And Jakarta voted…

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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.

Image 2.0

How Twitter have made the worst, the best, and the false version of you.

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The car collision incident on Sunday (22/01) in Gambir, Central Jakarta was tragic. The driver, a 29-year old woman under the influence of drugs and alcohol, lost control of the car while speeding and subsequently killed nine pedestrians and critically injuring three others.

What happened afterwards, was even more worrisome. Curious minds and itchy fingers have made it possible to find the driver’s Twitter handle. Soon after, images of the driver allegedly doing drugs at a party the night before the crash was posted online. It was continuously retweeted and severe name calling, mockeries, and public hatred was targeted to her countless times.

I believe no crime should go unpunished, but what I have witnessed on my timeline was trial by Twitter, herd mentality at its finest.

It was a concerted effort to condemn drunk-driving, but the aggressive means was bullying in nature. Perhaps it was because alcohol and drug abuse a morally wrong behavior in supposedly religious Indonesia, though I did not see the same animosity towards corruption. Perhaps the persecutory movement was provoked by the lack of trust in Indonesia’s criminal justice system and the lack of protection for its citizens. Or perhaps, it was just society’s favorite pastime – witch-hunting – only that it does not involve pitchforks and torches this time around, but smartphones.

It is apparent that society hasn’t evolved much, and in a particularly reactive society, Twitter have made it possible to amplify any stereotypes you have in your head. It is easy to judge a person, a company, or a product, and Twitter just made it much easier.

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PR practitioners and political strategists are ultimately aware and make the best out of the Indonesian Twitter scene.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have been criticized of too much image politics, but the blame shouldn’t entirely be put upon him. There’s a demand for image created by the public, and it becomes the matter of supplying the right commodity.

For instance, Mr. Gita Wirjawan, the Indonesian Trade Minister, was scrutinized over his ministry’s minimum TOEFL score policy, something that I see as a miniscule of importance compared to his rattan export-ban policy. The former policy was spun in the hopes of making him look like an elitist, while the latter has the tendency to be pro-domestic industry.

Another case would be Mr. Dahlan Iskan, the Indonesian State-Owned Enterprises Minister, supported by some as a presidential candidate for 2014, because he was humble enough to take a commuter train for a meeting despite any breakthrough policies in his ministry. It is sadly image above performance and this is the reality of civic awareness in Indonesia.

The presidential race is still two years ahead, but hopeful candidates have prepared themselves on precisely this image building process. Official, unofficial, and even anonymous Twitter accounts both supporting and countering the hopeful candidates have been set-up, in the hopes of gaining and swinging the votes of mostly urban and middle class Indonesians.

Granted, the bulk of many PR activities still need to be done outside social media, because many Indonesians don’t have access to electricity, let alone the internet. However, the middle class is still an important battle ground for votes and what better way to infiltrate the contest for best image through social media.

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On a personal level, I have been using Twitter as an interest-network tool. I follow people or accounts who I have similar interests with, whether it is about the environment, politics, current affairs, or comedy. I also follow my friends in real life whom I have real relationships with and interact with them online. Whether I am followed-back in return, it is not my main purpose although there’s no denying that the number of followers you have does create that false sense of achievement in your ego.

Recently I have done tweetups, or meeting in person the people you meet on Twitter. To be honest, at first it was indeed awkward because you feel you know them because of their tweets, but in fact, you don’t. As you engage in the conversation, you find out who the person behind the screen is, beyond of what is written in their timeline.

I would imagine that the process would be difficult for some if they’re projecting an image of who they are not. Are you as funny, smart, idealistic, cynical or delightful, as you would like them to think? Or was it an unintended consequence because people are easy to judge in the first place?

I’ve asked a high school best friend of mine of what she thinks about my online persona. Have I unconsciously projected an image of who I am not on Twitter, knowing that she knows me for who I am in person?

Her answer, much to my surprise, was that I might be more intimidating online than I am in real life. She then continued with a question, asking why I tweet what I tweet. My response was that I share what I find interesting online and since I am opinionated I tweet about it as well (although thankfully blogging has become a more satisfying outlet). In the process, however, I did not share “me”.

I did not share much about my hopes and dreams, my fears and insecurities, because I want to keep that in the realm of my privacy. I consciously intend to not give people whom I do not trust (online especially) the complete picture of me, fearing that it might hurt me in the future. Twitter, however, has conflated my private and public spheres and managing it is a tricky balance.

I could just keep my account protected, or stay out of it and deactivate my account, but it has so far given me more benefits than costs. What I’m struggling at the moment, is figuring out whether people’s false expectations of you based on what you tweet is more of a cost or benefit, because it can easily be swayed into both directions.

Perhaps Twitter is just another fad and people would soon grow out of it. No matter the form, however, this process of building the image of you would still be there.

Gridlock is already here

The 2014 traffic gridlock prediction in Jakarta? Here’s some obvious news: it may already happened.

Two of my research focus at the moment is on acceleration & due process of land acquisition in Indonesia, with the case study of the Jakarta MRT Project as well as on the Jabodetabek Transport Authority. So yes, I’ve been browsing through a lot of data and information on urban planning, urban transport, etc.

One document that I stumbled upon was a presentation for DPR made in 2007 from the Jakarta Government regarding transportation in Jakarta. Granted, the data is from 2007 and a lot of things may (or may not) develop. But based on that document alone, it is said that if the growth of private vehicle increases by 9.5%/year while the road space in Jakarta only increases by 0.01%/year, the traffic gridlock prediction will not happen in 2014, but in 2011.

Here’s some obvious reasons: there’s no limit on ownership of private vehicles, in addition to the fuel subsidy, which makes private transportation more desirable than public transportation (which lacked investment in the first place). As a result, from 2002-2008, the increase of car ownership doubles, while ownership of private motorcycle have increased by 4.6 times.

Source: Polda Metro Jaya

Since it’s already 2012, maybe the gridlock already happened, but we were just too oblivious to realize that it did.

“Terus-Men” – Parking in Jakarta

Parking Attendants in Jakarta. Photo: VIVAnews/Maryadie

There was this one time when my former boss entertained some foreign guests at a restaurant in Jakarta. As the company car that we rode was going to leave the venue, one guest made a small comment, “Who are these terus-men, where do they come from?” Puzzled, we asked what he meant by terus-men. “You know, these people who go behind the back of your car out of nowhere and say, terus, terus, terus and ask you for parking money”.

The word terus in Bahasa Indonesia literally means continue. Those of us who are fortunate to own a car will know what this means every time we want to park, as some people (mostly men), officially or unofficially, will guide you in your parking routines saying “continue, continue”, “left, right”, and “stop” to indicate whether you have parked correctly.

If you’re parking on the streets, you will then immediately pay these parking attendants Rp.1000-2000 (US$ 0.10-0.20), or sometimes Rp.5000 in some places, regardless of how many hours that you’ve parked.

Even if you are parking off the streets, these parking attendants will still come and even if they do not ask for money, it is often common to still give them Rp.1000-2000, additional to your hourly parking fee. Thus, in some off-street parking places, whether it is malls or office buildings, you will see signs saying “no tips please” – which encourages car owners to not give tips to these parking attendants (or sometimes doubling their job as security guards) patrolling the area.

Though their tasks may seem trivial, these parking attendants actually depicts the bigger picture of the interaction between urban land use planning and transportation in the city.

Jakarta is increasingly becoming auto-centric, with private transportation (cars and motorcycles) being the preferred mode compared to Jakarta’s decaying public transportation. With the rise of private transportation, the demand for parking follows. At least this is the conventional way of seeing parking supply policy, because we see it as a scarcity issue.

In Indonesia, minimum parking requirements are regulated under Ministry of Public Works Regulation No. 29/PRT/M/2006 which regulates the technical requirements for buildings. Based on this regulation, buildings are compulsory to provide parking spaces proportionate to the floor area of the building, though they did not specify exactly what proportional means.

Regulations on parking is scattered in various laws in Indonesia. One can find parking regulations in the Traffic Law No. 22/2009, to even details on how to park your car on the street, whether it’s parallel, 30°, 60°, 90° complete with graphs (no kidding) in Ministry of Transportation Decree No. KM 4/1994.

In Jakarta, management for off-street parking can be delegated to the private sector, but the parking authority remains with the Jakarta government, managed by the Jakarta Parking Technical Implementation Unit (UPT Perparkiran DKI Jakarta). The parking tariff and the proceeds are determined by the local government, which goes to the local government revenue. Official on-street parking attendants wear uniforms and are supposed to hand out parking retribution slips, because the fee doesn’t go to them, but to the government. Whether they actually hand in those fees, well, we won’t know exactly.

The unofficial parking attendants are even more questionable. We don’t exactly know whether they work for the building/parking operators, or were they just idle men in the area and posing as parking attendants. It’s not exactly hard to say terus, terus, terus and people give you money in return. It is not uncommon for me to hear stories that people bicker over which “territory” they control over parking – even though the area might not be available for parking according to the land use regulations.

It is important for the Jakarta government to think about parking seriously. Even if there are minimum parking requirements, most are not implemented correctly, as I often see overcrowded on-street parking as a result which causes bottlenecks and traffic congestion. Often, buildings don’t have adequate parking because initially they were intended as private houses but are converted into restaurants and other commercial spaces – violating zoning regulations – which are common in Jakarta.

Parking spaces have costs and I would see that Rp.2000 per parking is underpriced, which does not discourage people from driving their cars or riding their own motorcycles and encourage people to use public transportation. I believe the main purpose for parking tariff is not for collecting revenue, but to manage supply and demand for private transportation. True, Jakarta’s public transportation is almost beyond help at this moment, but parking needs to be examined carefully as well as a tool to manage Jakarta’s urban planning and transportation.

Maybe if parking is better regulated and implemented, we won’t see these terus-men anymore. Perhaps parking in Jakarta would be automated, with machines replacing human labor. Or maybe because the thought of improvement in parking efficiency scares the people who are benefiting from the status quo, these changes are going to be very hard to make.

Jakarta, Global City of the Future?

McKinsey Global Institute launched an interactive map showing the 600 cities projected to be the global cities of the future, which will account for 60 percent of the global GDP growth in 2025. Out of these 600, 9 Indonesian cities are featured, namely: Jakarta, Medan, Samarinda, Tangerang, Bandung, Balikpapan, Pekanbaru, Kediri and Surabaya.

Not surprisingly, no cities in the eastern part of Indonesia is on the map (if you don’t count Samarinda and Balikpapan). Thus, despite the positive outlook of economic growth in Indonesia, redevelopment outside the western parts of Indonesia is seen to be minimal.

The projection for Jakarta alone in 2025, the city’s population will increase to 12 million people, with the GDP of the city amounting to $236 billion. We should observe that this measure is not taking into account the Jakarta-Bogor-Depok-Tangerang-Bekasi (Jabodetabek) metropolitan area.

Not sure whether we should celebrate the optimism for Jakarta if access to water in the city is still problematic, traffic congestion is showing signs of gridlock and housing prices in the city area are becoming more unaffordable (hence the growth of housing in satellite cities outside the city center – contributing to the congestion problem).

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.

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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.

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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.

Jakarta: It’s Complicated

If I were to describe my relationship with Jakarta, it would be: “it’s complicated”.

If I were to describe my relationship with Jakarta, it would be: “it’s complicated”.

You see, I have a love and hate relationship with Jakarta, a place where I have lived for almost all of my life, give or take several years that I spent living in Singapore, once during my childhood and my time now during my graduate studies.

Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, technically I don’t live in Jakarta but spend most of my time and daily activities there. I live just a bit south of Jakarta where you cross a bridge and administratively belong to the South Tangerang bureaucracy under the Banten Province. Others may live in Depok, Cibubur, Bekasi, and even Bogor, but still make their living in Jakarta.

Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, my daily routine starts by waking up early in the morning, bracing myself for the traffic congestion that I knowingly will endure when I go to my office. On a good day, it will take me 45 minutes; 1 hour for a realistic estimate and 2 hours for a worst-case scenario. However, you factor the time when you commute back to your house, on average you will spend 1,5-4 hours on the road in Jakarta, per day.

Unlike some select Jakarta inhabitants, I cannot afford housing near the city center, or a helicopter to transport me from one place to another.

Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I socialize in malls. What used to be public parks and green spaces are now flashy concrete buildings filled with air conditioning, where we are pointlessly checked by security guards before we enter the premises.

Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I feel that it’s very inconvenient to walk around the city. My pedestrian path are either used by food sellers or taken over by motorcyclists. My friends in Singapore are very lucky to have covered walkways to protect them from the rain and the sun, taking them from their bus stop to the MRT stations. In Jakarta, the walkways are in a pitiful condition and in some places, non-existent.

Unlike some unfortunate Jakarta inhabitants, I’m lucky that I at least have enough money to spend in malls and afford a car. I could be one of them who are alienated by fancy shopping centers and have to put my four-member family in one motorcycle, often without helmets.

Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I experience electricity blackouts and water shortages every once in a while.

Unlike some unfortunate Jakarta inhabitants, at least I don’t have to steal electricity from the nearby grid or pump ground water, which are often polluted, for my daily hydrological needs.

Like many other Jakarta inhabitants, I was puzzled by this year’s city anniversary slogan, “Jakarta kian tertata kian dicinta” (the more Jakarta is planned, the more it is loved).

I’m sure Jakarta is not planned, but loved?

Perhaps I love the car-free day on Sundays. Perhaps I love the vibrant life Jakarta gives on the streets. Perhaps I love the variety of food and culinary delights that it offers me. Perhaps I love the history and culture that is rich within the city but are often forgotten. But perhaps I love Jakarta because I have my family and friends there – whereby the company of other Jakarta inhabitants makes it bearable to live in that city.

I have once thought that it would be nice to bring my loved ones to inhabit Singapore, but that would be very selfish of me and very unpleasant for the Singaporeans themselves to have additional population in this tiny city state.

If only Singapore’s urban planning – or at least parts of it – could be implemented in Jakarta, then my love for Jakarta would be sincere. If that happens, my relationship with Jakarta would have not been as complicated like what I’m feeling now.

Happy Birthday, Jakarta.

Love,

Your complicated inhabitant.