Thursday, May 19, 2005

Indonesian roads suck

The first serious topic: The state of roads in Indonesia.

Okay you can leave now. But seriously, if you've been to Indonesia, you'll realize how messed up the whole road network is (especially in islands other than Java, like in Sumatra where I'm from).

Recently I had the pleasure of taking a 12 hour bus drive from the town my parents live to Medan. Now don't imagine the road's gonna look like the 6 lane superhighways like you see in Malaysia. It's a 2 lane trunk road full of potholes and uneven road surfaces.

The bus left at 10 PM and supposed to arrive at 10 AM in Medan the following day. Imagine being in a bus (which was pretty okay actually) driven in such a shitty road for 12 hours. I couldn't barely sleep. 12 hours was a very long time to ponder on things.

How in the world can Indonesia be so backward after all these years? The government can't even provide proper roads for the citizen, even after almost 60 years of independence. Why can't we have highways like in Malaysia or Thailand? People always say that Indonesia is a rich country (they make patriotic songs about it that even primary school kids must sing every Monday morning), but whatever happened to those riches?

Gone to certain people's pockets, most likely. The level of corruption in Indonesia is just unbelievable. It's one the few places in the world where a government servant earning less than RM2000 (USD533) can own a big ass house with a BMW 5 series, the latest Toyota Land Cruiser, and assortment of other cars.

How the hell could they afford those? Well your guess is as good as mine.. Since otonomi daerah or decentralization was implemented, suddenly local kings show up everywhere. Provincial level authorities who used to have their budget taken care by Jakarta suddenly have this billions of rupiah to spend. But before spending the budget to develop their area they chose to fatten their own account.

What's interesting about these Indonesian so called raja daerahs is that they are not ashamed at all in flaunting their illegitimate wealth. Once I saw a really big house near my relative's house. When I asked about it my relative said that's the house of a certain Bupati (I don't know the equivalent in English, bupati is a leader of a kabupaten, the administrative government one step lower than a province). Since the gate was always open, you can easily see at least 10 cars inside a very big garage. The weird thing was that the house was not located in some upscale neighbourhood, instead it was in a middle-lower class area. Now who in the right mind would build a mansion when the next door neighboor in his tiny rumah petak (small rented house) is struggling just to pay his children's school fees? The whole thing totally sickened me.

Back to the road part, a lot of the funds allocated to build or maintain the roads are misused by the government officials and the contractor. For example, when there is a project to build asphalt road with the thickness of 20 cm (just an instance, cos I have no idea what the road thickness is), then the official and contractor can conspire to build the road with 10 cm thickness instead. The fund for the remaining 10 cm? Bagi bagi lah.. You keep 30 percent and I keep the rest.

After a short while the road gets damaged because of below par construction and also because of grossly overweight trucks using the road non stop (another possible blog topic, mmmm). When the budget for road repairs comes out then the whole evil cycle starts again.

At 7 o'clock in the morning I arrived in Medan, much faster than predicted, since apparently the bus driver was a graduate from a racing school. What a trip that was, but unfortunately I had to repeat it all over again, on the return trip...

Listening to: Racer X - Street Lethal


  • my bro worked in Jakarta for two years, he told me about the bad roads. he once took a 12 hour bus ride to see some volcano erupt...

    By Blogger Simon, at 6:51 AM, May 19, 2005  

  • hohohoho Let me guess... hm.. 12 hours ride is half day, could it be a ride from Dumai? or Jakarta?

    By the way I am interested to know your hometown. :p I am from Indonesia too. Hello fellow Indonesians.

    By Blogger SuRfNuX, at 10:18 AM, May 19, 2005  

  • simon - volcano erupting? nasty stuff.. well at least he has experienced bus ride indonesian style, heheh

    surfnux - 12 hours, from duri to medan. so you're from dumai? hey we're not that far apart.

    By Blogger coppersnare, at 11:19 AM, May 19, 2005  

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