps good news for lawyers as well as their billable hours may increase.

The crux of the matter lies in Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution, in which the Court believes that with the structure of BP Migas after the 2001 oil and gas law, the state is unable to utilize its natural resouces to maximize its benefits for the welfare of the people. The Court argues that BP Migas is unconstitutional because BP Migas prevented the State from exercising directly its full authority over its oil and gas resources and with the signing of the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) the State lost its freedom to make regulations or policies contrary to the contents of the PSC.

In a way I believe the Court had a point, because BP Migas wasn’t the only regulator as contractors would still need to liaise with the Upstream Oil and Gas Directorate under the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (“MEMR”). It’s cumbersome for contractors at times because you had to go to both BP Migas and MEMR anyways. Calling BP Migas as a regulating body would not be entirely correct, in my opinion. They are the executing legal entity to enter into PSCs with oil and gas contractors (and they negotiate on behalf of the government to agree on the contract’s terms).

Now, with the “tsunami” ruling that swept everybody off their feet, the government needed to act quickly to ensure that in the aftermath of the tsunami, there’s a continuity in the oil and gas industry. They issued Presidential Regulation No. 95/2012, stating that the responsibilities of BP Migas is now transferred to a temporary working unit (Upstream Oil and Gas Business Activities Implementation Unit – UPKUHM) under the direct supervision of the Minister of EMR, and all contracts will remain in effect until they expire or until such other dates may be agreed.

Thus, as Prof. Hikmahanto argued in his Kompas op-ed (do note that he was also consulted by the government during the court process), with the MK ruling, the government is actually exposed to the liabilities of the contract. He cautioned, with this arrangement in effect, the government is in hostage of potential legal problems and this beats the purpose of the “maximizing benefits for the welfare of the people” argument.

The 2001 oil and gas law is currently being revised, but with this ruling, the ideological battle is locked and the law must be revised accordingly. If I can draw on Prof. Hikmahanto’s op-ed correctly, there would be at least two options to move forward: A) nominate a state-owned enterprise to act on behalf of the government so that it can exercise its petroleum resources – i.e. Pertamina like the pre-Reformasi era; or B) a total overhaul of the oil and gas law and apply the mining licenses regime into the oil and gas industry.

Costs and benefits are a bit murky at this point of time, but we know the precedent in option A and how difficult it is in implementing option B. Pertamina isn’t exactly “clean” from corruption and that is what prompted the oil and gas law in 2001 (separation between the regulator and the operator). Meanwhile, knowing the track record of how Laws in Indonesia are legislated together with DPR, the longer the oil and gas law revision will take, the longer that the government will be exposed of the liabilities of the contracts. Not to mention whether it is truly practical to implement a licensing regime in the oil and gas industry.

Funny thing is, the group of proponents of MK’s ruling are the same proponents who proposed the 2001 oil and gas law in the first place – Islamic groups such as Muhammadiyah and Islamic political parties PAN, PKB, PPP, PK, PBB – who were dominant during Reformasi and made Abdurrahman Wahid the President (read Lin Che Wei’s analysis here).

One should be curious to understand why they would repeal what they proposed earlier – if not for dubious political motives and not for “the welfare of the people”.

All that money…for what?

I was browsing through the 2013 budgetary note from the Ministry of Finance and made this chart (sorry, too lazy to translate it into English):

Obvious thing that I wanted to point out is how wasteful we are for spending our money on mostly energy subsidies (fuel and electricity) which amounts to a total of 274.7 trillion IDR. I made an argument about why I’m against fuel subsidies previously on my other post, but this time I’m going to mention a bit about measuring impact. If Indonesian politicians and/or decision-makers finally had some sense to lift the subsidies, would they spend the money wisely into developing good programs for its citizens?

Program evaluations are not something novel for development work – since the taxpayers of the donor countries would like to scrutinize whether the aid money they’re giving goes into the right directions (or else it’s better to be spent in their own countries). And so, the eval wonks should have something similar to the “impact chain” tool to measure whether what they’re doing  is indeed helping the world to be a better place.

So let’s say you want to distribute some boats for some needy group of fishermen, you don’t only give them the boat put perhaps some capacity development to teach them how to fish better (inputs). The tangible output would be the new boats themselves, and the outcomes would be an increase of their catch when they go out to sea, which subsequently lead to an increase to their welfare (impact). Of course this is an over-simplification and the real stuff would involve baseline data, rigorous methodologies, and resources (time, money and the right brains – oh hey, maybe an MPP degree would help). But doing evaluations is indeed a worthwhile exercise because in the end you get to find out which programs deserve to stay and which ones deserve to be terminated.

Now, how often do we hear the results of the program evaluations made by the government (assuming that they are even evaluated)? Do we even know what are all the programs that the government actually oversees?

The thing is, government spending increases year by year, and it is quite a common knowledge for Indonesians that it is usually spent late in the year. Some attribute it to procurement issues, but most of the time it’s just poor planning. And they can’t make better plans if they don’t evaluate the previous programs beforehand.

And Jakarta voted…

20120920-180851.jpg

For Jakartans, 20 September 2012 would be a historical day and for some, it’s a free leave day to plan your long weekend out of the city (offices in Jakarta are given a holiday for people to go out and vote). It is the day when the fate of commuters in Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi (Bodetabek) are decided by the voice of Jakartans. Most likely it is also the day when the fate of property developers in the Bodetabek area are decided as well.

Quick count results show that Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) won against the incumbent governor Fauzi Bowo. Many articles already point out why Jokowi stands out from Fauzi Bowo, such as this piece in NYTimes or in Foreign Policy about Princeton’s case study on Jokowi’s leadership in Solo, but I’m interested more in the level of participation of voters – only 67.35% (the first round of elections was 64.4%).

When people vote, they vote for the leaders on top, but the real impact is indirect because voters mostly deal with the street-level bureaucrats on a daily basis (diagram below). My hypothesis is that the low turnout of voters is caused by people assuming that whom they vote for won’t matter because business-as-usual in the Jakarta bureaucracy will be implemented – thus voting won’t change a thing. Personally I believe we need to persuade voters that there are leaders that can change how the bureaucracy work and they can deliver results – though there are still few in Indonesia. It is just unfortunate that in Indonesia these leaders are pre-selected by political parties and not by the people.

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Technically Jokowi hasn’t won yet. The official results from KPUD needs to be announced some time in October and he has to formally resign as the Mayor of Solo (with entailed risks if he’s not permitted by DPRD). Jakartans on the other hand, are impatient and they want to see quick results (i.e. less congestion, less floods). No matter who becomes governor, it depends whether he/she can change the way things work in the bureaucracy through his/her leadership, program and policies. And this doesn’t come instantly.

Then there’s that problem unique to Jakarta. It is Indonesia’s engine of growth (see figure above from the World Bank) and it definitely attracts people from the rest of the country. What the future governor needs to realize is that policies to prevent people from coming to Jakarta is futile, because in principle, cities attract poor people. What Jakarta needs is a governor that is committed to develop its people as complete human beings (education, housing & health) and not just develop places that caters to the rich.

The Mudik Phenomenon

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Source: http://kolomkita.detik.com/baca/artikel/3/783/mudik_pakai_sepeda_motor_hmmm…

After 2 years living in Singapore and not being able to come home to Indonesia for Idul Fitri, this time around I finally had the opportunity to taste my mother’s opor ayam and ketupat again. The reason why I didn’t come home back then was because the tickets were expensive and since it wasn’t a long holiday in Singapore, I prefer to wait until the ticket price was cheaper and when I had more time off. Some choose to go back anyway, never mind the cost because they feel the value that you put by being with your family trumps all costs, hence their willingness to pay (for travel costs) are higher.

The term mudik, the annual exodus for Idul Fitri to go home to your kampung, is a uniquely Indonesian phenomenon. No matter how crazy and dangerous traffic gets, some people would still be willing to endure everything just to be with their families.

From the government’s perspective, the annual mudik is a logistical nightmare. If things go bad, of course the government would shoulder the blame, i.e. bad roads, lack of public transport, etc. But I take a different approach whereby this cultural phenomenon is something that you don’t need to do if the risks are high. I mean, why would someone risk their lives (and others) by being on a motorcycle for long distance travel, in addition to luggage (above picture), just to “save costs” by not traveling with public transport? Judging by the numbers alone (below), motorcycles comprises most of the mode of transport, but they’re not designed for long distance travel (especially with small children)! It is no coincidence then if most accidents involve motorcycles.

20120827-224627.jpgThere are improvements in the public transport. This year, the train services enforces the boarding pass system, reducing the number of middlemen who make the ticket price higher. Next year, they will apply this to buses and ships. As for roads, I am still puzzled by the need to fix them from time to time and again. Is it the poor quality of the construction/repair (linked to the procurement system), is it because it’s taking more weight than it normally can take (allegedly corrupt truck weighing stations), or is it the bureaucracy behind the differentiation of national, provincial and local roads with different budget allocations? Most likely all of the above.

Back to motorcycles, I wonder if next year there will be a policy of limiting the number of motorcycles on the road. A colleague of mine mentioned that one of the reason why they bring motorcycles to their kampung is to show off their “success” in the city. But underneath it all, what I truly wonder is if there would be an end to this mudik phenomenon. Perhaps if development (or access to jobs) were to be spread out and not located in Jakarta or Java alone…

The Policy Cycle…Sort of.

In my early weeks of studying PP5111 – Introduction to Public Policy and Policy Analysis, we learned something called the policy cycle (sketch below). At first I took it for granted and couldn’t care less about the whole thing because it seemed so simple and logical – why would anyone need to learn about it? Well, after graduation and entering into the workforce again – and this time around being on the government side – I have come to my senses that policymakers often forget about the policy cycle. Mostly, they don’t take seriously the monitoring and evaluation part.

Theoretically speaking, policy monitoring and evaluation ensures that the outcome of the policy is directed into the right beneficiaries and if there’s anything wrong with the policy (the design, how it’s implemented, etc.), it can be corrected so the problem you’re trying to solve in the beginning gets solved, instead of creating another set of problems.

Two months into my job, the core task of our unit (apart from other tasks as well) is exactly the monitoring part – ultimately to make sure that the development programs set by the President gets delivered by the end of his period, or to report why it’s not delivered if that’s the case. The learning curve have been steep, but so far I have gained so much knowledge and lessons learned, mostly the dos and don’ts of the many policies in the Indonesian government and understanding the inherent implementation difficulties in our current institutional setting.

And so, the lack of posts in this blog for the past two months is because I’m finding it hard to squeeze the very tight amount of free time that I have into blogging. Commuting back and forth to my workplace have also taken quite a bit of energy (I don’t drive to the office and take the public transport) so during the weekends I use my time to get some Zzzz. Now I’ve finally found my rhythm and hopefully can get back to my regular blogging cycle soon.

Intermezzo – Back in Indonesia

Late last year my friend and I gave a presentation to a bank in Singapore regarding the general conditions in Indonesia. The title was “Indonesia: the Sleeping Giant of Southeast Asia”. The premise was simple, Indonesia has a lot to offer but there are many factors hindering its true potentials. Two factors that we highlighted was lack of infrastructure development and corruption.

In the Q&A session, one of the bankers asked, “Why is it that despite being the 4th largest population in the world, we don’t see many Indonesians abroad? Even if there are Indonesian scholars out there, they always go back to Indonesia”

I answered with a joke, “because Indonesians are like trained doves – no matter how far we go we always come back to Indonesia”.

Jokes aside, I tend to believe that usually Indonesian scholars abroad are divided into two: (1) those who are on scholarship and thus are bonded to return to Indonesia and contribute to the country; and (2) those who are fortunate to be able to finance themselves abroad and since their families have everything for them back home, they will return inevitably. Of course, this is a generalized statement and there are exceptions, i.e. what about those who are already rich but they altruistically want to contribute to Indonesia?

I don’t think brain drain on a massive scale is a problem (yet) in Indonesia. Yes, Jakarta is a hell hole of a city to live in, but people still work there and have other places in Indonesia as a retirement plan (i.e. Bali, Jogjakarta). If you read the newspapers, it’s rather depressing because it seems that this country doesn’t seem to run out of problems to report. Yet, there are glimpses of hope and achievement here and there – it’s just that we need to be reminded of the things that happen in Indonesia is not just in Jakarta.

My story? I’ve graduated early this May and I’m back in the country that I was born in and in love with. I managed to travel in Halmahera, North Maluku for a week (and also managed to be stranded on an island, losing contact with the boat), but now back in Jakarta. My scholarship is not bonded and initially I wanted to gain experience abroad before ultimately coming back to Indonesia, but an opportunity came up and I decided that I don’t want to miss a chance working inside the inner circle of the Republic.

Singapore will always be a chapter in my life and how the lessons that I learned while I was living there has shaped my way of thinking, especially regarding public policy. But for now, I’m back home in Indonesia.

Shedding some light on land acquisition in Indonesia

I am nearing the end of my public policy studies in Singapore and I am very happy with my thesis/report on land acquisition in Indonesia. I was finishing it for the past few weeks, hence the recent absence of blog posts. I should be happily blogging again after I finish one more paper on Political Islam in Indonesia.

Screenshot of my thesis cover

I gave a presentation to UKP4 on my research (since they are my client) and here’s some excerpt on what has been causing delays in land acquisition in Indonesia:

  • Information Asymmetry: Lack of information and understanding about the project, and clarity on how much land and when exactly landowners are getting compensated may cause resentment or protests which subsequently delay the whole process of acquiring land. Finding the rightful parties entitled for the compensation (not limited to those who own the legal title) also prove to be difficult. This gives room for land speculators and ill-intentioned third parties to come in as well.
  • Difficulty in Negotiating Compensation Price: Landowners would want to be compensated based on the market value of their land, but the government is reluctant to do so because it is safer to pay the compensation based on the NJOP (Nilai Jual Objek Pajak) value. This is because the previous Presidential Regulation No. 65/2006 was ambiguous in providing a legal basis for market valuation and the usage of appraisers.
  • Financing Gaps: There is often a difference between the estimated costs for acquiring land and the actual payment given to landowners. Relying in government funds to pay the difference would mean to wait for the next budget cycle and this causes another delay (not to forget that this irritates the landowners because they’re waiting to be compensated).
  • Government Asset Swaps (ruislaag): The difficulty in acquiring land/properties which belong to the central/local government is that you need to find suitable land for relocation and of similar value to “swap” it with. For the Lebak Bulus MRT depot, it is hard to find land for relocation for the Lebak Bulus sports stadium and the police housing and academy.

In the 45-page full report I explained the shortfalls of the new Land Acquisition Law (Law No. 2/2012), the details on the causes of delays as well as the recommendations to “debottleneck” the delays.

I am more than happy to share the report, but let me wait to get clearance from my school and the client beforehand.

The Middle Class Illusion

In my urban intervention class the other day, we were talking about poverty and inequality in cities. The general assumption that you have of the “middle class” is the majority of the population that lies in the middle with incomes usually defined between $2 to $10 per person per day (in PPP terms). Hence, you would imagine the bell curve.

I would guess that most people would define themselves as belonging in the middle class, but are you really?

I mean, if you have a car, a smartphone, you eat out a lot, you hang out with your friends in cafes (though not necessarily expensive), are you not living above the middle class line? The definition of the middle class is indeed tricky, and us wonks sometimes have high hopes with the “middle class” as the harbingers of change (with the assumption that they are sufficiently educated and demands better government services with the taxes they pay).

However, the “true” middle class may lie largely just above the poverty line hence they are struggling to stay above it and thus most of the middle class are ignorant and largely only care about themselves (i.e. caring about policies that will benefit them), as any self-maximizing individuals should be. I guess there are exceptions of the good Samaritans, but how many of them are really there?

Then there are those who say that they are the middle class, but in fact they live pretty much well-off compared to the rest of the population. They are in the illusion that they belong to the middle class because they still see people who are wealthier than them, while the truth is they’re pretty much upper class.

To quote Sedláček in his interview with Der Spiegel:

We are clearly not communists by nature, but we are definitely communitarians. Only a truly egomaniacal person can live happily in a society in which he is the only rich one. Man has a need for fairness and, therefore, for a fair distribution of wealth.

It’s okay to be rich, seriously. But let’s just be honest and say that you are, instead of pretending that you’re middle class and sneer about others not having the same consciousness as you are. If you do, you’re not trying to build equality but instead you’ve distanced yourself from the masses and have become the new elites that you’ve despised.

Diagram on the Fuel Subsidies Debate

Here’s my quick note on the back-and-forth debate regarding the fuel subsidies:

My fellow wonk friend Taufik wrote an article questioning those who are against the policy, whether they are only looking at the short-term welfare effects by keeping the low fuel prices. Agreeing with Taufik, the economics are clear here, scrapping fuel subsidies is the way to go. However, the political aspects remains to be tricky.

A caveat, the diagram above is a simplification of the real world situation in Indonesia. It is easy for policymakers to sit on the pedestal and argue that in the long-run we are maximizing welfare by removing the unsustainable subsidies. The truth is, the visibility of how welfare and equity are achieved really depends on where that money is being spent elsewhere, and how fast it can reach to the disadvantaged groups of society.

Therefore, those of you who are in disagreement, I would say that it is better to scrutinize the government more on Indonesia’s social welfare programs that targets better for the poor and investment on the public transport system – as the welfare effects are greater for society.

Take note, however, the government will not be winning any trust points with the citizens if they don’t prioritize correctly – such as establishing the anti-pornography task force over dealing with corruption.