If you are a foreigner married to an Indonesian or vice versa, this would be a forum you’d want to attend. The reason is that until two weeks ago you’d have a pre-nuptial agreement if you want to have a normal life in Indonesia that allows you … Continue reading How transnational couples can start owning properties in Indonesia
The demonstration by taxi and the public transport rivers yesterday received much criticism from the Netcitizenship, who naturally gravitate to things Webby, disruptive and saves them money.
The transport drivers are apparently disgruntled over dwindling income caused by their ride-hailing services and the ostensible reason for objecting to the latter’s presence are claims that they do not pay tax, do not have proper permits and may be foreign companies invading Indonesian turf.
These are wrong reasons to demonstrate, even though a demonstration is justified. It is justified because the ride-hailing services are engaging in unfair trade practices. It is unfair to the taxi and other public transport drivers because they cannot compete against heavily subsidised prices of Go Jek and the other ride hailers. The ride hailers aren’t making money at this stage but trying to win market share through heavily discounted prices. They can sustain their discounts because they have investors who are willing to pump money into them in the gamble that they would turn out to be the Next Big Thing.
How long will these subsidies last? As long as investors are willing to inject capital into the ride hailers. It may be six months ayear or beyond but what’s interesting are the repercussions they cause in the meantime.
Never mind the fly-by-night and dubious taxi companies who provide shoddy and unreliable service. They deserve to perish. But a company such as Blue Bird that has won the trust of many Indonesians because they had relative clean and serviceable cars and reliable drivers when the market was full of bad ones are affected too.
So a scenario could develop where the taxi companies, even Blue Bird, all start to fold or deteriorate because of reduced revenues. This situation, however, is no guarantee that the ride hailers would succeed or become a viable replacement. What if most of them fold because the investors got bored or dismayed by the continual financial losses? Where would we be then? Bereft of quality traditional public transport as well as affordable ride hailers?
This issue also raises a question of how much and how long it is fair to provide discounts to win market share. Most products hold promotions and provide discounts to do just that but they are usually short-lived ones as the real economic pressures assert themselves. But with ride hailers the only economic hidden hand is that of the investor, often with access to huge funds.
So is this unfair business practices, that should be looked at by the KPPU? Or is this the new world of disruption that will herald new business models for public transport?
Perhaps as part of the pre-Ramadan rush, the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club has been very busy this week with its media luncheons, where it invites a prominent speaker to address the crowd and field questions.
On Monday it hosted Franky Sibarani, is the Chairman of Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) and today it hosted Trade Minister Rahman Gobel. What they had to say was meant to e interesting but Unspun found the side chatter among members of the audience to be even more interesting.
Monday was the first time that Sibarani addressed the JFCC and he did a decent enough, though not impressive, job delivering his powerpoint presentation on how the BKPM was going to attract more investments.
But when it came question time, his performance dropped several notches. He was tossed a softball question to start off with. The Wall Street Journal wanted to know how he was going to increase foreign direct investments into Indonesia. The answer was already in his powerpoint presentation and you’d expect him to answer it with ease: De-bottlenecking the business approvals process, cutting down on red tape, prioritising job-creating businesses etc.
But Sibarani instead looked troubled and gestured for his adjutant to hand him his man-bag where he’s stored his notes. With furrowed brow he kept the audience waiting while he looked through them and, seemingly not being able to find the relevant section, began muttering an unintelligible answer.
The foreign journalist next to Unspun wickedly remarked: “Franky doesn’t seem to be on top of his job.”. A bit unkind but not unjustified.The rest of Question Time went by with little change, questions met with hardly coherent answers.
In discussions afterwards among themselves, some members of the audience said that it may be a language thing. Maybe he was having difficulty expressing himself in English. Others said that while that may be forgivable, what was not forgivable was the fact that he had no command of the information concerning the agency in the first place.
The unforgiving ones also said that Sibarani was effectively the nation’s chief salesperson to foreign investors and as such it was unfathomable why the President would choose someone who has to struggle with his English to sell his country. They pointed out that past BKPM chairmen like Chatib Basri were all very savvy Indonesians who had no problems at all conversing and persuading others in English.
Trade Minister Rahman Gobel, on the other hand, approached today’s talk with much more confidence. He brought along a translator because he felt safer speaking in Indonesian to prevent misquotes. he also brought with him a sweet young translator who proceeded to fumble her translations due to lack of inexperience.
Her performance was so poor that midway through a former expert staff of the former trade minister Gita Wirjawan had to volunteer to translate to save the day. She was very clear and professional, although she had to work off from what the Minister said.
Gobel stressed in his talk that he slapped a bank on beer sales at convenience stalls because youths were buying beer from these outlets and getting drunk. So to save the future of Indonesia that lies with its youth he’s had to impose a ban on beer sales.
Asked during Question Time why he chose a regulatory ban as a solution to juvenile drinking, rather than enforcement of existing laws, he said lone convenience store attendants were often intimidated by four or five underage youths who wanted to buy beer. So a regulatory ban was the only way to protect them.
He also said that many of these store attendants were thankful to him for protecting them from intimidation. He knew that because of the many text messages that he’s received from them. Wow! Unseen thought: This Minister is a man of the people, even shop attendants know his mobile number and can text him.
Asked if he resorted to regulatory bans because he has written off the police and other enforcement agencies to do their jobs and prevent intimidation or manipulation vis a vis beer sales, chilli imports and rice imports, the Minister gave an answer that the members of the audience, including Unspun, was able to unspin.
The Minister also said something that must have chilled Big Tobacco to the bone. Asked why he clamped down only on beer when cigarettes caused more harm yet were freely sold at convenience stores, he replied that they would come around to putting it in order (he used the word tertipkan). Asked if that meant that he would ban the sales of cigarettes he stopped short of saying yes but that they would come round to regulating it.
The side chatter was also very interesting. One member of the audience complained that he did not understand the minister at all as the answers were rather confusing. A foreign diplomat looked very troubled and disturbed: “all this talk of saving the youth, protecting the nation and no apparent understanding of trade regimes and agreements…” she gasped.
There will be those that understand but Unspun thinks that sessions like these are extremely very useful as they give more people the opportunity to understand the thinking quality of of our Ministers, the strengths and shortcoming. By doing this the Ministers are giving us all a great opportunity to size up first hand the calibre of the Jokowi government.Isn’t democracy and open ministers a wonderful thing?