Saturday, March 15, 2008
  My Weekly Rant

Actually, I can't really be bothered to rant. So much of life is ho-hum, been there - seen that, that it hardly seems worth pointing out the lack of get up and go in this country.

Going Potty

It's easy to complain about the lack of toilet paper at Soekarno-Hatta airport but this pales into insignificance when today's Jakarta Post carries the following headlines:
1. Goals set for sanitation could take RI 200 years
2. Lead by example, SBY tells summit*

That the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum (WEF), cited Indonesia's poor health and hygiene conditions and inadequate infrastructure as key disadvantages in attracting foreign visitors does not bode well for Visit Indonesia Year. The country has lost ground in the past year. Last year the WEF, in its Travel and Competitiveness Index, ranked Indonesia 60th among 124 countries studied. This year Indonesia is ranked 80th among 130 countries.

But apparently it's all our fault. Or rather, it's got very little to do with the bosses.

The Indonesia Consumers Organisation (YKLI) has released a report (not online?) showing that of eight airports surveyed, the Soekarno-Hatta airport received the most complaints. The head of the airport, Haryanto, acknowledged that operator Angkasa Pura II had received complaints about toilet facilities.

"Since we began operating the toilets in 1985, we have never renovated them due to the lack of budget."
He's kidding - right?

"But this year we will renovate about 100 toilets and improve their maintenance and cleaning. We will also build some toilets in the parking area. We promise."
What, scout's honour and all that?

However.... he added that the operator would also try to raise awareness among airport users.

"Many toilet users do not know how to use the toilets correctly we need to educate them."

Yep, those footmarks on the toilet seat really are yours.

Thinking of toilet paper, there is a university in Jakarta which has stopped supplying it because students use too much. This is the same cheapskate university which promises its students expatriate lecturers, but uses Indonesians with foreign qualifications. This is not to belittle those lecturers but to point out the false promises which are used to justify high fees from the parents of the students. This education institute also fails to fulfil manpower regulations and is facing legal judgments - note the pluralisation - against it.

But, as I said, today I can't be bothered to rant about UPI-Curtin. Besides, Curtin University is pulling out of its commitment, presumably to protect its good name. This is a factor that MacQuarie University would do well to consider if, as it is rumoured, they are being asked to replace Curtin. .

Power to the people

I haven't blogged much recently, but this has nothing to do with a vow of silence, which will probably disappoint my many fans and admirers. Apart from the perpetual and time-consuming grubbing around for work, an encyclical matter, we've suffered from power cuts and, assuming we've got electricity, an internet connection which is slower than snail mail.

Last Wednesday I got back to Jakartass Towers around 5pm, to be told that the electricity had been off since midday. It stayed off until 8 and was caused by ... "a fire" ... "a flood" ... and two "don't knows". We ate takeaways and I moaned at the domestic staff for not filling the bak mandis after, or while, taking a bath. I was stinking mad. What's more, I missed American Idol.

Our power cut was not a rotational one apparently, but a problem with the infrastructure. It is well-known that Indonesia does not generate enough electricity wattage to suit everyone's wastage, so various initiatives are dreamt up.

One I'd love to tell you more about is the proposal by state electricity company PLN to implement a new "incentive-disincentive" program starting on April 1st.

Apparently customers whose use exceeds national benchmarks will have to pay 60 percent more for every extra kilowatt they use. But those who consume less will get a 20 percent discount. The benchmarks are calculated on the basis of average 2007 consumption shaved down by 20 percent.

Any effort to reduce power consumption is to be applauded, but a carrot and stick policy can only be effective if consumers know what the rewards and punishments will be.

Tulus Abadi from the Indonesian Consumer Foundation said PLN has yet to recognize the rights of customers to clear, accurate information. "Most of public isn't well-informed on the technical issues, like how they're going to make the calculations on this new program, because it was introduced so recently."

He said actual notice of the new policy should be given to each customer rather than merely announcing it via the mass media.

However, Deputy Manager of Communication of PLN in Jakarta and Tangerang Azwar Lubis said that "We have been publicizing this program for quite a while now with our "20 percent electricity conservation" campaign on the radio and in newspapers, magazines, banners, and leaflets."

As of the evening of March 12th, the
Jakarta Post could find no information at the PLN website, on the "incentive-disincentive" program. There was no list of the benchmarks, for example.

As I said, I can't tell you much about it.

In 2006, PLN announced a crash program to construct coal-fired power plants (PLTUs) with a total capacity of 10,000 megawatts. 10 PLTU units, with a capacity of 300 MW to 660 MW - a total of 7,140 MW - would be built on Java and in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi PLN planned to build 14 units of PLTU, each with a capacity from 7 MW to 100 MW, and a total capacity of 1,052 MW.

We can ignore the fact coal is the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels as, being nearly pure carbon, it releases nearly pure carbon dioxide when burned. Our concern here must be that with the price of coal soaring, in line with oil and palm oil prices, PLN can no longer afford to build those generating plants.

Indonesia is home to Bumi Resources, Asia's Fastest and the World's Second Fastest Growing Coal Company. Wow, one might exclaim. However, one should also be reminded that Bumi Resources is owned by the Bakrie family, and while the patriarch, Abdurizal is the country's richest man he is also the cheapskate responsible for the plight of the refugees from the Sidoarjo volcanic mudflow, not only as a co-owner of Lapindo Brantas whose drilling resulted in the disaster, but also as Minister for the People's Welfare.

There has been no news suggesting that 2 or 3 of those billions of dollars he is 'worth' could be used to subsidise the operation of a few generating plants. No siree, he is too busy exporting the coal, one of Indonesia's natural resources, and increasing his wealth.

*SBY was attending the 11th Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) held in Dakar, Senegal, and he was actually referring to Islamophobia and the need "to strive for good governance and attend to our democratic deficit." I'm sure we all agree, but let's start with home issues, eh?


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