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Turning Beggars & Street Vendors Into MicroBusiness Owners In Jakarta

If misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” – Charles Darwin.

It is a well known fact among people staying in Jakarta that when the Jakarta administration decides to resolve a problem or issue, they simply pass a law. And lo and behold, they expect that the problem will simply disappear overnight.
The Jakarta administration has decided that the best way to get rid of undesirable people on the streets, whom they had defined them as beggars, street vendors and busker; is to pass a law to ban them outright. And as an added deterrent, the new law states that anyone who donates money to beggars or buskers will be fine or even face a jail sentence. This new law which replaces the 1988 Ordinance on public order also prohibits anyone from setting up and operating a business on the streets, sidewalks, bridges, or any areas that are defined as communal areas. The punishment can varies from a fine of Rp 100.000 to RP20 million or even a jail sentence for anyone who breaks this law.

I do understand the need to get rid of numerous beggars in the city’s streets. Too many beggars in Jakarta will create a negative image for this city. Like many cities in the world, there will be people who lived below the poverty line. In fact, more than a billion people in the world survive on less than US$2/- per day. And to them, they see begging as the only way out of their daily misery and to put food on the table. I have seen many beggars in the streets of Jakarta. Some of these beggars are children. I was told that there are syndicates that operates these begging activities as a business. If that is true, then the Jakarta administration should take tough enforcement against these syndicates. I feel sad whenever I see young kids begging on the streets. Kids should not be begging, they should be attending lessons in schools. Every child should deserves an education. And I strongly feel that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that even poor kids can have a place in school.

Street peddlers or vendors are a common sight in Jakarta. They sell almost everything that you need. From mineral water, cigarettes, newspapers and magazines, arts and handicraft, food, movie and music cds, clothes and many countless items. Most of the street vendors either lay down their merchandise on the sidewalks or hold them with their hands and arms and move about quickly from vehicle to vehicle during a slow moving traffic on the roads. Jakarta is famous for its traffic jams and congestions. So these enterprising vendors will take this opportunity to sell their merchandise. The conditions that they operate is tough, tiring and unsafe. But they have learn to adapt and work in such harsh conditions.

” The poor are poor because the rich are rich ” – Unknown

To resolve all these problems is not easy for the Jakarta administration or for that matter any government. This is because fundamentally it is about poverty. It is not easy to alleviate poverty in any city. To reduce poverty, the government will have to take bold measures to implement economic and social programs. There is a urgent need to create a conducive environment for foreign investment, to create employment, to set up schools and institutions of learning to teach and equip people with knowledge and technical skills. To build more schools for children and to help budding entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the Jakarta’s government could learn from the successful programs pioneered by Dr. Muhammad Yunus. He is the founder of Grameen Bank and a Nobel Prize winner in 2006. He discovered that giving small loans to the poor do really make a difference in their lives. Thus providing micro-credit to the very poor enables them to start a micro businesses; the earnings or profits from these businesses is a first step towards financial independence. He said that ‘We remained thoroughly convinced that while people may be poor and illiterate, they are not stupid. Potentially they are as smart as anybody else in the world.’ He is convinced that even beggars if given the opportunity, can become successful micro-business owners.

The Jakarta administration should take the lead and work with non government agencies and corporate bodies to help the poor. The poor people have no voice and no rights. I always admire the spirit of street vendors whenever I am in Jakarta. They are a tough people with a can do spirit. And I say the same for people who busk for a living. I love listening to live music much more than piped music. I must say that some of them are truly talented musicians. The Jakarta administration says that it is illegal to conduct such activities. Then why not make it legal? Perhaps the administration could identify and locate pockets of spaces for them to conduct and operate their businesses throughout the city. Space that are alloted to these street vendors and busker can be rented out at a low cost subsidy rate for perhaps the first 3 or 4 years; and thereafter gradually moving up to market rates. And for those beggars who are not keen in running a micro business, then they should be given the opportunity to learn technical skills, so that they can be hire and earn a decent living.” There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

The Jakarta administration must recognized that an enactment of a law does not resolve social problems at all. The problems are still there awaiting for them to solve. The administration should not penalize people for being poor, but recognize that they are poor and constructive assistance should be given. I believe that if help is given to the poor, whether in the form of setting up micro businesses or acquiring technical skills, they will be empowered to help themselves and regain their dignity and respect. Thus poor people will no longer see Jakarta as a city of misery and despair; but as a City of HOPE.
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Water Crisis in Jakarta – Indonesia

A friend of mine who is staying in West Java told me that for the past 3 weeks it had been totally dry days; not a single drop of rain has fallen from the sky. The well in her home has dry up and so twice a day, she needs to walk about 1/2 km to collect water. Alternatively you can also buy water from these mobile water vendors who sells water for about RP700 per 20 litre containers. Hopefully, the rain will come and fill up the wells with water. This will bring reliefs to the thousands who are affected by this water shortage.
In many parts of Indonesia, there seems to be a water crisis looming. I find it hard to understand that Indonesia with its huge amount of resources which includes water, could be facing a water crisis. This is especially so in the capital city – Jakarta. But water crisis is not unique to Indonesia. It is a global problem that includes countries like China, India, Australia, Africa and many other countries. In fact one of out six people in the world lack access to safe drinking water. That means that more than a BILLION people do not have access to safe drinking water.

The city of Jakarta has a population of more than 10 million people. This figure is growing every year, mainly due to the migration of people from other parts of Indonesia into the capital. Jakarta is facing a water crisis as the demand for clean water outstripped supply. People still relies heavily on underground water. However many wells are now dry or polluted. Pollution of underground water is due to poor sanitation system in the city. Waste water is being mixed with water from the wells. Sea water is also seeping in into the underground aquifers, polluting the wells.

In a water crisis, it is the poor people that suffers the most. It is the poor that needs to allocate a larger portion of their income to buy clean water from these mobile water vendors. People from high income groups can well afford to pay for their water needs. Many squatters relies on well water to wash and bath. However, the pollution in groundwater has cause it to be unsafe even for bathing. People staying in slums complained of rashes and itch after using groundwater for bathing.

It is time that the local government look at this problem and labeled it as Top Priority in its agenda. Water crisis is the result of imbalance between water demand and water resources. Water crisis is not because of having too little water, but it is because the Jakarta’s government has failed to develop and manage the water resources. Jakarta relies its raw water supply from Bogor, Tangerang, Bekasi and Depok. Water utilities companies can only supply 1/2 of the water supply relative to the city demand. The local government should look into developing new water resources and infrastructures. One of the successful example in which water supply is managed well is in Singapore. The Newater project is so successful in Singapore that a new plant which is going to be largest will be built in Changi. The Newater is about turning recycled water into pure drinking water. This water is currently been supplied to industries and wafer fabrication plants. The increase in supply of Newater has proved to a distinct advantage of lowering cost. Prices for Newater has dropped from $1-30 to 1-00 cubic/metre. The Jakarta’s government can certainly take a lesson from Singapore in the importance of converting recycled water into drinking water.

Water is a very limited and precious resource. The Jakarta’s government must take the leadership role and pursue the water supply programme actively. Failure to deliver this essence commodity to its people is in fact a failure of the government; it is that simple. The local authorities must also educate the people on the importance of protecting the environment. It is important that the people understand that water is not a cheap resource, that anyone who uses water must pay for it. However, for those who are poor, the local administration could look into a subsidy program to make water more affordable.

There should be no more excuses such as the lack of funds or budget from the authorities. Having clean drinking water and proper sanitation is paramount to Jakarta social and economic needs. It is time for the Jakarta’s government to walk the talk.

Formosa Hotel – Batam Island, Indonesia

The location of Formosa Hotel is ideal for travelers heading to the center of Nagoya town in Batam. Formosa Hotel is situated at No. A8 City Plaza Nagoya, Batam Island in Indonesia. For those who does not know where is Batam Island, it is situated south of Singapore. Batam island is easily accessible by an hour ferry ride from Harbour Front in Singapore.

Formosa Hotel is not a new hotel but it is still a comfortable place to stay in Batam. I would rate this hotel as perhaps a 3 Star hotel. There is no swimming pool or garden where you can enjoy. Everything seems a slightly compact in size. The frontage of the hotel and car park is small. The front reception counter and the lobby is compact. It has a small coffee house also on the ground level. There is a health center where you can get a massage; and a KTV center at the top floor. The KTV center has quite a number of KTV rooms as well as hostesses.

I have stay in this hotel on numerous occasions, and I find that checking in at the reception counter is always very efficient and fast. Many Singaporeans stay in this hotel and that is why the hotel also quote its room rate in Singapre Dollars. You can also pay in Singapore dollars or Rupiah. All major credit cards are also acceptable. Personally, I think the staff at this hotel is well trained and polite; a definitive plus factor.

There are 2 lifts in this hotel that can bring you to your room. I find that the lifts are rather slow but spacious. After landing at the designated floor, finding your room make take some effort for some people. The floor consists of main corridors and sub corridors that lead to rows and rows of rooms. Sometimes you feel as though you are in a maze. Perhaps the management of this hotel could consider putting up more signages or direction boards to help customers to identify their rooms quickly.

I have wrote earlier that everything seems to be compact in size on the ground floor. Luckily for the rooms, it is not compact. In fact I find the room quite spacious in size like most 4 star hotels that I have stayed. The floor is entirely carpeted, the air-conditioned is strong and the bathroom is also spacious. The room even has a mini fridge and a kettle. So having you favourite hot or cold beverages is now easy. Of course, there is also a TV with multi channels. The windows of the rooms either have the view of the main road or the side or back view of Lucky Plaza mall. Surprisingly the rooms that I have stayed in numerous occasions are quiet.

Getting your daily meals whether lunch or dinner is absolutely a easy thing to do. You can eat at the numerous food outlets or restaruants in Lucky Plaza or Centerpoint Mall. Or alternatively you can try eating at the numerous coffee shops that are located nearby this hotel. Shopping is also a breeze, as there is many shops at the 2 malls. Everything that you need seems to be just around the corner.

I like Formosa hotel for its prime location, the close proximity to malls and food outlets. I like the rooms which is clean and well maintained. Also I think the staff of this hotel is efficient in getting things done. Overall, Formosa Hotel is a great place to stay.

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Traffic Congestion in Jakarta – Get back to Basics.

Anyone who has been to Jakarta will experience first hand its famous traffic jams. It is a sheer test of patience and heat. You are literally sitting in your motionless vehicle; waiting for what seems like hundreds of vehicles ahead of you to move forward. You are sandwiched between cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes and street peddlers. The only way out is to follow the herd in front of you, moving slowly in a timeless motion till you are out of this vicious traffic congestion.

Endless suggestions have been made, proposals have been put forward and some implemented to ease this traffic woes, but unfortunately without much success. The government has implemented car pools, dedicated bus lanes, road widening and the grandest and most expensive project of all – to built a Mass Rail Transit system (MRT).
Indonesians blame the current traffic woes on many factors – red tape, corruption, poor implementation and controls, poor urban and development planning, etc. Many people just don’t care anymore and simply adjust their lives to this misery.

If I could make some small suggestions from what I have observed, it would be getting back to the basics. Sure, go ahead and implement whatever proposals such as building a MRT and dedicated bus lanes, etc. But I find that the basic facilities and structure of a good road transportation system in Jakarta is lacking. My suggestions are as follows: –

1) Roads must be well maintained. I have seen roads with potholes that have not be repaired for years. Roads like everything else is subject to wear and tear. But the government seems to have the opinion that once it is built, it should last a century without maintenance.

2) Install modern traffic lights. I have seen traffic lights in Jakarta that are so worn out and old, that the only place it should be is in the scrapyard. Traffic lights must be prominent and be clearly visible to motorists and pedestrians.

3) Built pavements for pedestrians. Many times I have seen people and including myself having to force to walk on the roads for the lack of pavements. Pavements ensure the safety of pedestrians. It is especially important on road junctions where you have to wait to cross the roads.

4) Zebra / Pedestrians crossing must be clearly marked prominently on the road and together with light post or traffic lights. A gentle hump could perhaps be made before this crossing to slow down the vehicles.

5) Old and poorly maintained buses and vehicles should be taken off the road. A vehicle that breaks down on the road is a cause for traffic jam.

6) Obey traffic rules. I think this will take a considerate amount of time before you can see results. In Jakarta, it seems that to disregard traffic rules is the right thing to do for both drivers and pedestrians. You don’t need to have so many policemen directing traffic at road junctions if all drivers and pedestrians obey traffic rules. This call for education and strict punishment. Normally a stiff fines will make errant drivers/pedestrians learn quickly.

7) Built a bigger bus stands – I have seen many bus stands in Jakarta that are small and old. Come on, if you want more commuters to use the bus, built a more spacious bus stands. This is a no brainer. A good bus stands should have enough seats and able to shelter at least 20 people when it rains.

8) Built more exit roads alongside main roads that are heavy in traffic. For motorists who are caught in a vicious traffic jams on a main road or highway, having a minor or exit roads will give motorists a choice to get out of this traffic jams and take alternative routes.

9) Install lamp posts in all roads. This is essential in ensuring the safety of drivers and pedestrians in the night.

10) Education – constantly educating the public on road safety is important. Schools are important place to start – to educate the young. Print and TV media will be good channels to reach out to the masses. For those errant and stubborn people ( be it motorists or pedestrians) imposed a fine. When money is taken out from a person’s wallet, he/she will learn things fast.

I do hope that the government and the people can overcome this traffic problems before it gets bigger. For myself and many travellers to Jakarta, it will certainly translate to a more pleasant stay in your city.

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Sarinah Department Store

Sarinah Department store is one of the oldest department store in Jakarta. The store is located in Jl. KH. Wahid Hasyim along the busy street of Thamrin; which is a central business and tourist district of Jakarta. I was told by my friend that when escalator was first introduced in this city, Sarinah was the first to install it in their store.

When you visit Sarinah, don’t expect the beauty and glamor of today’s modern store like Sogo and Metro in Jakarta. In fact, expect the opposite. Everything seems so old and worn out. Even the fixtures and fittings seems to belong to an era of seventies. I just wonder how could this store survived the fierce competition from modern shopping malls; but it did.

Sarinah offers a wide variety of merchandise. It sells clothings for men, women and children. Households items, toys, music cds and movie DVDs, perfumes and makeups, traditional clothes, Arts and Crafts and many more. I particular love the traditional arts and crafts merchandise. The prices of the merchandise are very affordable.

If you are staying near here and need to buy some can drinks, beers or potato chips back to your hotel room, then go down to the basement level. There is a supermarket there that is run by Hero group. It is a small supermarket but well stocked. This is where I would buy some fruits and drinks and brought it to my hotel room.

There are plenty of food outlets to choose if you are hungry. The 24 hour Macdonald restaurant is there, together with Pizza Hut. You can also get traditional indonesian food as well as japanese food. And if you have time to spare to catch a movie, there is a cinema nearby.

If I am staying in a hotel near Thamrin again, I would visit Sarinah. I personally like the slow moving pace of this place. Just relax and unwind.

Plaza Indonesia

I took a slow walk from my hotel to Plaza Indonesia. As I approached close to the mall, the first object that caught my eyes is the traffic circle (roundabout) with fountain jetting out cool water into the air. Traffic was very heavy but moving very smoothly.

Plaza Indonesia sits on the prime land overlooking this famous traffic roundabout. And as though not to be outdone by the fountain at the traffic roundabout, it has its own water features as well. Water cascading down from 3 levels of walls and also fountains. The surrounding is like a mini garden. Besides it, a huge sign – Grand Hyatt Jakarta. An upmarket mall combined with a upmarket hotel. A perfect synergy.

Plaza Indonesia is not a new mall but it still manage to retain its grandeur and importance. It draws its strength from its prime location. Opposite the mall is the Nikko hotel. The Japanese embassy and Hard Rock cafe /ex. is just 5-10 minutes walk away. Also close by is the Ascott and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Seriously, how can any malls in Jakarta compete with that?

This is the mall where you can see lots of tourists, Japanese and Chinese. There are of course local Indonesians as well. Metro and Sogo are the main tenants of this mall. There are many specialty stores here, especially those international designer brands from Europe and America.

If you are hungry, the are plenty of restaurants and coffee joints to choose. There is a restaurant that is located at the concourse itself. It is an open concept with trees lining up on two sides. Very unique indeed. The food court is located at the basement. However avoid going there on lunch or dinner hours, as seating capacity is limited.

One of my favorite store is in fact a snack shop called Snack Zone. They have so many variety of snacks and candies – it is fascinating. The snacks taste good and it is not expensive at all. There is also a store that sells beautiful flowers and plants. It is also located at the basement. Must see.

Plaza Indonesia is perfect for Shoppers looking for famous branded merchandise. For myself, I do not belong to the rich nor famous category. But I still do enjoy coming here to gaze at the beautiful merchandise and enjoy the serene atmosphere.

Ciputra Mall

Ciputra Mall Jakarta is located at Jl. Letnan Jenderal S. Parman. The Ciputra Hotel which is built next to the mall, has a direct access link to the mall via the hotel lobby.

I find that the location of Ciputra mall and hotel rather odd and fascinating. It sits right at the section of the busy highways and toll roads. In fact you can catch a good glimpse of this development while driving along the highway. It is so prominent that you can’t missed it. Interestingly, there is a University that is just next to this mall. It is called the Tarumanagara Universiti. The building of this university is almost as tall as the Ciputra Hotel itself.

Ciputra Mall is spacious indeed. There are plenty of space and multi-level floors for the shoppers to stroll. You can actually walk up or down from one floor to the next floor instead of taking escalators. Good concept. There are literally hundreds of retail stores lining up waiting to catch your attention. The anchor tenants includes Hero Supermarket, Guardian, Watson and Matahari. What stands out for Ciputra Mall is that besides large anchor tenants, there are hundreds of small retail stores offering an unlimited variety of merchandise. If you are a food lover, food outlets are plentiful too.

However take note that if you are looking for famous international branded merchandise such as Aigner, Louis Vuitton, Dunhill, Cartier, etc. This is not the place. You should go to Senanyan Mall or Plaza Indonesia instead.

I have noticed that there are a large numbers of teenagers here. Perhaps they are students from the nearby University.

One of the best way for me to enjoy shopping in this mall is to take my time to check out the special offers merchandise from big/small retail stores. My girlfriend picked up beautiful shorts from a small retail store for just US$1-50 a piece. Fantastic value! I have bought a multi-compartment backpack for just US$7/-.

If I can afford the time again when I’m in Jakarta. This will be the place I will want to visit again.

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Arcadia Hotel

Arcadia Hotel in Jakarta is located at 114 Jl. KH. Wahid Hasyim. It is very closed to Jl. Thamrin. It took about an hour ride to reach this hotel from the airport.

The first impression upon arrival is that it is a relatively small hotel. Step right in and straight away you can see the reception/reservation counter. Look straight further, and you can see the lifts and the restaurant. And that is it, you have almost see it all.

Checking in was smooth and fast. The corridor leading to my room was long and narrow. What impressed me is the door to my bedroom. The design of door is beautiful and artistic.

Upon entering the room, the instinctive response is the size of the room. It is very small and compact! Even the vanity room (toilet) is small. The queen size bed took up nearly half the space of the room.There is very little space availble for movement.

The bed is clean and comfortable. But the blanket seems a little worn-out. There is a small TV and a mini bar (fridge) with cold can drinks and beers. They even provide you with a small kettle for you to make hot tea/coffee.

The location of Arcadia Hotel is a prime factor why many travelers choose to stay here. It is very close to Jl. Thamrin.

Sarinah Department Store is just 5 minutes walk away. There are plenty of restaurants for you to choose. There are MacDonald which opens 24 hours, Pizza Hut, and local food outlets. If you feel like catching a movie, the Cineplex is nearby. There are plenty of cabs that can take you around Central District. I took the task of walking from the hotel to Plaza Indonesia. It took about 30 minutes.

Despite its size, the Arcadia Hotel does fulfilled the needs of the budget travelers. Is this a good budget hotel to stay? My answer is:- Yes, it is value for money.

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Sukarno Hatta Airport

Jakarta airport which is known as the Sukarno Hatta International Airport is located at Cengkareng on the west of the city. It was built during President Suharto’s time and was opened in the mid 1980s.

All the international flights are currently been served in Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is used primarily for domestic flights. As most countries in the world are relentlessly upgrading their airports, the reverse is true for Sukarno Hatta airport. There is no major change or upgrade since it was opened.

So if you had been in this airport many years ago and coming back again right now, you will straight
away be able to revive the old fond memories of this airport. It is as though time had stood still for this airport. Everything seems old and unassuming. If you are looking towards traveling back in time in Jakarta, this is the place.

Despite its outdated image, the clearance of customs and luggages are surprisingly efficient. You will also find that the airport itself is able to cater to most of your needs. There are many food outlets that you can choose if you are hungry. If you need to change your home currency into rupiah, there are money exchange outlets and banks. Need a cab? No worries, cabs and limousine are plentiful. If you are on a shoe string budget, just hop into the air conditioned buses that ply from the airport to the city.
Every time when I landed at this airport. I will take my time to soak into the slow and relaxed atmosphere. My favourite spot is the Macdonald restuarant on the arrival hall. It is an open space, so it is not air conditioned. But who needs air conditioned when the place itself is breezy. Seated at this restaurant, you can see people walking past, the numerous taxi stands, buses moving slowing on the road; and people just sitting at the stone bench doing nothing. I would normally sit for an hour before strolling to the Silver Bird taxi counter and booked a limousine cab to go to my hotel.

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