You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.
>Thomas Sowell (American Writer and Economist, b.1930)
Few people have anything good to say about Indonesian bureaucracy.
There is no tradition of public service and the general view is that the civil servants in Indonesia are there simply to line their own pockets rather than – God forbid – actually provide any services to the public.
This paragraph, from the Living in Indonesia website, pretty much sums it up:
To request a service from a government employee is to beg a boon, and is expected to be accompanied by a discreet gift; an envelope of cash is standard. Failure to offer one is normally perceived as a personal insult and seen as highly disrespectful...it will almost certainly see your request sent to the bottom of the pile or lost altogether.
But is Indonesian bureaucracy really that bad?
Well, perhaps not.
I say this because in my case I’ve just come back from my hols and realized that my British passport needs to be renewed pretty soon.
So I go online to download the application form, but then to my complete amazement I read this:
Passports services for British nationals in South East Asian countries are issued at the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong. This is part of a global initiative to rationalise passport services and reduce administration costs while ensuring that the quality of service remains high.WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yep, you read it right. If you are a Brit living in any South East Asian country you now have to apply to Hong Kong to get a new passport!
Under the new centralized system you should expect to wait FOUR WEEKS to get your new passport, so I fail to understand how the new service “ensures a high quality of service.
Pity the unfortunate bugger who loses his passport in Bali on holiday - he's gonna be in for a hell of a time.
Besides the long waiting time, the new system is also a lot more complicated logistically of course as the paperwork has to be sent by courier to Hong Kong and payment needs to be made by either credit card or International Banker’s Draft if you apply directly yourself (*). What a pain in the arse.
And the cost? A cool £154.50 for a 48 page passport plus HK$185 in courier fees!
And what do I read in Kompas today?
Well, that the Indonesians have made big efforts to improve their passport service too: just Rp270,000 for a passport (US$30!!!) and ready in just FOUR DAYS.
Now that’s what I call service.
And no, if you live in Manado you don’t have to apply for your passport in Jakarta either!
(*) after speaking to the friendly lady at the British Consulate in Jakarta it seems they will help send your application to Hong Kong for you and also accept the payment in rupiah. Very helpful, if like me, you don’t have a credit card (why not? Read this)
Update (26 July 2010): Getting into the British Consulate is about as easy as getting into Fort Knox. There are four security checks – two done by the building management and two conducted by the Consulate itself. At the Consulate security check, the security guard asks me if I have anything in my pockets, and upon seeing me take out a potential weapon of mass destruction (a bunch of keys), asks me to put them on the desk and put my hands up, before frisking me.
Once you actually get inside the Consulate, you find yourself in a tiny waiting room with BBC World being shown on the TV and a picture of “Her Majesty” on the wall. Notices reassure you that the British Consulate provides its services in a “courteous” manner but also warn that anyone who shouts or screams will be ejected. It’s all so very civilized. Wonderful. I also notice that there’s even a collection box by the counter for “destitute Brits” back in Old Blighty. Charity starts at home, eh?
The lady behind the counter is Indonesian and wearing a hijab. She is polite and efficient but rather “distant” and only offers the slightest of wry smiles when I say that the British passport must be made of gold leaf as it’s costing me a cool Rp2.7 million for a 48 pager. Anyway I pay the money, exchange the usual British pleasantries, and am on my way...