Andre Vitchek: Jakarta is still a hellhole - Mercedes-Benz Forum

 
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Andre Vitchek: Jakarta is still a hellhole

You picked a real winner, Robert. Kudos! Much better than living on American soil and mitigating your tax burden through approved incentives.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/weekender/4point.asp
In Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, the British secret service demotes an agent by reassigning her to the dreaded posting of Jakarta. It is no surprise: For much of the last century, Jakarta was saddled with a reputation as a poverty-ridden hellhole. Andre Vltchek believes nothing has changed.

Today, high-rises dot the skyline, hundreds of thousands of vehicles belch fumes on congested arteries and super-malls have become cultural centers of gravity in this fourth largest city in the world. In between these colossal super-structures, humble kampongs house the majority of the city dwellers who often have no access to basic sanitation, running water or waste management.

While almost all major capitals in the region are investing heavily in public transportation, parks, playgrounds, sidewalks and cultural institutions like museums, concert halls and convention centers, Jakarta remains brutally and determinately “pro-market”: profit-driven and openly indifferent to the plight of a majority of its citizens who are poor.

Most Jakartans have never left Indonesia, so they cannot compare their capital with Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, with Hanoi or Bangkok. Comparative statistics and reports hardly make it into the local media. Despite the fact that the Indonesian capital is for many foreign visitors still a hell on earth, the media describes Jakarta as “modern”, “cosmopolitan”, a “sprawling metropolis”.

Newcomers are often puzzled by Jakarta’s lack of “public” amenities. Bangkok, not exactly known as a “user-friendly city”, still has several beautiful parks.

Cash-strapped Port Moresby boasts wide promenades, playgrounds, long stretches of beach and sea walks.

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur compete with each other in building wide sidewalks, green areas as well as cultural establishments. Manila, another city without a glowing reputation for its public amenities, succeeded in constructing an impressive sea promenade dotted with countless cafes and entertainment venues while preserving its World Heritage Site of Intramuros.

Hanoi repaved its wide sidewalks and turned a park around Huan-Kiem Lake into an open-air sculpture museum.

But in Jakarta, there is a fee for everything. Many green spaces have been converted to golf courses for the exclusive use of the rich. The approximately one square kilometer of Monas seems to be the only real public area in a city of more than 10 million. Despite being a maritime city, Jakarta has been separated from the sea, with the only focal point being Ancol, with a tiny, mostly decrepit walkway along the dirty beach dotted with private businesses.

Even to take a walk in Ancol, a family of four has to spend Rp 40,000 in entrance fees, something unthinkable anywhere else in the world. The few tiny public parks which survived privatization are in desperate condition and mostly unsafe to use.

There are no sidewalks in the entire city, if one applies international standards to the word “sidewalk”. Almost anywhere in the world (with the striking exception of some cities in the U.S. like Houston and Los Angeles) the cities themselves belong to pedestrians. Cars are increasingly discouraged from the centers. Wide sidewalks are understood to be the most ecological, healthy and efficient forms of short-distance “public transportation” in areas with high concentrations of people.

In Jakarta, there are hardly any benches for people to sit and relax, no free drinking water fountains or public toilets. It is these small but important “details” that are symbols of urban life anywhere else in the world.

...

Now back to Jakarta. Those who have ever visited the city’s “public libraries” or National Archives building will know the difference. No wonder: in Indonesia education, culture and arts are not considered to be “profitable” (with the exception of pop music), and are therefore made absolutely irrelevant. The country has the third lowest spending in the world on education (according to The Economist, only1.2 percent of its GDP) after Equatorial Guinea and Ecuador (there the situation is now rapidly improving with the new progressive government).

Museums in Jakarta are in appalling condition, offering absolutely no important international exhibitions. They look like they fell on the city from a different era and no wonder -- the Dutch built almost all of them. Not only are their collections poorly kept, but they lack elements of modernity: There are no elegant cafes, museum shops, bookstores and even public archives. It appears those running them are without vision and creativity; even if they did have inspired ideas, there would be no funding to carry them out.

It seems that Jakarta has no city planners, only private developers, with no respect for the majority of its inhabitants who are poor (the great majority, no matter what the understated and manipulated government statistics say). The city abandoned itself to the private sector, which now controls almost everything, from residential housing to what were once public areas.

While Singapore decades ago and Kuala Lumpur recently managed to fully eradicate poor, unsanitary and depressing kampongs from their urban areas, Jakarta is unable or unwilling to offer its citizens subsidized, affordable housing equipped with running water, electricity, a sewage system, wastewater treatment facilities, playgrounds, parks, sidewalks and a mass public transportation system.


Rich Singapore aside, Kuala Lumpur with only 2 million inhabitants counts on one metro line (Putra Line), one monorail, several efficient Star LRT lines, suburban train links and high-speed rail system connecting the city with its new capital Putrajaya. The “Rapid” system counts on hundreds of modern, clean and air-conditioned buses. Transit is subsidized; a bus ticket on “Rapid” costs only 2 RM (about Rp 5,000) for unlimited day use on the same line. Heavily discounted daily and monthly passes are also available.

Bangkok contracted German firm Siemens to build two long “Sky Train” lines and one metro line. It is also utilizing its river and channels as both public transportation and as a tourist attraction. Despite this enormous progress, the Bangkok city administration claims that it is building additional 80 kilometers of tracks for these systems in order to convince citizens to leave their cars at home and use public transportation.

Polluting pre-historic buses are being banned from Hanoi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and gradually from Bangkok. Jakarta, thanks to corruption and phlegmatic officials, is in its own league even in this field.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting, in its reports covering quality of life, places Jakarta repeatedly on the level of African and poor South Asian cities; below Nairobi and Medellin.

Considering that it is in the league of some of the poorest capitals of the world, Jakarta is not cheap. According to the Mercer Human Resource Consulting 2006 Survey, Jakarta ranked as the 48th most expensive city in the world for expatriate employees, well above Berlin (72nd), Melbourne (74th) and Washington D.C. (83rd). And if it is expensive for expatriates, how is it for local people with GDP per capita below US$1,000?


Curiously, Jakartans are silent. They have become inured to appalling air quality just as they have gotten used to the sight of children begging, even selling themselves at the major intersections, to entire communities living under elevated highways and in slums on the shores of canals turned into toxic waste dumps, the hours-long commutes, floods and rats.

But if there is to be any hope, the truth has to be eventually told, the sooner the better. Only correct and brutal diagnosis can lead to treatment and cure. Painful as the truth can be, it is always better than self-deceptions and lies.

Jakarta has fallen decades behind capitals in the neighboring countries: in esthetics, housing, urban planning, standard of living, quality of life, health, education, culture, transportation, food quality and hygiene. It has to swallow its pride and learn: from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, from Brisbane and even in some instances from its poor neighbors like Port Moresby, Manila and Hanoi.

Comparative statistics have to be transparent and widely available. Citizens have to learn how to ask questions again, and how to demand answers and accountability. Only if they understand to what depths their city has sunk can there be any hope of change.

“We have to watch out,” said a concerned Malaysian filmmaker during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Kuala Lumpur. “Malaysia suddenly has too many problems. If we are not careful, Kuala Lumpur could end up in 20 or 30 years like Jakarta!”

Could this statement be reversed? Can Jakarta find the strength and solidarity to mobilize and in time catch up with Kuala Lumpur? Can decency overcome greed? Can corruption be eradicated and replaced by creativity? Can private villas shrink in size and green spaces, public housing, playgrounds, libraries, schools and hospitals expand?

An outsider like me can observe, tell the story and ask questions. Only the people of Jakarta can offer the answers and solutions.
Looks like you really are one sick, sorry motherfucker, Robert. You picked the worst place possible to avoid American taxes. Great job!
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-21-2007, 10:02 AM Thread Starter
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Oooh...it keeps getting better!

Jakarta Expatriate Life
Life itself in Jakarta can be pretty varied for us. The initial culture shock and excitement has worn off now and we are fully "indoctrinated". I'm afraid I have to admit that Jakarta is truly a hellhole and I can't imagine a more frustrating place to live. We will probably stick it out for a couple of years, but certainly no longer. The expat community tends to bond together well and they don't mix much with the locals. There is almost a sense of "a tour of duty" syndrome - gut it out for 2 years, make some money and leave.

Jakarta simply has to be the most filthy, dirty unhygienic city in the world. People simply drop trash all over the place leaving food to rot, paper to disintegrate and plastic to stay forever. The only form of trash organization is paying someone to collect it and throw it onto a smoldering fire/trash pit. The scenery is potentially beautiful, but is desecrated by trash. Generally you hardly ever see the sun in Jakarta itself because of the pollution. The exception to this is when it rains - the rain clears the pollution from the atmosphere and when the rain stops, you can often actually see a blue sky! There is no real environmental authorities or policies of note and everyone seems to live to survive today, without thinking about tomorrow. Cars and buses spew out constant plumes of oily, black smoke and there is no such thing as lead free petrol locally (Although the state oil company, Pertamina, does export it!) Tap water is unfit for human consumption and can't even be used for teeth brushing or washing vegetables without enormous infection risks. All water has to be bought from a distilling company. You have to be very careful when you eat out as only certain restaurants prepare their food hygienically. The local vegetables have such a high lead content that the government recently issued a statement advising people to limit their vegetable consumption to try and limit lead poisoning.
Much more at the link - really amazingly telling stuff when contrasted with the picture ol Jackoff tries to paint.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-21-2007, 10:07 AM
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Qboy, you come on over and I will prepare you a chef's salad you will never forget.
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I do not see the problem, QBC. Seems like a perfectly idealized Neocon/Republican existence in Jak. Those that fail to achieve anything are lazy, losers with no ambition or suffer an irrepairable lack of intelligence. It is that simple and when it comes down to it there is no other explaination. If there was the masses would certianly demand more. They could easily demand more. They know how and expect it because, well because, well...

Last edited by Shane; 05-21-2007 at 10:10 AM.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-21-2007, 10:16 AM
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heh, heh......Me iz smiling ear-to-ear.......I wouldn't even fly over Jakarta, let alone visit!?! heh, heh....jerko, you n da missus can enjoy that insect salad.....along wid da pansies you planning for da airport trip! heh, heh.....
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-21-2007, 10:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Punjabi
heh, heh......Me iz smiling ear-to-ear.......I wouldn't even fly over Jakarta, let alone visit!?! heh, heh....jerko, you n da missus can enjoy that insect salad.....along wid da pansies you planning for da airport trip! heh, heh.....
Yeah I kinda figured Flip Flop, in my travels have met very few truthful and honest wobblies
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