The State of Jakarta and the Upcoming Election

Yesterday i was due to visit Jakarta for a short-procurement trip to purchase two unit of machineries. Although the journey was by all measure, long and arduous, and the trip rendered a failure because the seller had wholly lied regarding the state of his machines, i learnt quite a lot about Jakarta in that one day trip.

When i arrived in Jakarta at the airport yesterday, and started taking the bus to Cikarang, i didnt know that the journey would take 2 hours and 30 minutes. For a distance of about 72 km that is really quite a long time. Traffic is obviously a major factor when travelling anywhere in Jakarta. At least this bus is good, on-time, and had no manner of nuisance on board.

The trip back however, was another story altogether. We took a bus back to the city, by the recommendation of the locals, and man was the bus experience interesting. It had no aircon, and had all kinds of people coming on board on the roughly 50 km journey. I counted no less than 5 full “live music” performances, and various vendors riding on board to sell whatever stuff they can for small sums of money. Almost all of them mentioned in one way or another about, “mengais rezeki” or literally translated “scrapping by” just to live in the harsh capital.

I also happened to come in the middle of the governor election season, where five governor candidates and their team have posted banners in just about every place imaginable. One banner promising a fast, and affordable election, the other promising to clean up Jakarta of filth and poverty and so on.

Looking from the window of that bus, blending in with the crowd from the lower socioeconomic status, and putting myself from their perspective, I can finally understand what the fuss is about with people complaining of the government people spending lavishly on their seats, purchasing Camrys, not to mention the rampant bribes and corruption that they are doing.

If i were at their situation, i too would probably gather masses and throw rocks at the government door.

Poverty aside, of which Jakarta has plenty to see, this city has many complex and deep problems to solve. If any governor candidate thinks that they can solve Jakarta problem in 5 years, they are either overtly ambitious, or they are purely lying. 

On the reflection of an outsider such as myself, Jakarta’s problem, such as overcrowding, poverty, pollution, filth, inequality are unlikely to be solved by just focusing the effort in the capital alone. There is a reason why people from all over the country flock to Jakarta. Most companies have their headquarters here, the country main port is here and the government is also here.

If companies and government keep focusing their efforts in the capital, the problems of Jakarta will never be solved. They need to create opportunities and develop other cities as well and to spread out that uncontrollable growth over the rest of the country.

Jakarta now is literally at its breaking point. Its infrastructure are clearly crumbling in the face of massive urbanization. Finding evidence that many of the people who comes to Jakarta are immigrants is relatively easy. If you happen to visit the capital during the Muslim New Year, you will find that the roads are relatively empty.

I suppose there is not much i can expect from writing a post in an obscure blog about it, but I wish there are still some smart people in the government who would be wise enough to spread out the growth.

Jakarta at the moment is just about unliveable, no matter how many gleaming apartments they build.

The post on this blog is an opinion of the writer alone and in no way seeks to incite any governor candidate.

– Aries



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