Sunday, April 15, 2012

Color me unsurprised

After living in Indonesia for a while, you tend to pick up on certain tendencies that happen around you. There are the obvious ones, of course, such as jam karet ("rubber time," where inconvenient things like deadlines and appointments often pass by with a sort of blithe amnesia), the omnipresent traffic and the fact that doing anything that requires paperwork will take at least twice as long as you think it will.

There's also a kind of chronic short-termism that pervades Indonesian life. Politics is rife with it — just look at the years of hemming and hawing over fuel subsidies resulting in absolutely no action — though you could accuse just about any government on the planet of taking up populist causes instead of doing what is in the people's long-term interest. That $14 billion Indonesia spends on subsidizing fuel prices would do wonders for upgrading the country's infrastructure, education system or any number of social programs, but why risk short-term pain when you know that keeping gas cheap and playing to the masses will keep you in your cushy, phony-baloney job with all the perks that you can possibly lavish on yourself?

With "leaders" like those behaving like the proverbial vampire squid and sucking away at the public purse, you could understand if the common folk (who do not have a legislative seat to treat like a debit card) did what they could to supplement their income. Still, there are limits. You remember that $130 million early warning system that was put in place after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that killed 170,000 people just in Indonesia? Apparently people would rather have a few extra shillings in their pocket than advance notice of a killer tsunami — its buoys have been stripped and sold for parts.
"We have had problems with theft and vandalism of our system for a while," Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told AFP.
"We got the tsunami warning from a seismograph but because so many of the buoys are destroyed we can't tell how big a potential tsunami would be."
Nugroho said just three of 25 buoys in Indonesian waters were in operation, mostly because of vandalism.
Since the system was set up in 2008, fishermen have reportedly used the buoys to moor their vessels, at times damaging the instruments.
Never a dull day here, I tell you.

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