Jakarta Inside Out
We are approaching Idul Fitri, the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan, a time of reflection and goodwill to all men and, come to think of it, women.
Those of us with employees and servants pay a thirteenth month's salary and generally allow those who serve us to follow the new tradition of mudik
. This means that migrants to Jakarta return to their hometowns in order to spend time with their families, to shower relatives with gifts to demonstrate how great life is in the Big Durian, to apologise for any wrongs committed since the previous Idul Fitri and to apologise for any wrongs which may eventuate before the next time.
Reports suggest that there may be fewer returning home this year due to the recent 121% rise in fuel costs, but we can still expect to be able to have a midday nap in the middle of Jalan Thamrin which runs through the business district.
I'm all for a quiet life and, in spite of temperatures in the high 30's here, I'm always reminded of Xmas 'back home'. You, know, loads of festive jollity and over-eating. .
Of course, for those who can't afford to return home, life will be a little depressing, especially for those desperate for the Rp.100,000 monthly handout granted by the SBY government to offset the increase in daily expenditure yet grudgingly given by petty, nay, greedy, bureaucrats.
In Jakartass Towers, our community servants are given bonuses; cash handouts are given to the postman, the electricity meter reader and the paper boy, all of whom have served us faithfully for a number of years. The street organises an official whip round for the night security guards and the guy who collects our rubbish and takes it to the local dump.
'Er Indoors prepares loads of food in the expectation of visits from members of her tribe who, like us, stay in town. I think they all come for her beef rendang
which I, as a confirmed vegetarian, guiltily partake of.
Yep, sharing does leave a nice warm glow. I'm sure I'm not alone in enjoying the seasonal altruism.
For example, I know, courtesy of Roy Tupai
, that the Suharto clan have already started to dispense largesse. This week two of Suharto?s grandchildren, Gendis Siti Hatmanti (23) and Bambang Panji Adhikumoro (15), distributed 2,000 packages of sembako (basic commodities), worth an estimated Rp.200 million ($19,900), to the needy in Central Jakarta.
They denied the charity was politically motivated. "We are not competing with anyone. Our family always distributes sembako (basic foods such as rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil) every year. But this is the first time that we [grandchildren] ourselves have distributed it,? Gendis said onTuesday.
Politically motivated? Of course not, though the return of the estimated $15 to $35 billion in state funds that were embezzled during Suharto's 32 years of repressive rule would surely be construed as such.
Others who can be expected to help the needy as much as they've helped themselves are Jakarta's hard-working city councilors who will celebrate the pensive holy month of Ramadhan and the painful Oct. 1 fuel price hike with a very special holiday gift. Governor Sutiyoso has just doubled their monthly salary to a whopping Rp 50 million (US$5,000). In case that isn't enough to fill their luxury cars with premium fuel, they will also receive a Rp 1.5 million (about US$150) bonus for every "public meeting" attended and "city visit" conducted.
One councilor, quoted anonymously in the local press, said he and his colleagues could each conduct up to 50 such activities per month - meaning Rp 75 million per month in incentives alone. Add this to their Rp 15 million monthly housing allowance, plus other bonuses for positions held on council committees, and it emerges that on average Jakarta's "public servants" each take home around Rp 150 million (about $15,000) per month.
(You'll need to register to read this fine article, one I wish I'd written myself. Praise to Daniel Ziv, author of Jakarta Inside Out and founding editor of Djakarta! - The City Life Magazine.)