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On Corruption and the Daily Grind

Corruption. Not a single day has gone by for me in Indonesia without either hearing or reading the word corruption. Despite what you may think, my life isn’t all about tropical fruit and climbing volcanoes. I work, a lot, and at work everyday I am editing stories about corruption, usually government corruption. Some of the stories seem unreal, almost something out of an Orwell novel, like the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission being investigated for corruption. Everyone I talk with, including people who work for the government, acknowledge that corruption is a big problem in Indonesia. But the big question remains, how do you go about solving this problem?

What kind of corruption you ask? Well it ranges from bribing to get your drivers license (because going about it through legal channels I’ve been told is near impossible at this point because a bribe is expected) to officials stealing large sums of money and then fleeing the country. And when you live in a place, you fall into this system as well. So if I ever work the late shift, I’m always a bit nervous that the cab I am taking home may be pulled over and I’ll have to supplement a police officer’s salary. Here is an interesting feature on Indonesia’s corruption and unity as a nation and here is a video all about Indonesia’s singing president (really, he releases CDs). So, I can’t help but smile when I walk past the ninjas someone placed near their desk in the office. Maybe Jakarta just needs some corruption fighting ninjas?

Corruption affects Jakarta in very real ways. A monorail was planned for the city, a city with a growing population that is known around the world for its horrible traffic. But then millions of dollars disappeared, so there is no monorail in sight. But that’s when human ingenuity comes in. People in Jakarta always find a way to make things work. If traffic is at a stand-still then you move your food cart into the road and sell there. I take kopajas to work, privately owned very old buses with doors tied open that cost a bit over 20 cents a ride. You hop on when you want and knock on the roof when you want to get off. And there are thousands of ojek, motorcycle taxis, that zip and weave through all the traffic and get you where you need to go at the fastest speed possible.

You haven’t seen it rain until you’ve seen in rain in Southeast Asia. It looks like it is snowing, just a complete whiteout (it seems to start raining a lot just as my work shift ends…)

So when you add rain to the traffic, well there’s not much you can do.

Most people read things on their smartphones and resign themselves to the fact that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Patience is a virtue.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great post Lydia

    We’ve been stopped before and had to pay over large sums of money to the police due to the fact that we didn’t have our kitas on us or police documents. Grrrrrrr!!

    I can understand Police making a move when they see a ‘rich’ foreigner, but it’s when you see them getting cash of those that really are strugglng financially that I start to see red.

    From what I can tell by talking with my Indonesian friends, corruption seems to be the main thing that gets them down. I asked a friend once what, if anything, they would like to change about their country (I was thinking along the lines of poverty, social housing etc) and they said that they would like to see an end to corruption. That spoke volumes to me.

    March 27, 2012
  2. Very insightful. I come from Mexico, where corruption was very pervasive, then I moved to Thailand and I thought Mexico’s corruption level was nowhere near Thailand’s. Then, I moved to Jakarta. And I just don’t know what to think. I sometimes just laugh at how they think they can all get away with what they do! The problem is that they do get away with it!

    March 27, 2012

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