The Mudik Phenomenon


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…


Intermezzo – Blog Info

I have been very busy preparing for my thesis (or Policy Analysis Exercise) of which I will be presenting tomorrow (17/02), thus the lack of updates in the blog. Rest assured I will be blogging again after tomorrow’s ordeal is finished.

If anyone is interested, the title of my PAE is “Acceleration of Land Acquisition in Indonesia: Case Study of the Jakarta MRT Project”. In this PAE, I will be identifying bottlenecks in the implementation of land acquisition processes in Indonesia (which are known to cause delays in development of infrastructure projects) and then identify the actions or policies needed to accelerate the process (or “debottlenecking”).

The final product should be submitted around April, so if anyone is interested in discussing the topic with me, I would be delighted to do so.

Indonesia’s Low Infrastructure Spending

For a country that is constantly being discussed as the next global economic power, Indonesia surely spends little on infrastructure.

From the Jakarta Post:

In 2005, the government spent Rp 32.9 trillion on infrastructure development. This represented only 1.2 percent of the total gross domestic product that year. Six years later, the government spent Rp 141 trillion on infrastructure while the gross domestic product stood at Rp 6,840.4 trillion. This means that the ratio of infrastructure development in comparison to gross domestic product stood only at 2.1 percent in 2011

I met Akash Deep from HKS during a discussion in Jakarta, and his comments was that Indonesia spends too little on government spending. “Being conservative in consumption is good, but conservative on investment is not good,” he said. At 2.1 percent from GDP, below the ideal level of 5 percent, one wonders why the allocation was so little in the first place.

Well, an obvious answer was that the level of realization of the allocated budget is slow. How can you allocate more if you’re unable to spend what has been allocated in the first place? Data from LIPI (quoted from the linked article), as of September 2011 the budget utilization stood at only 30 percent.

Then you need to figure out why the disbursement of funding so slow…bureaucratic inefficiencies, regulatory holdups, corruption perhaps (or most likely).

If the government is not willing to spend on infrastructure, their strategy is to depend on the private sector through PPP. Thing is, even if Indonesia’s rating got another boost from Moody’s lately, if the weaknesses in Indonesia’s infrastructure investment environment is not fixed, the PPP strategy is unlikely to produce results in the speed that is needed.

Kutai Kartanegara Bridge Fell Down, My Fair Lady

The Mahakam II bridge, also known as the Kutai Kartanegara bridge, connecting Tenggarong and Tenggarong Seberang districs in Kutai Kartanegara collapsed on Saturday (26/11/2011).

This is the picture of the bridge, before and after.

The bridge was constructed from 1995 to 2001 by State-Owned Corporation PT Hutama Karya. In the course of 10 years (an awfully short time for a bridge’s lifetime), I am sure that somehow, someone would saw the coming of the collapse of Indonesia’s longest suspension bridge (710 meter long, 9 meter wide, with 270 meter in height).

In February 2010, Kaltim Post reported that there is a shift in the bridge, but predicted that a collapse is unlikely. The Kutai Kartanegara Bupati, Rita Widyasari, have instructed the head of the Kutai Kartanegara Public Works agency to follow up with the report. Each year, the Kutai Kartanegara Public Works agency proposes a budget for the maintenance of the bridge.

After the collapse, which caused the death of at least three people and dozens injured, indications of corruption quickly emerged.

The regency is infamous with corruption cases, whereby the former Kutai Kartanegara Bupati Syaukani Hasan Rais, was convicted of four corruption cases involving Rp. 92.3 billion ($10.1 million) and was sentenced to six years in prison in mid-2009. As Jakarta Globe reported, the acting head of the regency, Samsuri Aspar, was also jailed for four years for corruption involving money earmarked for the poor – involving Rp. 24.7 billion and every single member of the local legislature and all of the subdistrict heads.

The incumbent Bupati, Rita Widyasari, is apparently Syaukani’s daughter. She won the local Bupati election garnering 55% of the votes with the support of Golkar in 2010.¬†Coincidentally, earlier that year Syaukani was released from jail because of “amnesia therapy”.

With a long list of possible suspects, it will take the utmost effort to investigate how the bridge collapsed.

Whether it started from construction or maintenance, infrastructure investment in Indonesia is a long and complicated story. Corruption will only make it worse, and indeed, it not only hampers development but it has also taken the lives of innocent people.