Category Archives: Social & Economics

Wearing Perfume to Work

I wonder whether there is any company or organization in Indonesia that prohibits the wearing of perfume at workplace?  I think wearing of perfume, cologne and scented lotion is an acceptable practice,  as I have seen many people wearing perfume in offices, banks, government offices and shopping malls in Jakarta. The sale of perfumes is a booming business in Indonesia and there are countless perfume counters and shops in almost all shopping malls in Jakarta. As people spend more money on grooming and personal appearance, I believe this would lead to more people wearing perfumes in Indonesia.

A friend of mine has a mild allergy to certain perfumes. He would sneeze or develop symptoms of  blocked nose if comes into contact with it. Fortunately for me, I do not have such problem. But sometimes my nose do feel irritated by the smell of certain perfumes – especially those which have strong musky smell or smelling too sweet. I think the problem is that some ladies and men tend to put lots of perfume on their body; so the smell of the perfume tend to be extra strong. You can in fact smell them even if they are a few cubicles away in the office. Now imagine having to put up with the smell 8 hours a day, five days a week with a co-worker who wears a perfume that irritates your nose. If the fragrance from the perfume affects the sensitivity of the co-workers, the employer should step in and educate the worker concerned. I think if a person wears a perfume lightly, there should not be a problem as the smell would not be overwhelming throughout the office.

Wearing Perfume to Work

I think it is difficult to implement a fragrance free policy in the office or workplace in Indonesia. Besides, it may not be practical to enforce such a policy especially in a workplace where you have visitors or the public have accessed to it – for example hotels and shopping malls. In such instance, the employer can reduce the smell by installing an air purifier machine and through better air ventilation system. Personally, I am not against the policy of people wearing of perfumes to workplace; neither am I for it. I think whether you choose to wear perfume or be fragrance free is a personal choice. However, it would be nice if people who wear perfumes understand that all they need to do is to put a little ( a few drops ) perfume to smell good.

Beautiful Perfume Bottle

Buy Cheap Properties in America and Jakarta

Went out with a friend for lunch today. He casually told me that he had seen a couple of properties in Jakarta and was keen to buy an apartment or condominium in Jakarta.  However he said that property prices were too high right now and was adamant in his belief that it will fall in one or two years time. He went to view a condominium in Menteng, a studio unit of about 40 sq. m on the high floor with a asking price of U$76,000.  He mentioned that he would loved to buy a property for investment if it is reasonably cheap.


Buying Properties in Jakarta


I told my friend that there are properties in the United States going very cheap; in fact he could get a home for a price of a set dinner in a good Chinese restaurant – that is One hundred US dollars or approximately RP885,000. He was shocked and though that I was joking until I explained the facts to him. If you looked at Detroit which is the largest city in the state of Michigan, there are thousands of properties that are under foreclosures and even abandoned properties. Why would the owner of a property be willing to sell you his home for just US$100? That is because he is in debt and is unable to pay the property taxes for his home. So instead of incurring this property tax every year, he would rather sell it off cheap. But beware of buying such properties, because most of it are in very bad condition and in areas where it is either crime ridden or in abandoned neighbourhood. Property tax are high in the state of Michigan and are payable in advance of the year in which they are due. The property tax is calculated based on State Equalized Value ( SEV ) which is normally half of the assessed value of the property. Bear in mind that just because your neighbour’s home in Detroit is paying say US$2000 in property tax, it does not mean that your property next to him will be the same amount.

My friend then asked me whether there are good investment properties in Michigan. I explained to him that there are plenty of good value properties in Michigan. The key is not to look at the assessed value but focus on the cash flow. When I focus on the cash flow, I am looking at the rental income generated from the property which I have purchased.  Take the annual rental income and less of all expenses such as property taxes, insurance, maintenance, management fees, etc and if it still gives you a positive cash flow of above 7%, then I would consider looking into this property. In Detroit, there are plenty of good valued properties being sold at US70,000 onwards but you need to do your homework. You would want to buy a property in a prime location so that you will enjoy capital appreciation of your home once the economy picks up.

So whether you are buying properties in Jakarta or in United States, the important issue is not the valuation of the property, it is not the selling price of the house or the economy, it is just the cash flow and potential capital appreciation. I want to know what type of tenants can I get and how much is the net rental income ( after deducting all expenses ) per year. As for capital appreciation, prime location will also be the first to appreciate in prices when property prices moved up.


Shoes Made In Indonesia

Recently I read the news that the Governor of West Java had ordered all his civil servants to buy and wear shoes that are made in Indonesia. Governor Ahmad Heryawan started this campaign to support the local shoe industry; and was reported to give all his civil servants one month grace period before taking actions against anyone flouting his order. Thereafter if he find any civil servant wearing foreign made shoes, he will punish the offender with 200 push ups exercise. Really his campaign of Made in Indonesia shoes are very amusing to me.

Many international brands of shoes such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas and many more are made in Indonesia. So it means that Indonesia has the capacity and skills to made high quality shoes. Then why is it that the shoes with local brands are not in hot demand with the local Indonesians? I think the taste and the aspirations of the Indonesians have changed over the years. Many Indonesians especially the young are fashion trendy and with more money to spend. These young people are fashion and brand conscious, and they won’t want to be caught by their peers wearing local brand shoes or clothes -in their view this would be an sheer embarrassment. Even Indonesians in their forties and fifties are now increasing buying foreign brand shoes, clothes and accessories. When we go to any upscale mall in Jakarta, consumers are buying foreign brand products, eating in foreign brand restaurants, buying foreign brand home appliances and phones.


Hush Puppies Shoe


My view is that if you want more Indonesians to buy local products such as shoes, the manufacturers must first improve upon the quality, design and the brand of the product. When I go to Bandung for shopping, there are locally made shoes that are quite attractive in design, but the quality seems to be lower. I will not hesitate to buy local products so long as it is of good quality at affordable price. The local manufacturers and distributors must have a more competitive business attitude if they want to succeed in capturing the local consumers market.

An example of a successful Indonesian brand is Teh Botol produced by the Indonesian company Sosro. Teh Botol is a sweetened Jasmine tea that is very popular in Indonesia. I loved drinking it just as I also enjoy drinking Jasmine tea produced by Pokka. Drinking Jasmine tea from a glass bottle is unique to Teh Botol and in this instance, the company has a successful marketing strategy. Another example of a successful product and brand in Indonesia is the Bintang Beer. It is a very popular local brand of beer in Indonesia and I drink it all the time when I am in Indonesia.

I do own and wear shoes made in Indonesia but at the same time I also wear foreign branded shoes. I hope that the Governor of Java would not be too harsh on his subordinates. Perhaps he could just made it mandatory for his civil servants to wear local made shoes once a week – like every Monday which is the start of the working week. He could also worked with local shoes manufacturers and distributors to get special discount for his subordinates when they buy shoes made in Indonesia.

Bill on Foreigners Buying Properties in Indonesia

The Indonesia government is still pondering on a bill that allows foreigners to buy properties in Indonesia on a longer lease that range from 70 to 90 years lease. This is to boost the demand on the property market especially on major cities in Indonesia such as Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya. Allowing foreigners to buy on a longer lease period will increase the revenue of the government through tax and investment. The current status is that foreigners are not allowed to buy land or landed properties, and also not allow to buy any building or apartment build on freehold land. I think this status will remain in force with the exception of apartments build on leasehold land.


Bill on Foreigners buying properties in Indonesia
Bill on Foreigners buying properties in Indonesia


Does this bill look attractive to foreign investors? In a way it is a beginning of a process to liberate the property market in Indonesia. It would be better if the leasehold period is 99 years instead of the maximum 90 years lease. That will make it look more attractive to foreigners. The bill should also make it easier for foreigners to borrow money from local Indonesian banks up to a maximum of 70% from the purchase or valuation price of the property. This will help to boost the business of the local banks as well. Laws with regard to rights of foreign ownerships to the purchased properties, taxes and duties, the right to resell and transfer should also be made transparent and clear. The problem with Indonesia is that it is a country with too many loose laws and by-laws, making it so confusing for foreigners and even local Indonesians. Foreigners purchasing these apartments should also have the right to lease it out immediately, the right to resell and the properties should be free from emcumbrances.


Foreigners Buying Properties in Indonesia
Foreigners Buying Properties in Indonesia


Gradually the Indonesian government should looked into the ownership of freehold property by foreigners. They could start by imposing strict restriction in terms of rights to resell only after say 10 years from the date of purchase, capital gain tax ( to prevent speculation ) and restriction such as allowing foreigners to purchase only high end properties – such as properties above US$300,000.

The Year of the Ox – Prospects in Indonesia

The Chinese community around the world are welcoming the Year of the Ox, celebrating their New Year with new hope for prosperity, good health and peace. In Indonesia, the Chinese New Year is an official public holiday. So there is a recognition for this celebration for a minority race in a country that is predominantly muslim. This is a good start. I do hope that in the near future, there will be more recognition on the status of Chinese in Indonesia. In fact, irregardless of whatever race, religion or color, so long as you are a citizen of Indonesia, you should be given equal rights as a citizen and be treated as equal. Respect to all citizens is an important element to forge this country in unity and in progress.

The Global economic crisis that has started last year will have a greater impact this year on the economy of Indonesia. I think Indonesia will still be experiencing positive economic growth of say 4% and is not going down in recession like in many countries such as US, Japan and Singapore. However this does not meant that all is well in Indonesia. In fact, Indonesia is still struggling to manage its high unemployment rate and the poverty of the lower income group. The recent lowering of fuel prices and transportation cost does help to alleviate the cost of living for its citizens. But more needs to be done, and can be done. Indonesia must do its best to attract foreign investments and promote tourism. The government of the world largest archipelago cannot afford to rest on its laurels on this 2 major tasks. Attracting more foreign investments and tourists into Indonesia will result in the creation of thousands of jobs for its people. The global tourism market is worth more than US$900 billion. Now that is a lot of money here. So how can a country that is so huge and beautiful like Indonesia be looking at tourist target arrival of just 10 million visitors? I am sure the Indonesian government can do much better in promoting this country as a top tourist destination in Asia. A friend of mine who runs a business in Jakarta told me that if the government could lower the unemployment rate to say 4%, then there will be less demonstrations in the streets of Jakarta. That is because everyone will be so busy working or running their businesses. Who on earth will have the time to demonstrate? Whatever free time that the people have, will be for the family, shopping, drinking coffee in nice cafe or enjoying leisure activities.

The government of Indonesia must act decisively with its pro-business policy. It has to focus to eradicate all laws, by-laws or unnecessary red tapes that hinders investments in this country. It must act to welcome visitors and tourists in this beautiful country. I think the central government did well in Batam recently. It has acted decisively to make it a free trade zone – now that is good news for businesses. The Ox in the chinese calendar symbolize a hardworking animal that is persistence in performing its tasks. No matter how tough the problems may be, it never gives up. I do hope that the government and the people of Indonesia will forge ahead to handle this economis crisis together. Constant street demonstrations will not resolve anything. In fact, it simply disrupt businesses and the daily lives of the people. There are many ways to be heard without gathering in the streets screaming and shouting to draw attention – whatever issues it may be. The government should be seen as acting sincerely for the people. Do not issue any laws that discriminate people, whether of race or social status. Don’t put in laws just to gain popularity or votes. Some political parties in Indonesia have proposed sharia laws to be implemented in Indonesia. That is totally stupid and these political parties are just like clowns in the circus. Indonesia is not a homogenous country with just one race, language and culture. This country has so much cultural diversifications and languages that it has make it so unique as a nation in Asia.

Finally in this new year, the Year of the Ox, I would liked to wish everyone in Indonesia – Good Health, Prosperity. Peace and Success.

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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.

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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