Monday, March 14, 2011

Thrown back to the Irrelevance

My oh my, how long has it been? Well, who wants a blog in this busy, fast-moving, world when you have facebook and twitter?;=) You don't have to really think about what you are writing, do you? You don't need a long, well written articles to read, don't you? Always new. Short. Quick. How convenience!

So I don't know. I am back. In Dilbert's world, only 2 things are relevant now: China and Facebook (Isn't Dilbert sarcastically adorable?). So, by coming back, I am basically trying this old, irrelevant means. We'll see.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Ah, finally. I have been waiting for this moment. It is about time that the jargon is discussed publicly. The jargon was made famous in Indonesia by the president candidates who were rushing to attack their opponents. It becomes the buzzword of the year. Neoliberalism.

I have heard it for quite some time without having a clear idea about what exactly it means. Those politicians and the so-called economic experts (pengamat?) only add more to my confusion. It seems like they throw everything that they dislike into this jargon. Perhaps a conference should be held to define neoliberalism ;-). It is absurd to attack something that is so vague, isn't it?

I always think that it is about state intervention vs market mechanism. But as everyone knows, laissez faire is a just ghost. It is not real. There is no such thing as pure capitalism where state intervention is absent.

But then, there is this argument that neoliberalism is not about economic policy. It's about philosophy. It's about the way people see reality i.e. everything is at the mercy of market mechanism. With or without state intervention, neoliberalism can still prevail. But where does this view lead us to? What could we do about it? How would that translate into policy?

So, it all boils down to policy. I am afraid there is not much the would-be-elected president could do in the current economic situation despite the debate during the campaign. Reality bites. Still, it is quite an interesting and relevant discussion particularly when countries worldwide are seriously considering and evaluating their macroeconomic policy and when capitalism is being revisited.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beware of "Relativism"

I spent the first day of 2009 in Tokyo. I come to Tokyo for the second time to visit my friends, Dede and Jim. From Tokyo, Papua seems like an island in a different planet. So affluent, so clean, so efficient and so expensive. What a city! The soaring yen makes everything in Tokyo becomes much more expensive than it has already been.

Pricing everything in Rupiah makes things seem even more expensive (USD/Yen=89, USD/IDR=11.000). Housing and transportation are certainly not cheap. Taxi costs a fortune. The flag rate (when you start) is Yen 710 ($8 or Rp90.000). In Jakarta, taxi starts with Rp 5.500. Lunch in ordinary restaurants costs about 800-1000 Yen ($9-10 or Rp112.500-Rp125.000) per person. Japanese traditional stuffs are particularly expensive. I saw an origami product (Japanese paper-folding art)that cost Yen 12.000. A geisha hand-made comb costs about Yen 13.000. And there is this small box of food (about 30cmx30cm) i.e. Osechi Ryoori especially made for new year that I find excessively expensive. It costs Yen 10.500 ($120 or Rp 1.320.000).

Actually they have another type i.e. Chez Matsuo Osechi that costs Yen 126.000 (Rp 15.750.000)! So much for food! Japanese are nuts, aren't they?

So shopping in Tokyo is totally a not great idea (I like Hongkong better). But somehow, I don't know what's gotten into me that I managed to buy 6 bags! Am I becoming one of those women who shamelessly spend so much money on things like bags? Hm, but I didn't think they were that expensive (ergh ... except 1 or 2). Oh, wait a minute ... what is expensive, what is not?

I think "relativism" is at play here. It's amazing to see how it works. The first time you see the tag price, you'll scream outloud. Man, it's so expensive! In a few days you'll get a sense on the price in general when you see the price of groceries and other daily stuffs which obviously is at a different level. Before you know it, you already get yourself adjusted to the local price level. So, having had complained and dreaded on how expensive things were, I gradually shifted my "affordability" threshold. In a few days, things didn't seem that expensive anymore as they seemed in my first day in Tokyo. I ended up spending more than I had planned to.

And I brought home with me that new price level. Everything seemed so cheap in Jakarta. I began to compare the price in Jakarta and Tokyo. I felt this euphoria of living in Jakarta. But as a result I found myself spending more than I normally did. I think it has got to stop or else I will get broke. I need to adjust myself back to my old price level. Still struggling ;-(. What a dangerous thing this "relativism"!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shop Till You Drop

Last Sunday I went to Grand Indonesia for the first time. Gosh, it's huge and so full of people! And they do buy stuffs! It's business as usual. The economy crisis doesn't seem to belong here. No impact of job cuts. No weakening demand. No spending tightening. So I am wondering if things are not that bad at all here? Or are these people still in denial?

According to AC Nielsen survey (Kompas, 23/12/08, pg 26) 97% Indonesians love to go to malls. Is it because they do love shopping (or being in the shopping mall ;-)) or because they don't have or see any other choice yet? Should we build city parks or nice and big library in Jakarta as alternatives to those malls? But to do that, we may need to do some DNA redesigning ;-).

How many more shopping malls do Jakarta actually need? Don't we have enough already? Over the past few years, Jakarta have several new big malls: Senayan City, FX, Pacific Place, Grand Indonesia not to mention some new second class malls or trading centres like in Tanah Abang or the one in Kebon Kacang.

They all sell similar stuffs. Most of branded goods are sold at those big malls. You can find Zara in Plaza Senayan, Plaza Indonesia, Grand Indonesia (or maybe other malls) which are all located within 10 minutes drive. Well yeah there are slight differences. Pacific Place seems to focus on high end stuffs only whereas Grand Indonesia provide more varieties. FX, having failed in the beginning, strives to be a food/entertaining place.

Let's see what will happen to those malls next year. Will they survive the crisis and the competition?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dr Do Little

It took him only a minute or two to finish the "examination". He couldn't wait to leave the clinic of the hospital. He didn't touch my painful arm. He hardly talked to or looked at me. He actually scolded the nurse for having called another patient. Apparently I was supposed to be his last patient. It's only a little after 10am. The board shows that his schedule is 8am-11am!

I was so stunned that I didn't know what to say. It happened so fast. Too fast to be true. I didn't even have time to be angry. Did I just see a doctor? Was he a real doctor?

I so regret it to have come to that hospital. The only reason I went there was because it's 10 minutes walk from my apartment. My left arm was so painful that day that I had to keep it still. I'd rather walk slowly than take a cab to go to other hospital/clinic.

It is not a first class hospital but it is not a free one either. The hospital belongs to the Navy. I later heard from other doctor that it could be the so-called frozen shoulder. I am so grateful that it was "just" frozen shoulder. What if I get a very serious illness? Could I trust that kind of doctor who couldn't wait to escape his patients? No wonder there are so many Indonesians go to Singapore and Malaysia to seek better medical services. But, what about those who couldn't afford to go there? Pray a lot, I guess.

I think doctors have no rights to be uncaring. We, the patients, are the ones who pay them. It is our bodies that are at stake. We are the ones who will suffer from their wrong diagnosis. We trust them with our bodies and pay them a lot for that. So, what gives them the right to be careless and unsympathetic?

Fortunately, I later found out that there still exist some good doctors out there. A few days later, I went to see a neurologist in Carolus. He talks. He examines. He asks. He cares. He is a doctor.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where is the Bottom?

The global recession finally arrives. It’s a new reality. Stock indices have been plunging. Oil prices, commodity prices, currency (except USD) follow suit. Get used to the new price level, folks! They may have seemed to be cheap 3 months ago but hey they may look pretty expensive tomorrow. As if it is not enough, some say the worst is yet to come. The bottom is yet to be found.

How bad can it be? Where is the bottom? It’s definitely a trillion dollar question. Unfortunately, no one knows the answer.

But the bottom is there, isn’t it? Eventually it will be discovered. The stock price will finally stop falling. People will stop selling. However, I know that this knowledge of certainty is hardly a consolation for anyone particularly those whose investment has been slashed by 50-70%. It is just like saying that everyone will die while what everyone really concerns (if they should) is when and how it will happen.

But, again no one knows the answer. It would remain a mystery. So let’s be content with one thing i.e. someday the bottom will disclose itself.

A friend asked if this current financial meltdown has got something to do with the Gaia Project 2012. I guess he is running out of plausible explanation about what’s happening with the global economy. Hm … maybe we should start looking for some alternative explanations ;-).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Unprecedented Victory

I am blown away! Americans finally make the right decision. We should give them credit for this historic event. To make Obama as their president, they should earn great respect from people around the world who had disliked Americans over the past 8 years. After all, we all can learn and change.

Think about this: who would've thought that a black guy can be the president of the US when he, as a black guy, was not even allowed to vote some 40 years ago! Moreover, just around 140 years ago, the blacks in the US were slaves. What an overwhelming achievement!

I am just wondering if the same thing can actually happen in Indonesia. Will Indonesians be willing to look beyond the labels (be it race, ethnicity, sex or even religion)in the coming election? Will Indonesians choose capability over ethnicity or religion?

I want to believe that. But it's so hard. Some of them are thinking only for their own interests. Look at that stupid porn law among other things.

Oh, how fragile hope is. But Obama has shown us otherwise. I should dare to dream that Indonesians someday will take a great leap as Americans did today.

Thanks to you, Barack Obama! Thanks to your audacious hope.