Notes from the world’s most densely populated island

Going home last night was a bit nerve racking to say the least. I’ve never known it to be so windy in Jakarta. Like being at Dartmoor or something. The trees were swagging like drunken sailors, but what seemed really dangerous were all the bamboo poles placed along some road sections – often the busy thoroughfares - by the various political parties here. Some of them had worked loose in the wind and were sticking out at all angles. Extremely dangerous of course – as some unfortunate PDIP dude found out a few years back when he was impaled by a bamboo stick while riding his motorcycle during one of those political rallies. Jakarta’s perverse take on a medieval joust. Not a pretty sight I can tell you.

And then coming to the
Pancoran intersection – huge holes in the road. Like bloody craters. But why? It isn’t because of a lack of money – the Jakarta administration never comes close to spending its budget. And it’s hardly rocket science to make decent roads is it? So what the heck is going on?

Indonesians often tell me it’s just a case of plain laziness on the part of the workers. But I’m not so sure. Because when you think about it, many Indonesians actually work their bollocks off just to survive. Like the Michael Schumacher wannabes in their metromini buses who put in 12 hour days; the construction workers who cheat death every time they work on high rise buildings; and, of course, the farmers who do their back-breaking work all day long without the help of any modern machinery.

And even the factory workers put in ridiculously long hours. Sure they may not be productive but whose fault is that? I was at a huge factory just out of Jakarta a few week’s back and I was horrified by what I saw. Workers everywhere – but most of them didn’t seem to be doing anything at all. No wonder Indonesian workers have the reputation as being among the region’s least productive.

But is it really their fault? It really amazes me that factory owners complain about how lazy the Indonesian workers are, yet, at the same time, don’t actually provide them with any incentives to work harder. Pay them nothing so they do nothing seems to be the business mantra here. A guy I know in the furniture business who was having this problem soon got the workers working harder though. He simply slashed their basic wage and then agreed to pay them more for each piece of furniture they produced. Very simple, but very effective – although he did have to get his QC organized properly or you can imagine what sort of stuff they would have come up with!

But as for the craters in Jakarta’s roads I simply haven’t got a clue!

Watch where you go!


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