3 Things that I Would Need in Jakarta

After coming back to Jakarta, I realized that there are at least 3 things that policymakers would need to invent in order to survive in Jakarta.


I haven’t been blogging lately because I was very busy with schoolwork. Two weeks ago I was in Jakarta to conduct my research and after spending quite a bit of time back home, I realize that the city has become worse, not for the better, ever since I left for Singapore more than a year ago.

If I had a lot of money to make inventions, as a policymaker I would invest on these three things before I settle back in Jakarta: a baseball bat, white paint, and a vacuum cleaner.


Schoolkids on a motorcycle without a helmet - photo by Maria Carmencita Morales.

1. Baseball Bat

I know that the campaign to wear the Indonesian National Standard-certified helmets have been going around for quite a while, but one would question the effectiveness of such efforts (see picture above). I would go for a more totalitarian approach by investing on a baseball bat that can be hit towards motorcyclists who goes around without a helmet. Would it hurt? Yes. But crashing your head against the road would hurt even more.

2. White Paint

Notice the white paints fading away in the roads that is often ignored by cars and motorcycles? Well, it’s there for a reason. Automobiles just can’t cross them because you’re supposed to make way for pedestrians, and they’re also there to divide the road between the traffic – you’re not supposed to go against the opposite traffic.

Photo from here: https://bodats.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/inilah-dosa-bikers/

I would invest on a magic permanent white paint. It stays on the road, but whenever there’s a non-compliant user of the road, the paint sticks to their tires and it’s not washable. It’s only gone if an officer from the law enforcement agencies cleans it up, but after they have paid the official fines for breaking the traffic rules.

3. Vacuum Cleaner

I was on my way to the airport through the Cawang toll road, and I’ve noticed the thick smog hovering around the city skyline. So yes, I would invest on a¬†humongous¬†vacuum cleaner that is able to suck the air pollution out of Jakarta.


Of course, I’m halfheartedly joking on the choice of “inventions”, but I’m 100% serious about the issues Jakarta is facing at the moment.

Bad traffic and air pollution is among the two that I highlighted here, and unless there is a radical approach of cutting down the volume of private automobiles on the road, the 2014 gridlock prediction might actually come true.

7 thoughts on “3 Things that I Would Need in Jakarta”

  1. Great blog, I live in Bandung and we’ve got similar issues here. But hey- at least least youve got sidewalks- oh wait but its too panas to use them LOL.

  2. I did a second “tour of duty” in Jakarta during 2007-2009, and I too have noticed a dramatic increase in vehicular travel times and congestion in relation to even that recent period. Several Indonesian resident friends concur.

    Sidewalks? What sidewalks? In words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”.

  3. Mbak, let’s run a thought exercize. Let’s imagine for a second that overnight an alien race from another galaxy takes over Jakarta, and in the morning, the rule of law prevails over all of the sudut-sudut of the nation’s capital. All laws are applied, and applied equally. No more suap, amplop, uang jajan, etc. Get-out-of-jail cards are no longer for sale. How would the people respond? Would people quickly and peacefully take advantage of the new rules of the game? Or would they rebel and seek to overturn and undermine the new order?

    1. I think the argument here is whether institutions follow culture or the other way around. Let’s say the alien race provided the institutions, the working system etc., but if the people themselves are not ready for such changes, then it will be futile. So I would say both institutions and culture matter, but which one is the chicken before the egg, that I cannot say for sure.

  4. Not far from my village, there are a couple of SMP where the pupils come and go on motorcycles. As far as I know, underage teenagers are not eligble for SIM. Yet the policy escort usually on hand does nothing. In fact, they clear the traffic so that said remaja can go home on their motorcyles sans helmet.

    Another thing. Indonesia is the only country where driving with your lights on during the day can mean getting stopped by the police. While driving with your lights off at night goes unnoticed or unpunished.

  5. In a country where a large amount of people cannot afford to buy rice and clean water to drink, you’ll never have a completely working traffic system, or any system for that matter. Great countries are built on their foundations, Indonesia’s foundations are as shaky as they come.

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