22 October 2007

The Holiday is Over - Traffic as Normal

The Idul Fitri Holiday and the extended or perhaps enforced annual leave for many finished on Sunday. Many Jakartans and undoubtedly many newcomers have been streaming into the city and its surrounds since Saturday and will continue to do so through the next week or so. The population of Jakarta will return to normal plus a few extras and so will the myriad of problems that confront Jakartans on a daily basis. These problems will also continue to haunt Jakarta's elected officials but unfortunately if history is any guideline then these leaders and officials are unlikely to make any significant inroads either.

The reality, and perhaps this is a cold hard reality, is that many of these problems are not only infrastructure or services related but cultural in mindset. The ongoing pollution of the environment is a classic example, although not scientific or empirical in measurement, on any given day as one walks along any of Jakarta's thoroughfares it is a regular sight to see people tossing their garbage on the ground. It is sometimes funny in that distinctly sad kind of a way when the person is standing next to an empty garbage bin.

The idea of a green environment and keeping the environment clean requires a cultural mindset shift among the population that it is no OK to pollute the environment, it is not OK to irrevocably damage your children's and their children's future because of your laziness or apathy. Yet, if this mindset is not possible without governmental encouragement, then simple the government must undertake to regulate fines and commit to imposing and then collecting those fines. The mindset will quickly change if you are suddenly whacked with an on-the-spot fine of IDR 500,000. Perhaps even a 3-strike rule where on your third offence within a 6-month period you are arrested and then summarily sentenced to 100 hours of community service, preferably picking up rubbish or cleaning out some of the nasty canals that criss-cross the city.

Yet, this entry was not really about the myriad problems facing Jakarta but merely to note that it is situation normal in Jakarta - traffic jams stretching in almost every direction sometimes further than the eye can see. The new Governor and his Deputy campaigned on a platform that was decidedly light on policy specifics, but now is clearly the time to get some policy specifics in place and confront what is an ever-worsening traffic congestion problem. It is simply the case that even once all of the new bus way corridors are open that those who can will continue to drive their cars to work.

This means that to overcome this desire the government of Jakarta has to commit to action and not to more rhetoric about what it is pretending to do or planning to do. This means doing whatever it takes to complete long-overdue projects like the monorail and to actively find financing for feasibility studies for an extensive subway system. The cold hard reality for the government here is that residents are not inspired to leave their cars at home when the trip to work is likely to involve long periods in hot, sweaty, smelly, and poorly maintained buses. This is exacerbated even further when the available quality public transport does not pass anywhere near where potential commuters live.

The alternative is that once quality public transport infrastructure is in place then those that wish to continue bringing their private vehicles into the confines of the city should do so at their own expense. For example all three in one zones should also include a levy which can be paid in advance and deducted automatically when the vehicle enters the relevant zone. This cannot be IDR 1,000 but something that encourages other modes of transport, so a levy of IDR 50,000 for each time the vehicle enters the zone. Conceivably this might add an extra IDR 3 or 4 million to your monthly expenses. Yet, any of these ideas rely heavily on enforcement and to a greater degree enforcement, or more specifically the lack of enforcement, has always been one of the biggest problems facing any administration.

But in some respects it is nice to return to all things normal even where they are more often frustrating than anything else.


irma devita said...

Very interesting and sharp review about Indonesia. Best Regards,

The Advocate said...

Thanks...I appreciate the feedback! Rob