25 Most Popular Posts in 2005

Since I attempted blogging in late 2003 and stopped it awhile before I started hitting it again in mid 2004 onward, I have posted quite a bit of rants with time. Obviously, most of the posts contain trivial notes that are very ephemeral or highly personal. Yet, I have noted that some posts contain ideas that hold as much relevance today as they did when they were one by one posted. It seems to me these posts have had the potential to endure the test of time or to be developed further through future posting--by myself, at least.

The following links to 25 most popular posts are humbly presented to you for having made the time to visit Nad's Notes and bear with me, as a way of wishing you a great happy new year 2006 and great holiday--you prefer some cash, I know. (They have been sorted out of this blog thanks to the most amazing Google and most wonderful statistics service from Statcounter.)

So, happy new year, everyone!

1. 700 New Cars
2. A Country on the Make: In Memoriam Cak Nur
3. A Great Folly
4. Annotated links to free blog tempates
5. Blogging Axioms and Rules in but 1 Post
6. Ceteris Paribus: A Most Dangerous Tool
7. Indonesia's Fuel Subsidy-Reduction Compensation Program
8. Indonesia's Islamic Banking: Draconian Tasks Ahead
9. It's Not About the Economy, Stupid!
10. Kekebeletan yang Memiskinkan [In Bahasa]
11. Keuangan Internasional dan Otoritas Fiskal Kita [In Bahasa]
12. Menyaksikan Rumput Tumbuh: Demografi dan Tenaga Kerja Indonesia [In Bahasa]
13. Million dollar ideas
14. Nothing is Nothing
15. One Stitch at a Time
16. Our Greater Common Good
17. Polemik yang Harus Segera Berakhir [In Bahasa]
18. Potensi Bencana di Depan Mata [In Bahasa]
19. Sahur Blogging 2: The Ulysses Awards
20. Sinetron dan Bajaj Bajuri Kita [In Bahasa]
21. The Curse of Inflation
22. The Dismall Malls
23. The Need to Ghost-blog
24. The Perils of Sedekah, Infaq, Zakat or the like of it
25. Thoughts from a Fancy Car


The greatest problems of philosophy

Now that the world is entering the "injury" time nearing the close of 2005, I am lucky enough these days to have been blessed with freer time on my side--and more books on my hands. The other day I thought perhaps I should blog about personal "reflections" as the year turns, but the Jakarta Post preempted it by its Life is an Onion. Life is an onion, they say; we peel one layer at a time, and sometimes we weep. Life is what we do with that one layer at a time, and, unlike an apple, there is really no core inside.

Recently I have been painstakingly reading two philosophy books written in Indonesian by two Indonesians. One is Postmodernisme, Tantangan Bagi Filsafat by Bambang Soegiharto, and the other is a newer book Derrida, on the philosopher's thoughts and his position in philosophy, by a younger writer Muhammad Al-Fayyadl. The vast knowledge on the subject matter and tenacity of both writers are highly admirable. As among the first books written on Postmodernism by Indonesians, they deserve commendation and have won my respect and admiration.

But I must also say each of them has been a disappointment. I had to put them down for awhile. To my very limited mind, these two books have failed in imparting better understanding. After going almost half of each, I was able neither to make a coherent sense nor grasp the gist of it. The pages seemed to concurrently contain descriptions of ceaseless concepts that yet called for other explanations in order to understand them. Then this question faced me: is it about me or them?

I am an adult, quite an experienced reader, especially in my own mothertongue. I generally know sort of the limits of my understanding and would be able to tell if texts fail me and when I am required more careful reading.

So finally I was forced to arrive at some personal conclusions: of the greatest problems with philosophy may be that it is a problem to itself and how it is conveyed. In this case, something must have been wrong about the way these books were presented to the general audience.

By saying this I don't mean to say I have given up on these books, though. Yesterday, I did some Internet research to assist me with my reading, and was brought by Google to some much friendlier sites. Frankly speaking, I felt more illuminated by the sites than by the books, and this fact I find quite regrettable.

More questions remain unanswered. Have it to do with a writer's personality or the sophistry of a subject? Can difficult subjects not be presented in a simple way ? What good is it to write something turgid that most people don't understand? Why the additional complexities fir things with complexities in themselves?

See, this all had been personal--until today, when I found an article written by Noam Chomsky (one prominent linguist) on the problem similar to the one I encountered. On Rationality/Science Chomsky wrote:

"… I have spent a lot of my life working on questions such as these, using the only methods I know of--those condemned here as "science," "rationality," "logic," and so on. I therefore read the papers with some hope that they would help me "transcend" these limitations, or perhaps suggest an entirely different course. I'm afraid I was disappointed. Admittedly, that may be my own limitation. Quite regularly, "my eyes glaze over" when I read polysyllabic discourse on the themes of poststructuralism and postmodernism; what I understand is largely truism or error, but that is only a fraction of the total word count. True, there are lots of other things I don't understand: the articles in the current issues of math and physics journals, for example. But there is a difference."
He proceeds…

"In the latter case, I know how to get to understand them, and have done so, in cases of particular interest to me; and I also know that people in these fields can explain the contents to me at my level, so that I can gain what (partial) understanding I may want. In contrast, no one seems to be able to explain to me why the latest post-this-and-that is (for the most part) other than truism, error, or gibberish, and I do not know how to proceed. Perhaps the explanation lies in some personal inadequacy, like tone-deafness. Or there may be other reasons. …"
As some subject matters are, no doubt, difficult. Some writers are difficult, too. Some snobbishly confuse size with clarity, and the longer such writers write, the more they perplex their readers.

I still hope that some day I can make more sense out of these books. If that day never comes, I should accept that philosophy is for me too much of a challenge.


Merry Christmas!

Yesterday S, this moslem friend of mine, forwarded an email message attaching some articles in which an Islamic preacher tried to explain in great details, quoting out of context some references to the Qur'an , that it was haram (forbidden) for moslems to wish Christians a Merry Christmas! Arggh!

Here's heartful greeting and wishing for a Happy and Merry Christmas to all bloggers and visitors who celebrate it all over the world. If it were sinful for me to do so, I, a moslem myself, would be as willing to commit it.

(Update: A few such articles can be found, in varying degrees of (in)tolerance, here--in Bahasa, though.)


The dismall malls

With the completion of its newest to the south of Jakarta, the city has had another one mall too many. The façade still a departure from beauty, furnished with a glass-covered bridge connecting it to its older sister mall across the road, PI Mall 2 is already presenting itself as another center of 'convenience.' Combined, they establish themselves as a gigantic shopping center to some people.

As a commuter that has to pass it almost every day, I had often wondered who these people might be. For one, who would be patient enough to roam about the congested city to explore a new mall so sizely? Who would be blessed enough with the "shop till you drop" luxury in this city? The logical answer seems clear: such a mall is but for a small circle of Jakarta's elites and a handful of expatriates and tourists.

On the second day of Eid Fitr this year, our family finally went there, in seach of meal. I witnessed its inside look resembled to beauty more than its outer. Frenzied people amassed on the floors offering motley of food; smells of newness and of tasty food mixed everywhere. Compared to other floors, these foodstall floors were busiest. We had to wait for minutes for seats and yet more for the food. When it arrived our appetite had diminished significantly, especially that of our daughter.

Excepting these affordable food stalls, I observed many shops offering world-class articles that only big money can buy. I swear I could have picked in blindfolds stuff that would deprive my entire salary at one buy. Still, I also saw teenagers flocking around window-shopping in small groups looking at things beyond their financial reach. That'd have been counterlogical, if I hadn't thought that they were hanging about there for "un-shopping purposes," which only God and they themselves knew. Most of them couldn't afford the objects on display.

It is hard to deny that most Jakartans cannot afford the items offered by many luxurious shops in that mall. This proposition is as hard to reject as saying that the value of Rupiah will only decrease in time. Their low puchasing power is no secrecy and with the recent fuel price hike, it has been even reduced by around 30-50 percent. Expensive malls like this new one, therefore, will have to depend on three patrons: a small circle of Jakartan elites, a handful of expats and some tourists. (We can add the upper middle class here, but as they have been fiercefully pressed in the middle-as tax subjects and victims of inflation and exchange rates. The last thing for them to do is to spend money there. Those who fail to see it now will be brought to their senses soon.)

The dependence on such last two patrons will be very high for malls located in a city whose majority of population is poor. Therefore, sustainability of such malls will have to depend on their ability to attract non-locals, such as foreigners. Since Jakarta is not particularly a touristic destination, like Singapore for instance, these showy malls are doomed from the start. Their collapse is but a matter of time.


Exploited in Batam

A good soul in Batam

This one is dedicated to a good friend whom I have come to know as one of the most honest and most trustworthy Indonesians I ever know. K, as I should call him in this post, lives in Batam with his wife and one daughter, their first daughter in the care of K's older sister in Bangka, a neighboring Island.

I was in "his" Island last week on a business assignment to attend an environment workshop at one of the hotels. The workshop itself was nothing special, but I was glad to be able to meet this good "long lost" friend.

About a couple of hours before I left Jakarta, I managed to get his sister's phone number in Batam. From his sister I got his official number. As I learned later, my friend had worked for a shipyard company called PT. Nan Indah in Tanjung Uncang, Batam. One of his colleagues gave me his HP number. In short, we promised to meet late after 9 pm that night at the hotel lobby.

K is older by several years than I am. When he rang my doorbell and showed up that evening, his younger looking appearance reminds me of that. I handed him a little something I bought at the airport for his daughter. Our discussion continued from Room 702 to the restaurant on the first floor.

It was where he told me about his work, when I almost couldn't believe him when he said that all these years he had worked for that same company practically without holidays! From Monday to Sunday, from 8 to 6, with overtime arrangement that makes him stay until 9:00. That explains why he saw me very late that night. Under the working environment, hundreds of other workers are being exploited like that. It was a good chat as ever, but I asked him to go home quickly; his family must have been waiting at home. When K left, I was inundated by mixed feelings. I have always admired him for his integrity. I always know he is one of the toughest men alive, now I learn he is one of the most exploited workers in the country. I am so sorry I cannot do anything to change his situation (how I wish, though, that the company management would by chance read this post and improve this killing situation).

Before I checked out from the hotel the next day, the concierge told me there was something for me: a small parcel of chocolates and two jars of tauco (soybean ketchup). For my family, he wrote.

(This post was retitled by Nad on Dec. 24)


Million dollar ideas

I'll probaby never be one who knows very much about product development or design, but there are times when I wish I did. That's mostly when I am made amazed either by the beauty, practicality, or functionality of an object.

When the three qualities unite in harmony, the perfection only confirms the undeniable existence of well measured poetry in every cranny of technology. From a business viewpoint, the perfection often translates into secured streams of cash. Toward this end, advertising stresses on, or exploits, any of the three qualities in introducing a particular product to the consuming mass.

Speaking of which, back in 1992 when the fax machine was on the rage, and when my job required that I received daily scrolls of rolled faxpaper from the other end, I recall once thinking how I would be grateful if they could create a similar gadget that fed on normal pieces of folio paper.

I also remember, a year later when I had my first and bulky handphone (more popularly called as a "radiophone" that day in Bp city), thinking that the world needed vibrating handphones. Well, I never discussed such "silly" ideas with anyone; while I am posting about them now, these ideas have no doubt been made obsolete by the ephemery of product cycle.

Quite some time ago now, with a friend of mine Tris we once landed on a discussion on what we thought could be a million dollar idea. It concerns cigarettes. (Yes, we are both fellows foolishly hooked by Lady Nicotine--while I'm struggling to terminate the affair, Tris has never indicated, at least to me, a slight wish to discontinue being enamored with her). That particular day was the first time we thought about a new and better way to present this particular one worst type of stuff men ever created. Anyway, cigarettes in our opinion should be made shorter. Rather than tucking them tall in a pack of 12, it would be better to shorten the size and put them short in a pack of, say, 24. A few days ago, the idea struck us again. This time we felt more convinced than before that any cigarette brand would have an edge over the tough competition just by re-presenting the coffin nails this way. We both were, of course, being very biased. But we couldn't help believing it would be a reality. We still can't.

Recently, a "brilliant" idea about toothpaste or toothbush struck my mind. It's a sort of about innovation that I'm weirdly convinced enough will dramatically triple or quadruple the sales of any toothpaste or toothbrush if it is sold accordingly (my heart is pounding as I'm blogging this now). I'm still wondering what's best to do with it. I mean it may be high time that this particular hunch didn't just die away unembraced.


Response to "IMF Aid - Helping the Poor?"

It was indeed interesting to read Inside Indonesia's IMF Aid - Helping the Poor?, which reminds one once again of the IMF's "sin" and "fiasco" during Indonesia's crisis in 1997. I must from the onset say while I share some of the points raised by Sugeng Bahagijo, the writer, while I subscribe to some of his views, I also must say here that sometimes I can't help wondering this way: why the need to blame others? As a citizen of this crisis-laden developing country, I have pained in seeing and being actually affected by our economy so dreadfully mismanaged. Here, I'm just trying to examine my own perspectives on this issue, so this is no final stance on my part.

I still like to liken Indonesia as a big family with an awful lot of children. Our "parents" had no money so we borrowed-from the IMF, the World Bank, ADB, IDB, etc. Like any money lending agency or individual money lender, there are always conditionalities we have to meet before we are allowed to borrow. Very well, we have decided to consent to comply.

Then in the course of the process, some of our own fellow Indonesians in charge of the borrowing used the money unwisely. Maybe they collaborated with foreign cronies, but this is beside the point. First we felt we were left with not much; then we were left with dependence on debts, and before we realize it debt servicing is already a trap.

Of course it is not fair (tell me what's fair in life?). The older generation did the borrowing, and enjoyed the defty embezzlements. In the long run, some of them died with impunity and inherited the wealth to their children and grandchildren. The rest of us, the young, have to foot the debt servicing through the nose.

And that's not the end of the sad story. Since early this century, our big family has not only borrowed from external sources; we have also borrowed domestically through bonds and other government securities. In fact, the total amount of domestic borrowing, in a mere matter of years, has outsized the foreign loans (which have accummulated after 3 decades or so), and in terms of interest rates and tenors, the terms are prohibitive.

Now, some of the arguments against the IMF as put forward in the media, sadly, tend to be easy to thwart. Weak arguments, good natured they may be, are dangerous and can backfire to the detriment of the struggle for equity and equatability. I can say with confidence that for one negative thought about an IMF-originated policy has at least a couple of justifications. Readily, the counter arguments outnumber such objection. If this were a battle of arguments, the victor would be obvious all of us. Take a deep look at the Letters of Intents prepared by our government and the IMF, chances are we will see how very good most of them are. The need for Indonesia to privatize SOEs, for instance, can't have been wrong in an environment where corrupt government officials were and are rampant; the need to stop subsidies would make a sound advise for a fiscally strapped government.

Actually, one of the "most dangerous" things from the IMF perhaps concerns its accounting system whereby government expenses in servicing principals and interests can be counted as "negative financing," with its consequence of hiding the true amount of deficit. As far as I know, not many people have treaded this path for questioning the intent of the financial agency. This can well be a strongest argument against the IMF, and thus worth pursuing.

I can go on forever on this, but what I'm trying to hint-tentatively at least, as I am still formulating my views on this--is that I suspect that rather than playing opposition from afar it may be far better for pressure groups, such as international or domestic NGOs to work closely with the government and even external financial agencies without sacrificing their critical mind.

While this issue needs to be satisfactorily addressed, the main problem for the big family is how to earn income. No government can rely solely on debts. It has to make money. It has to create jobs. These are real issues to concentrate on. Thus the title: IMF Aid--Helping the Poor? is, seen from a certain perspective, a naivety. Expecting other people, let alone business entitities, to really help this country is too good to be true. Expecting such institutions to really really really help the poor... is wishful thinking that gets us nowhere.

Keuangan Internasional dan Otoritas Fiskal Kita

Tulisan singkat ini menanggapi artikel Bambang Kusumanto di harian Kompas, Selamat Tinggal Kebijakan Fiskal.

Di dua paragraf pertama Bambang dengan cerdas membandingkan fenomena keuangan domestik-internasional dengan penilaian karakter orang berdasarkan roman mukanya.

"Ibarat wajah manusia, suku bunga, nilai tukar, indeks saham gabungan adalah "air muka" ekonomi kita. Ketika datang berita menggembirakan, indeks harga saham akan naik, nilai tukar akan menguat, suku bunga akan menurun. Keadaan sebaliknya akan terjadi apabila datang berita-berita yang tidak menyenangkan."

"Reaksi pasar itu sama sekali jauh dari menunjukkan kondisi fundamental ekonomi sebenarnya. Dalam mengambil keputusan, para investor, terutama investor jangka panjang di sektor riil, melihat indikator-indikator lain yang lebih fundamental, yang sering tidak dilihat, bahkan sengaja diabaikan para ekonom pasar uang dan modal. Itu karena semakin fluktuatif pasar uang dan modal, kian besar kesempatan "profit making" dalam bisnis mereka."

Dua paragraf pertama dari Bambang Kusumanto ini menggambarkan fenomena pasar yang sebenarnya sangat dahsyat secara terlalu bersahaja. Seolah hal tersebut memang terjadi karena hukum alam, by virtue, atau "sudah dari sononya". Padahal fenomena yang telah dan akan terus merugikan sebagian besar negara berkembang ini menunjukan "gejala" atau mengindikasikan suatu "kesalahan" yang amat serius, jika tidak boleh disebut sebagai cacat besar dalam sistem keuangan intenasional. Sengaja atau tidak, sistem hedonis yang manipulatif ini terus bertahan atau dipertahankan karena cenderung menguntungkan para negara kaya dengan kurs mata uang asing yang lebih kuat. (Betul, ini sekadar klaim, karena saya tidak punya bukti saat ini; namun demikian, keyakinan saya kuat sekali.) Padahal, yang normal kita sebut "pasar" dalam dunia keuangan internasional sebenarnya tidak lain dan tidak bukan adalah suatu konstruksi yang didominasi para pemain kuat yang umumnya berasal dari negara-negara maju; distribusinya cenderung lopsided, sehingga tidak dapat dianggap sebagai suatu distribusi yang normal. Padahal, seringkali yang kita disebut "pasar" tidak identik dengan "pasar" dalam artian ideal yang dibayangkan Adam Smith dalam An Inquiry to the Wealth of Nations. Hm, saya sudah memakai kata padahal tiga kali sejauh ini ...

Lebih lanjut, di paragraf berikutnya, Kusumanto menulis:

"Inilah sisi "evil" dari bisnis pasar uang dan modal yang kurang manusiawi, dilihat dari sektor riil yang menjadi sumber pendapatan bagi banyak orang."

Penggunaan kata "evil" di sini cukup menarik untuk tidak disikapi secara otomatis. Kata ini termasuk terminologi moral yang biasanya dipakai untuk melukiskan sesuatu yang religiously sanctioned atau berasal atau mengacu kepada unsur ketuhanan. Dengan memakai istilah moral, seolah-olah "bisnis" atau "pasar" memang memiliki "karakter" demikian yang tidak dapat diapa-apakan, padahal sebenarnya, pasar adalah hasil konsensus manusia. Sebagian pebisnis atau pemain pasar dapat bersifat "evil" karena menyangkut aspek moral manusia. Dengan menyebut market atau bisnis sebagai "evil," kita tergiring untuk percaya bahwa kondisi tersebut tidak dapat diutak-atik lagi.

Evil atau tidak, karakter ini tidak seharusnya dipakai di sini tanpa menggugat keabsahannya, karena "pasar" tidak termasuk ranah ketuhanan melainkan hasil atau alat interaksi sesama manusia.

Selanjutnya, mengenai kondisi dan mekanisme fiskal negara ini, saya cenderung setuju dengan penulis bahwa jawaban sebenarnya terletak pada bagaimana para pengambil keputusan publik dapat menghayati pentingnya ketiga kondisi kebijakan fiskal di atas terhadap pertumbuhan ekonomi. Bagaimana pengambil keputusan dapat mewujudkannya dalam suatu kesatuan kebijakan fiskal yang konsisten dan efektif.

Saya juga sependapat bahwa pada saat ini kondisi pengambilan keputusan ini kurang menggembirakan. Juga benar bahwa pengambilan keputusan kebijakan fiskal saat ini terpecah di berbagai lembaga dan instansi. Saya dapat mengerti maksud penulis ketika mengatakan bahwa otoritas fiskal terbagi atas tiga jenis, yaitu pada departemen teknis sebagai penyusun dan pengguna anggaran, pada sidang-sidang komisi DPR, dan pada ratusan pemerintah daerah yang mengelola lebih dari 25 persen APBN melalui dana perimbangan.

Namun, saya sepakat untuk tidak sepakat dengan Bambang ketika ia mengatakan bahwa Depkeu atau Bappenas tidak lagi dapat disebut sebagai otoritas fiskal, melainkan tidak lebih dari juru tagih dan juru bayar keuangan negara. Sekarang kita sudah memiliki UU Keuangan Negara. Di dalam UU tersebut dan UU rencana pembangunan jangka menengah serta UU Perencanaan Negara sesungguhnya kekuasaan Departemen Keuangan menjadi semakin besar, dan kekuasaan Bappenas tidak kalah pentingnya. Dalam semua UU tersebut tersurat serta tersirat pentingnya Departemen Keuangan untuk berkoordinasi dengan Bappenas dan Bank Indonesia. Hanya saja, reformasi departemen keuangan yang belum selesai dan tuntutan yang cukup tinggi dapat membuat para pejabat kelabakan. (Beberapa ekonom, misalnya Raden Pardede, menyarankan pembentukan otoritas fiskal secara terpisah, juga otoritas moneter di luar Bank Sentral. Saya kira ide ini hanya akan membuat komplikasi persoalan.)

Menurut hemat saya, kondisi pengendalian dan pengelolaan fiskal suatu negara sudah sepatutnya berada dalam kondisi yang saling "tegang." Seperti demokrasi pada umumnya, semua unsur pembentuk harus "bersitegang" satu sama lainnya agar dapat berfungsi dengan baik. Laksana dawai biola atau gitar, tidak akan dapat tercipta musik yang baik jika dawainya tidak tegang. Dalam hal pengelolaan fiskal, salah satu isu kritis justru adalah transparensi dan keterbukaan satu otoritas fiskal untuk berinteraksi dengan otoritas fiskal lainnya. Isu kritis lain adalah bagaimana menabuh dawai tersebut agar menghasilkan nada harmoni sesuai irama yang diinginkan. Di negara dengan eksperimen desentralisasi terbesar di dunia, hal ini seharusnya dimengerti dengan bijaksana. Tahun 2005 adalah tahun pertama mekanisme perencanaan keuangan baru diterapkan seiring dengan reformasi besar di tubuh departemen keuangan dan di dalam sistem perencanaan jangka pendek, menengah dan panjang Indonesia. Sebagai contoh, tahun depan perencanaan keuangan negara, sesuai cetak biru reformasi di departemen keuangan, diharapkan dapat menyiapkan anggaran untuk jangka menengah.

Pada akhirnya, masing-masing pihak otoritas fiskal ini hanya perlu "ngotot" memberikan yang terbaik secara jujur dan terbuka. Jika terjadi benturan kepentingan, tinggal ditentukan kebijakan mana yang terbaik buat orkestra kita--dan buat para pendengarnya. Jadi, alih-alih mengatakan "Selamat Tinggal Kebijakan Fiskal," kita dapat mengatakan sebaliknya, "Selamat Datang Kebijakan Fiskal Sejati."


Cabinet Reshuffling: Some Facts and Opinions

This rather long piece of writing concludes my previous posts on the issue (see Farewell to the Ministers and Selamat Tinggal. After waiting for about three months, President SBY finally announced his cabinet reshuffling. The announcement was made yesterday (Monday, Dec.5) at Gedung Negara in Yogyakarta and aired live through TVRI state television station. I was glad to be quite accurate in predicting that Jusuf Anwar and Andung would lose their posts.

The Reshuffle

The reshuffling removed three ministers of their position, and rotated three others. It introduced three "new" names: Boediono, a nonpartisan; Paskah Suzetta, a veteran politician from the Golongan Karya party; and Erman Soeparno, a deputy-treasurer with PKB. The replacement and rotation can be summed up as follows:

1. Ir Aburizal Bakrie, former Economic Affairs Coordinating Minister now People`s Welfare Coordinating Minister replacing Alwi Shihab;

2. Dr Budiono, Economic Affairs Coordinating Minister replacing Aburizal Bakrie.

3. Dr Sri Mulyani Indrawati, former state minister for national development planning, now Finance Minister replacing Yusuf Anwar;

4. Fahmi Idris, former Manpower and Transmigration minister, now Industry Minister replacing Andung Nitimihardja.

5. Ir Paskah Suzetta, state minister for national development planning/head of the national development planning agency (Bappenas).

Up Close and Impersonal…

As for the economic team, a seasoned technocrat Budiono replaces Aburizal Bakrie as the coordinating minister for the economy. Aburizal, however, will retain the coordinating minister position being named the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare replacing Alwi Shihab.

Alwi Shihab is now made SBY's advisor and special envoy for cooperation with Middle East countries as well as the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Islamic Development Bank (ADB).

Former State Minister of Development Planning and chairwoman of the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) Sri Mulyani is now Minister of Finance, replacing Jusuf Anwar. Sri Mulyani's former position is occupied by a Golkar Party politician, Paskah Suzetta, currently chairman of the Commission XI for Finance Affairs at DPR (the House of Representatives). Jusuf Anwar is said to be named as ambassador to "an important country," which remains to be announced.

Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Fahmi Idris replaces Andung Nitimihardja as Minister of Industry. It is not clear as to Andung's new position. Fahmi's former position as Minister of Manpower and Transmigration is filled in by Erman Soeparno from the National Awakening Party (PKB). Currently he is deputy chairman of House Comission V for Communication and Infrastructure.

All these new ministers will be sworn in on Wednesday.


Boediono, the only name revealed by the President to join the economic team; a doctor of economics from Wharton School University of Pennsylvania, USA (1979); obtained his master degree in Economics from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Born in Blitar on 25 Februari 1943. Minister of Bappenas during Presidency of BJ Habibie; Minister of Finance under President Megawati, a highly successful minister. Recent issue of the Far Eastern Economic Reviews dubbed him as one of the four people who have changed Indonesia. Was highly internationally acclaimed as a very successful in maintaing Indonesia's economic stability through the transition era.

Paskah Suzettta, his last position was Chair of Commission XI on Finance, national Development Planning, Banking and Non-Bank Financial Institutions (Chairman of Comission XI). Affiliated with Golkar, he was born in Bandung, West Java, on 6 April 1953.

Education and Career:

1994 : Graduate, National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas)
1990 : Degree from the Political & Social Science Faculty, Padjajaran University (Unpad), Bandung
2005-present : Deputy Treasurer, Golkar
2004-present : Chair, DPR Commission XI, (Finance, National Development Planning, Banking and Non-bank Financial Institutions)
1999-2004 : Deputy Chair, DPR Commission IX (Finance and Banking);
: Member, Special Committee investigating case of Bank Bali;
: Member, Special Committee for amending Bank Indonesia Law
1997-1999 : Member, DPR Commission VIII (Energy and Natural Resources)
1992-1997 : Deputy Chair, DPR Commission IV (Transportation & Infrastructure)
1998-2003 : Chair, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin), West Java branch.

Business : 1993-1998 head of Regional head of (Real Estate Indonesia), West Java; 1994-2004, head of advisory board, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.

Some critics mentioned that Paskah, a veteran parliamentarian, though experienced in finance by serving as deputy chair of DPR's Commission IX from 1999 to 2004, is far from liberal with regard to views on economics. He was said to have adamantly opposed the independence of Bank Indonesia and have favored Indonesia's withdrawal from the IMF program. He has been viewed as one resisting privatization, especially strategic sales involving foreign buyers. I'd say as long as he remains open minded, he can play an important role in keeping the checks and balances, e.g. keep our conscience against too government-pro economists or "external" interests.

Erman Soeparno, born in Purworejo, on 20 March 1950. Master degree from Newport University, California USA; former President Director of PT PP Taisei Indonesia Construction; former member of the Parliament from the Kebangkitan Bangsa faction (1999-2004) of which he became leader of the faction; former Deputy Leader of Commission V of the DPR; closely linked to Head of the PKB Board Abdurrahman Wahid and PKB Leader Muhaimin Iskandar.


Some economists (e.g. Chatib Basri of UI) said that there would not be any significant change in economic policies. Major issues would remain the same: creation of macro stability, actions to contain inflation and solution to rising unemployment. Others (e.g. Aviliani of INDEF) were of the view that the President was merely playing safe. His decision would not impact much, especially to the real sectors.

Various comments from the business circle have no doubt also arisen following the presence of three new ministers in the cabinet. Generally speaking, business and industrial players welcomed the reshuffling, particularly on the economic team, although it had not really represented the interest of the real sectors.

Yet others viewed that the appointment of Paskah Suzetta and Erman Suparno was more a political compromise than astute strategic thinking. Indra J. Piliang, researcher of Political and Social Changes with CSIS, was among those sharing this view. Political compromises like this, said Coordinator of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) Rafendy Djamin, tended to weaken the effort. He argued that other as serious problems, such as legal matters, remain untouched by the reshuffling.

Still, some commented that SBY had applied political accomodation throughout this limited reshuffling. SBY had accomodated Golkar by offering one additional ministerial portfolio (now there are three ministers from Golkar) while at the same time he tried to take PKB by the hand by recruiting Erman. A political observer from Universitas Indonesia (UI), Maswadi Rauf, noted that this strategy of the president was quite understandable to strengthen its political support.

Of the three new ministers, Erman Suparno, the new minister of Manpower and Transmigration was the one received with skepticism. Relatively unknown, he has been regarded as an "alien" by the secretariat General of the Association of Workers Indrayana, and by General Charman of Front of Indonesian Laborer's Struggle (FNPBI) Dita Indahsari. Understandably, Erman was deputy chariman of Commission V at the parliament, which deals with issues of transportation, housing and public works.

Deputy Chairman of Parliament Zaenal Maarif said that the reshuffle has been met with positive sentiment at the House.

Some foreign investors said they tended to focus on what the new ministers would do next. They also hoped that the new team could work together in addressing the complex situation facing Indonesia's economy. They hoped that the reshuffling could be a strong basis for changes and embetterment in Indonesia's economy. They also hoped that the new team would be able to lessen the impact of fuel price hikes and the destabilized rupiah.

Economic observer and also Parliament member Drajad Wibowo said that the economic policy would tend to be conservative with the entrance of Boediono as coordinating minister and Sri Mulyani as finance minister. Although believing the two made a good combination, he said the problem Indonesia faces calls for revitalization in industrial and agricultural sectors. These are precisely the areas that the two bigwicks lack of experience. As regards the new positions of Paskah Suzetta and Fahmi Idriss, he was of the opinion that they were just in the right positions.

Meanwhile, a member of Indonesia's Senate (DPD) from Jakarta, Sarwono Kusumaatmaja, said that the reshuffling proved that the President SBY had erred at the beginning of his presidency. In his opinion, the President should be firm in appointing his minsiters. This reshuffling would only be good with strong leadership from him.

(Major sources: Kompas, Bisnis Indonesia, Media Indonesia, Neraca, and Koran Tempo issued on Dec. 5 2005)


Menyaksikan Rumput Tumbuh: Demografi dan Pasar Tenaga Kerja Indonesia*

Perkenalkan anak saya semata wayang: L. Barusan berulang tahun keenam. L, demikian ia kami panggil, sekarang murid kelas 1 SD. Sesuai dengan hasil seminar dari Lembaga Demografi Indonesia (LDI) minggu lalu, L dan anak-anak sebayanya akan berusia 21 tahun pada tahun 2020 nanti. Ia akan berjuang mencari rejeki dengan lebih dari 250,5 juta penduduk Indonesia. L akan tumbuh sebagai seorang perempuan di antara sekitar 70 juta perempuan Indonesia dalam usia subur. Di tahun itu, akan ada sekitar 170,9 juta jiwa manusia dalam usia kerja.

Bonus Demografi

Menurut LDI, dekade 2020-2030 merupakan dekade istimewa yang memberi apa yang disebut sebagai bonus demografi atau demographic dividend, yaitu ketika nisbah ketergantungan orang-orang tua kepada anak-anak muda mencapai titik nadir 44 per 100. Bonus ini konon hanya akan terjadi sekali sepanjang sejarah perjalanan suatu bangsa. Dengan demikian, bonus ini menyediakan Indonesia semacam jendela peluang untuk menaikkan kesejahteraan masyarakat.

Kondisi Sine Qua Non Pemanfaatan Bonus
Menurut catatan LDI pemanfaatan peluang ini dapat terjadi antara lain: 1) jika terjadi kelangsungan penurunan angka kelahiran hingga tahun 2030; 2) jika mulai sekarang jangkauan pendidikan diperluas dan kualitasnya dipertinggi; 3) jika pelatihan kerja digalakkan; 4) jika ada koordinasi yang baik antar sektor; 5) jika iklim investasi kondusif untuk membuka kesempatan kerja produktif; dan 6) jika sumber daya pemerintah yang terhindarkan karena penurunan proporsi anak dapat dialihkan untuk investasi pendidikan dan peningkatan kualitas SDM.

Kondisi Obyektif Indonesia
Mengingat kondisi Indonesia saat ini, dan sesuai dengan tanggapan salah seorang pejabat kunci dari Departemen Tenaga Kerja RI yang hadir saat itu, kondisi sine qua non di atas berada di luar kendali pemerintah Indonesia. Hingga saat ini Pemerintah masih "mencoba merumuskan arah pengembangan dan pengendalian SDM dan tenaga kerja Indonesia." Sementara, seperti dikatakan oleh pakar demografi Sri Moertiningsih, kebijakan demografi ini baru dapat dirasakan 30 tahun kemudian. "It is like watching the grass grow." Pergerakannya tidak terlihat tetapi nyata.

Tingkat Pengangguran Indonesia sejak krisis 1997 terus meningkat dengan akselerasi 2 juta per tahun. Pada tahun 2005 jumlahnya sekitar 68 juta jiwa atau 10.3% dari angkatan kerja. Kebanyakan mereka berpendidikan sekolah menengah, umumnya tinggal di perkotaan, mayoritas berusia muda antara 15-29 tahun, dan sebagian besar perempuan! Anak perempuan perkotaan seperti L termasuk kelompok paling rawan. Posisi mereka dalam pasar tenaga kerja Indonesia secara rata-rata dapat disimpulkan dalam satu akronim: LIFO-last in, first out, atau yang paling akhir direkrut, tetapi paling awal akan ditendang jika terjadi gonjang-ganjing perekonomian!

Elastisitas Tenaga Kerja dan Pertumbuhan Ekonomi
Satu catatan penting adalah bahwa proses pemulihan ekonomi Indonesia sejak krisis hingga kini tidak mampu menyerap tenaga kerja sebanyak yang dibutuhkan. Menurut Islam dan Nazara (2000), diperlukan penyerapan 400-500 ribu pekerja untuk setiap persen pertumbuhan ekonomi jika, Indonesia ingin mengurangi tingkat pengangguran. Dengan kata lain, ekonomi harus tumbuh 3-5% di atas pertumbuhan tahun lalu agar dapat menyerap tambahan 2 juta pengangguran baru.

Bukan Asal Tumbuh
Kita ketahui bahwa dalam beberapa tahun terakhir, pertumbuhan perekonomian Indonesia dimotori oleh konsumsi; sementara, yang disebut sebagai pertumbuhan yang ramah tenaga kerja adalah pertumbuhan yang dapat menyerap tenaga kerja; yang dimotori oleh investasi dan ekspor, dan bukan oleh konsumsi. Pertumbuhan yang labor-friendly adalah yang padat karya, meskipun padat modal dapat juga menyumbangkan efek pengganda yang cukup besar.

Peran Pemerintah
Peran Pemerintah, menurut pakar demografi Nazara, adalah menciptakan kondisi pasar kerja dan hubungan industrial yang kondusif dalam mendukung daya saing Indonesia pada tenaga kerja murah yang produktif. Pertanyaan yang tidak sempat kita tanyakan adalah: jenis pekerjaan murah dan produktif apa sih yang dapat Pemerintah sediakan untuk penduduk Indonesia? Jawabannya, paling-paling tenaga kasar semacam kuli, TKW, TKI dan yang sejenisnya. Itupun belum bisa dipenuhi.

Yang Tersirat
(Bagian ini berisi sesuatu yang nyaris tidak terucapkan, meskipun sebenarnya cukup gamblang keniscayaannya. Bagian ini juga ingin menggarisbawahi bahwa: mau tidak mau, kita harus melepaskan konsep-konsep tertentu yang kita anut selama ini terhadap pemerintah dan perannya.)

Kesimpulan pertama: kecil sekali Pemerintah Indonesia, apalagi Kementerian Tenaga Kerja semata, dapat menggagas atau menerapkan konsep perbaikan dan peningkatan mutu pendidikan bagi teman-teman seangkatan Lla, apalagi untuk dapat menyiapkan lahan kerja yang memadai untuk mereka atau untuk para penganggur Indonesia di masa depan.

Kedua: sadar atau tidak sadar, sebagian besar dari kita, termasuk para pakar atau akademisi yang berkecimpung di bidang sosial, masih terus "menggelendoti" paradigma bahwa Pemerintah adalah agen pemilik kunci jawaban terhadap persoalan-persoalan besar kita, padahal dalam banyak hal pemerintah adalah justru bagian dari persoalan hidup warganya. Sebagai contoh: ambil contoh kemacetan lalu lintas. Mengapa sebenarnya kemacetan di Jakarta dan di kota-kota besar Indonesia terjadi?
Oleh karena itu, daripada menunggu pemerintah merumuskan arah perkembangan peningkatan kualitas manusia, lebih baik kita sama-sama serukan bahayanya bergantung pada pemerintah. Sebaliknya, perlu dianjurkan agar orang-orang berlomba-lomba mengembangkan potensi diri sendiri, misalnya dengan menjadi wiraswastawan.

Ketiga: Menganggap bahwa Pemerintah akan berjuang keras memperbaiki, meningkatkan atau memperjuangkan kualitas dan sumber daya manusia, seperti misalnya meningkatkan mutu pendidikan Lla atau teman-temannya, adalah asumsi yang terlalu muluk. Mungkin ini terdengar agak keras, tetapi yang paling realistis adalah tidak menyerahkan pemecahan perkara ini kepada pemerintah.

*) Sumber utama: makalah Sri Moetiningsih Adioetomo (Demografi Indonesia) dan Suahasil Nazara (Pasar Tenaga Kerja Indonesia), dalam Seminar Prospek Perekonomian 2006, FEUI.


Tergusurnya bahasa Indonesia

"Banyak ... yang tidak punya ikatan emosional yang kuat pada bahasa Indonesia. Bahasa apa pun menjadi sekadar sarana promosi jualan, ujar ahli bahasa Anton M Moeliono dalam seminar Mencari jalan keluar dari kondisi bahasa Indonesia yang memprihatinkan, di Jakarta, Sabtu (26/11).

Menurut Anton, saat ini ada identifikasi antara peradaban yang tinggi dan mutu produk yang unggul dengan bahasa Inggris yang mengantarnya. Masyarakat percaya bahwa bahasa Inggris itu jadi jaminan mutu. Ia mencontohkan maraknya nama bahasa Inggris pada hotel, mal, restoran, bank, dan hiburan.

Ia menekankan bahwa kedwibahasaan atau ketribahasaan, tidak merugikan, bahkan menguntungkan pemakai bahasa asal saja tidak mengorbankan bahasa kebangsaan sendiri. Patut dicatat, lanjut Anton, bahwa globalisasi tidak mengakibatkan penginggrisan bahasa di Jerman, Perancis, Italia, Jepang, Korea, dan China seperti di Indonesia. Jadi, globalisasi tak perlu menjadi alasan penginggrisan berbagai kata dalam bahasa Indonesia..."

Yang ikut prihatin dan setuju dengan, atau ingin baca, opininya, sila klik di sini.


Annotated links to free blog tempates

Anyone of you who has visited this blog more than once may have noticed that I tend to change templates after awhile. Yes, templates do amaze me with their capability to affect how blogs look and behave. They make blogs change dramatically at just some clicks! So, to template-designing artists who have been kind enough in offering freebies, this post is dedicated to all of you. To the rest of you who are end-users, like myself, this is to share with you the following good links. They are must-visit sources offering free blog templates--some of them were darn hard to find! (Sorted by my preference.)

1. BLOGSKINS; Exhaustive digging necessary, containing many rubbies but also much rubbish. I have found it impressive and very functional.
2. PANNASMONTATA A non-english site I just discovered, actually, but some of the most breath-taking templates I've ever seen are here! Just to give you an idea of what I mean by it, click here. Unfortunately there are only a handful templates for Blogger...
3. ISNAINI; Arguably one of the world's most productive template artists--and this guy's from Yogyakarta, Indonesia! Great pieces, some very exotic!
4. YE$ aka BLOGGER TEMPLATES Great, lovable templates! This is currently the source of my blog template. I wish the designer would update it. It's been a while, eh? (My suggestion to all template designers is to start considering tinkering with collapsible posts:)
5. NOIPO.ORG Neat pieces from Martyn in the Netherland. I have been a great fan of his templates.
6. CAZ Great artistic pieces from the Downunder by Caz. Some designs were made with female bloggers in mind.
7. BLOGFROCKS Possibly on hiatus now, but the female artists have created great templates for everyone. You will easily fall for them! No commenting system...aah!
8. KARYSIMA The last time I visited it, it contained a variety of free and paid templates. Always enjoyable.
9. POINT OF FOCUS Apparently I mistook this site for another, so my previous comments were rather misleading. This site does contain nothing but intriguing designs, and for this I just moved up its rank.
10. ERIS DESIGN Customizable elegant, business-like and formal templates--2-3 columns available.
11. FIRDAMATIC Customisable templates, 2-3 colums available.
12. EHSANY Not a huge collections, but contains Persian templates. With a slight retouching one or two could be darlings!
13. FLYABILITY Highly interesting pieces available. Highly recommended. Highly need for a commenting system, though.
14. BECCARY only four templates today; but quite neat and classy.
15. SPIDERMAN For the Spiderman fans no doubt, but the basic layouts and graphs are cool.
16. THEN THERE WAS DESIGN This growing source of templates has the potential to become something it aspires. Uh oh, I'm sounding an oldie...
17. WEBLOG DESIGNS Good looking but not so-ready-to-paste templates.
18. IMACLLANNI.COM Yet to read the terms and cond, but of all, i like the Beatles template most.
19. RAVASTHI Blogger-compliant. Professional looking. I found the layouting and coloring interesting, but some backgrounds are rather disturbing.
20. THURS TEMPLATES Good exercises in 2-3 columns. No update for quite some time. Not a nautical accident, I hope.
21. REAL SOLUTIONS Quite a few good templates, also with drawings and cartoons.
22. TEMPLATES 4 FREE Only few templates available currently.


1. Watch out this dark horse!
2. If you happen to know how to add a commenting systems for Blogger in a user-friendly way, please let me know. I followed the instructions from the Blogger Help section, but it didn't work well (the blame may have been mine, though).

(Updated and resorted on Nov. 18)


Islamic Banking: Fiqh and Financial Analysis

Here's to hail the publication of Islamic Banking: Fiqh and Financial Analysis, a first-of-its-kind and reader-friendly textbook--a comprehensive premier that readily imparts the beauties and strengths of sharia banking as an alternative banking, even to the uninitiated. Perhaps not yet available in local bookstores, it has marked a milestone in the development of Islamic Banking in Indonesia. In its preface, Dawam Rahardjo, chairman of the International Institute of Islamic Thoughts in Indonesia, succinctly illustrates the early development of sharia banking in Indonesia. The author, Adiwarman Karim, presides the Karim Business Consulting, a Jakarta based firm with a presence in Singapore. Adiwarman has fared well in his attempt to combine the fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) perspective with that of finance. Published by Rajawali, the book is highly useful not only to those beginning to land on the subject but also to those already in the business.


Farewell to the ministers

It's been almost three months since my post (in Bahasa) on the looming cabinet reshuffling, and things have gone off hand almost beyond the the government's control. Messy compensation programs resulting in soaring inflation, the poor performance of the Rupiah, plus other, unfathomable, God-only-knows factors saw the president with very little option other than using the last option: cabinet reshuffling--a poor term in itself, btw. According to JakPost, SBY finally announced yesterday he would replace one or two ministers only. Again, as I predicted. Personally, I'd rather see Ical being replaced, but he's too strong a man of "real politik" and wealth. So, I surmise the minister of finance Jusuf Anwar will have to receive the sack. Pak Andung, Minister of Industry, may be another victim. Former finance minister Boediono is the best successor for Jusuf Anwar. As for the candidate to replace Andung, a dark horse is possible and I cannot predict who. It remains interesting to see how all this unfolds...

The need to ghost-blog

A. Fatih Syuhud's recent post on the need to ghost-blog has drawn my interest. He said he couldn't understand why on earth bloggers living in free democratic countries like in the US or Indonesia use pseudonyms. He wondered what they were afraid of. Well, a pseudonymous blogger myself, I hope this sharing of thoughts can be of use. In sum, I think fear has little or nothing to do with it.

A great deal of resources has been either invested or wasted in the realm of textual/literary criticism and discourse analysis amidst the battle of wits between the intrinsic and the extrinsic. Until today, the battle is not entirely resolved or satisfactorily settled. Critics that opt for the former approach have argued that a work cannot possibly have been made in void and thus better understanding can derive from understanding and knowledge of the background of the very person behind the work itself. The extrinsic have taken an opposite view. They believe the work itself should be the main focus of attention. Once a work is released to public domain, it thus becomes public and its interpretation therefore rests with the eyes of each beholder. Since postmodernism was a household word with deconstruction "theories", literary criticism has become more complex and textual truths have become relative (something that can be either virtuous or vicious, depending on the purpose of writing).

It is generally acknowledged now that readers are not free by default of personal bias. A writer's name to a reader may carry with him or her additional information (e.g. gender, geographical origin, and all the stereotypes or imageries associable with the name), and unless the reader is extra critical, s/he will already be led into certain bias or expectation even before s/he lays eyes on the the text. To one who is aware of the danger of biases (like Fatih himself), or to one who believes (as I do) that gender issues do exist, this is no small matter. One of the uses of pseudonyms, I believe, is to minimize such tendency. On the other side of the coin, some writers use pseudonyms as personal "liberation" so as to be able to hit the pen, or the keyboard, unrestrained or with ultimate freedom. They realize the disadvantage of remaining in obscurity but are willing to abandon their own person or personification so as to focus the pursuit on ideas. They believe in the importance of writing as well as that of being as accurately interpreted. They have as high regard for writing as for other people's reading of what they write. (Photo credit: Harapan MediaTech)


Inflasi kata-kata dan inflasi uang

Tulisan bersambung Yosef Ardi dengan judul di atas di harian Bisnis Indonesia rasanya menarik diikuti. Rasanya bahkan seperti mendengar gema suara saya sendiri, seperti dalam beberapa postings re inflasi di Nad's Notes (The Curse of Inflation; Terpedaya oleh Angka, dll.--tips: ketik "inflation" atau "central bank" di kotak pencarian di bawah lalu enter :)). Siapa saja yang terlibat dalam pengambilan keputusan ekonomi nasional atau para mahasiswa atau calon pakar ekonomi yang mendalami mazhab mainstream harus membuka diri terhadap pemikiran alternatif. Saya sendiri sangat menganjurkan agar kita di Indonesia mendalami pemikiran para ekonom aliran Austria, yang memang kurang populer, tetapi jelas menegaskan sejak awal bahwa ilmu ekonomi bukan matematika.

The Perils of Sedekah, Infaq, Zakat or the like of it

Schools of beggars flooded some mosques and thoroughfares last week, nearing the time of Eid Fitr celebration in the city and a few days after. Males and females, adults, children and even babies, most of them aggressively approached bypassers for money. A few were seen flocking desolutely on the sidewalks. Just to give a quick snapshot!

Jakarta isn't unique and 2005 is not a special year either. Major cities in Indonesia, such as Yogya, have started seeing such an unsighlty sight since a few years back. They only see it more often now. I can't say if a similar situation applies in other countries, especially where Moslems are majority, but it appears to me little inquiry has been made on the perils of such benevolent acts. Giving alms--be it sedekah or infaq (voluntary alms), zakat (mandatory alm) or the likes, is a noble deed indeed. The idealized concepts and benefits are beyond qualms, but it doesn't mean there aren't things to be critical about.

Voluntary and involuntary alms have great likelihood and pose many loopholes to be abused and misused, supply or demand wise alike. Of sedekah, infaq and zakat, all can be abused and misused. The first two are the most fragile, though, because there is no fixed amount as to how much and when one can be so generous as giving out money. Supply wise, they can be, and have indeed long been, abused as the and most liked and most flexible vehicles to launder filthy money, i.e. that which is obtained crookedly, e.g. through corruption. Demand wise, all of them have perilous potential to sedate when distributed improperly. The worst messages are that which tells lazy bones they are given carte blanche through poverty to God-sanctioned or man-made obligations (e.g. to fulfill God's instructions, to keep order and cleanliness or obey the traffic); that which tells them they are righted to beg and mistake begging as a profession. To me, there has been ironic confusion here, or a terrible mistake.

The general surmise is that the distribution system lacks the power to scrutinize the targeted recepients. Practical-minded charity givers usually have no capacity to know whether their alms eventually go to the intended needy souls or some lazy bones instead. Moreover, the precept is that they simply don't need to know. "The left hand does not need to know what the right hand is doing," so the teaching goes. Again, very noble, indeed. But that's partly the root of the problem. (Photo credit: Detick.com)

Moral--It is surprisingly difficult to give away money properly! The challenge is how to do it without encouraging the people to get the wrong message, steal, or beg ;)


Eid Fitr greetings for bloggers all over the world!

With the last fasting day of Ramadan completed today, here's greetings and best wishes for all muslim bloggers on the celebration of Ied. To Indonesian muslims, "Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri 1 Syawal 1426H, semoga anda sekeluarga senantiasa dalam berkah dan lindunganNya." I also wanted to share with you some haikus on the festivities as well as on daily trivias.


Thou Shalt Not Kill

"I wrote Thou Shalt Not Kill Unless Otherwise Instructed as a protest against the war, and not least, for a sane fight against terrorism." --Mike Sharpe


Dan.. Anda pun Terhipnotis

Kontan tabloid no. 6 hari ini memuat artikel dengan judul di atas, tentang juru hipnotis muda bernama Romy Rafael dalam acara reality show-nya di TV dan usaha klinik hipnotisnya. Sekian kali saya menonton acaranya dan acara-acara serupa di teve, sekian kali itu pula menjadi geram sendiri atas kebohongan-kebohongan yang dipertontonkan buat khalayak pemirsa. Pihak media, sebagai penyandang gelar pilar keempat demokrasi dengan misinya yang--konon--agung, seharusnya tertantang untuk menyelidiki kesahihan dan kebenaran acara demikian, bukan mengekspos keanehan tanpa tertarik sedikitpun untuk memberi penjelasan rasional. Rakyat yang semakin susah hidupnya memang perlu hiburan segar, tapi bukan dengan menyajikan pepesan kosong yang kian mengaburkan batas-batas realitas dan absurditas.


A new blog

Started a new blog. Somewhat laconic, but it suits my mood these days. Dedicated to L, my only daughter; hope she recovers soon :(


On Decision Making

"There is another angle to this. We may also choose to do nothing --like the late prime minister of India, Narasimha Rao, who was famous for not making decisions even on crucial matters of state. Not making a decision was also a decision. Another chief minister (from my home province in India) was well known for his non-committal replies. 'We will see' (neither 'yes' nor 'no') became a hallmark of his nine-year administration." -- D. Chandramouli, Jakpost Oct. 24

On Fasting

The challenge is not just fasting from dawn to dusk, but in avoiding the temptation to overeat after the fast is over.
Fasting is not an end in itself. It is a process -- a journey one goes through, with a positive outlook, to test the power of mind over body. -- D. Chandramouli, Jakpost Oct. 24


Some notes about my Notes

NN is under reconstruction. Our maintenance division is working hard to crack the problem ;)
NN will be up and blogging soon. Thanks.

Update: I have sort of finished modifying this "old" template by Caz. The problem I'm having now is that it doesn't view well with my browser, Opera, or with Firefox. It behaves the way I wanted under the Internet Explorer. (Blogging Lesson #102: Don't fight your browser!) I also have to fix the bug with the Freefind search. *Sigh*


On human choices

The Paradox of Choice; Why more is less, Barry Schwartz.We might have an abundance of options, but the multiplicity conceals within it hidden costs. Rather than liberating us, the banquet of choices available to us has enslaved, tyrannized and paralyzed us. Schwartz seeks to undermine from within the whole idea of the self-interested, utility-maximizing consumer, arguing that the theory of choice ignores the fact that the very act of maximizing desires tend to leave us all worse off. It assumes too much: that we are all-time rational, independent individuals, and capable of making up minds without regrets. Many goods we seek are "positional", e.g. having the best haircult in the class or the nicest view of the lake, all impossible to achieve.

The Era of Choice: The ability to Choose and its Transformation of Contemporary Life, Edward Rosenthal. Less polemical, more eclectic in intellectual influences, but rather flabby and digressing. Edward wants to demonstrate that the ability to choose "has transformed what we are as persons and as a society." Like Schwartz, believes we are not always adept at weighing up risks. We fear getting into an aeroplance while at same time we may be happy to smoke ourselves to death.

The Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle, Cass Sunstein. Salient sources of fear, e.g. of terror. war, pandemic,etc . Citizen consumers suffer from systematic "probability neglect," whereby they ignore the probability of harm and focus on the worst possible outcome, irrespective the likelihood. This is the main problem, at least in today's living. This precautionary principle, which began in Europe, simply means that in risky situations we should fear the worst and then play safe. Argues that this principle is an incoherent and potentially dangerous response to them. Overall, the idea of utility-maximizing consumer has its uses but turns out to be too shallow a foundation on which to construct either a social theory or a human identity. (Notes from James Harkin's reviews, FT, Oct. 15-16.)


On the ability to mend and repair

"Repairing and restoring are difficult and slow arts. It's become a cliche, but is nevertheless true, that we live in a throw-away society, where seven or eight times out of 10 is cheaper to discard an appliance than to mend it. Many objects are designed to be more and less unmendable."

... The ability to repair and mend things is deeply connected to the ability to repair and mend ourselves." -- Harry Eyres, FT Last Word, Oct 15-16, 2005


Bird flu and its pandemic risk

To update my earlier post on the subject (titled 'The Pandemic of Our Time'), here's a link from ADB sent to me by John MacDougall on the avian influenza and the risk of an influenza pandemic. One who finds it rather ADB-ish can instead trace this link from WHO (but then it may be a bit WHO-ish).


Sahur Blogging 4: Quote of the Week / On Scarcity

"Capital isn't scarce; vision is." Sam Walton, as narrated by Simpleology guru Mark Joyner

Sahur Blogging 3: Sign of the Town

The sign more or less reads: "It's your choice, Sir. Speeding or Reckless Driving=swollen face or damaged car/motorbike. Slower Driving=Safety." It was not a standard sign made by the DLLAJR, the local traffic authority. I've come across such street signs not only in my vicinity but also in the many somewheres I have travelled in the country. They invariably overwhelm me with mixed feelings. One interpretation, I guess, is that it reflects what one thinks of the underpinnings and fabrics of the society." I may want to share my own interpretation later on. Have you BTW ever thought this way?


Sahur Blogging 2: The Ulysses Awards

"Verdicts" by the Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage will be out this Saturday (15 Oct), and I'm somewhat looking forward to the results (as if it would prove me something). According to OpenDemocracy the finalists are:

* Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq, by Riverbend;
* Of Wars: Letters to Friends”, by Caroline Emcke;
* Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier, by Alexandra Fuller ;
* A Season in Mecca: Account of a Pilgrimage, by Abdellah Hammoudi;
* The Outlaw Sea: Chaos and Crime on the World’s Oceans, by William Langewiesche;
* Maximum City: Bombay lost and found, by Suketu Mehta;
* Death in the Little Pentagon: The Secret Killing Fields of the Peruvian Army, by Ricardo Uceda.

It quickly came to my mind that most of these writings were promises of a wealth of "classic" extremes--abnormal or twisted situations or views of life being taken as the central focuses: wars and crimes, criming and soldiering. They are great themes every writer envious to write about, but war stories have cloyed me up here. Great reports they are, they come with a question for us to answer, on why in our age we still have to be exposed with such horrors and monstrositites. I've learned enough how some societal fabrics are spun in this life, so I hardly found nomination of such stories surprising. In fact, my guess is that the Baghdad Burning may be the winner, due to the double (if not multi-) sensations that the work carries with it. It is about living the Post-Saddam Hussein's Iraq (whose occupation by international troops was a modern time tragedy in itself) and the fact it was taken from a blog written by a blogger who is Iraqian by the name of Riverbend, who is a 27 year old female. My sympathy with what's been going on in and with Iraq and the people has nothing to do with this, but finding Baghdad Burning win will be cause enough for me to take a long deep breath and to smile relief; otherwise, my next hope is A Season in Mecca.


Sahur Blogging

The first week of Ramadhan will be over today, and 3 more weeks are ahead. Things of significance (or the lack thereof) have unfolded quietly, and I've just been unable to post on anything since the first day of the holy month. Outside my windows muezzin's calls for early morning prayers are pierching the lazy windy morning. I still have nothing to crow about, but this is definitely my first sahur blogging.


Happy Ramadhan!

Best wishes and greetings in peace to all Muslims in the world on the coming of the holy month of self restraint: Marhaban, ya Ramadhan!

Indonesia's Fuel Subsidy-Reduction Compensation Program

(Program Kompensasi Pengurangan Subsidi Bahan Bakar Minyak -- PKPS-BBM Tahun 2005)

Following is a complete summary of the government's plans relating to its subsidy reduction program. Reliability is very high; all data have been gathered from scattered governmental sources and media reports.

Sector of Education
Total amount: 6.27 trillion rupiah.
i) Bantuan Operasional Sekolah (BOS ) - Block grants for state and private elementary as well as junior-high schools including: SD/MI/SDLB/SMP; MTs/SMPLB; To support the mandatory 9-year basic education policy
ii) Bantuan Khusus Murid (BKM) - Special Assistance for students of senior high schools, state and private, including SMA/SMK/MA/SMLB. Executing agencies: Minister of education and Minister of Religion.
Beneficiary: 28,65 million of elementary students and 10,85 million of junior high students
Time frame: Starting 1st semester of 2005-2006 education year.

Sector of Health
Total amount: 3.87 trillion rupiah.
i) Program Jaminan Pemeliharaan Kesehatan bagi Masyarakat Miskin (PJKMM), or Program to Guarantee Health Maintenance for the Poor, namely free health service provision at Puskesmas and its networks, health referrals, and in-patient treatment in appointed state or private hospitals (Class III in-patients), with funding channeled by PT. ASKES;
ii) Program Penyelenggaraan Pelayanan Kesehatan di Puskesmas Puskesmas service provision and referrals to appointed hospital (Class-III in-patients) with funding channeled by authorized budget users appointed by Minister of Health. Executing agency: Minister of Health
Beneficiary: 36,146,700 poor.
Time frame: Starting 1 July - 31 Dec. 2005

Sector of Infrastructure

Total amount: 3.34 trillion rupiah.
Infrastructure development for backward villages. Each village will get Rp250 m per year. Executing agency: Minister of Public Works.
Beneficiary: 12.834 poor villages; selection of poor villages with help from Ministry for Development of Left Behind Regions. Note: According to statistics poor villages amount to
Time framce: August 2005 onward.


Intended stakeholders: i) Low income households; ii) farmers; iii) laborers; and, iv) businesspeople.

A.Fiscal incentives;
B. Reform in the trade sector;
C. Reform in the transportation sector;
D. Presidential decree on Govt's Purchase Price of rice;
E. Direct cash subsidy.

A. The fiscal incentives. Objective: A number of policies aimed to stengthen industrial competitiveness, improve business climate and compensate to household groups (particularl workers) not targetted at the direct cash programi. Time frame: Effective October 1, 2005 up to January 2006.
1. Status change of value added taxation on primary products to non-taxable goods. Purpose: To give incentives to primary agricultural products. Time frame: Effective January 2006.
2. Postponement of State non-tax revenue charges to export and import transactions. Objective: To smoothen and ease transactional costs in exportation/importation. Time frame: Specifics will be stipulated in the amendment of PP No. 44/2003, which will be effective for 3 months starting November 1, 2005.
3. Uplifting ceiling of nontaxable income brackets. Objective: to ease taxpaying burden particularly to low income workers. PTKP subject to tax will increase from Rp 1 million per month to Rp 1,1 million per month. Time frame: January 1, 2006.
4. Exemption of import tariffs for some products. Objective: to improve industrial competitiveness to users particularly SMEs. In regard to sugar, import duties will be reduced by heeding the interests of sugar cane farmers, processing industry and end users. Import duties will be totally uplifted to the following products:
a) Raw materials and heavy-duty industrial components, to 0%;
b) Importation of engine assemblies for public transport, to 0%;
c) Import duties for sugar:
- Raw sugar import duties reduced from Rp 550/kg to Rp 250/kg;
- Rafinated sugar from Rp 790/kg to Rp 550/kg;
- White sugar from Rp 790/kg to Rp 550/kg;
d) Import duties for energy-related converter kits.

5. Expediting cancellation of regional regulations on taxes and retributions. Objective: to improve business climate; on-going program, part of the government's annual workplan for 2005 and 2006, for which purpose the law No. 34/2002 will be amended.
6. Reduction of tax basis for public-transport vehicles.
Objective: to ease the burden of public transportation, subject to MOHA regulation No 16/2005.

B. Reform in the Trade Sector. Objective: Efforts to smoothen flows of goods so as to increase industrial competitiveness and product domestic products from unfair competition.
(a) Termination of technical verification processes in importation of salt and sugar for pharmacheutical purposes; tire cord; filter cloth; gunny cloth (goni); and gunny- sacks.
(b) Addition of priority and green lanes to importing producers;
(c) Combating smuggling by applying the so called red line to general importers of lubricant, cigarrettes, garments, shoes, cosmetics, and electronic goods, and tightening the checking of Letters of Origin (SKA).

C. Reform in the Transportation Sector. Objective: Endeavor to curb high cost economy. Attainment of lower cost is expected to improve competitiveness of Indonesia's products in domestic and international markets and strengthen domestic economic integration. Main target in the reform is more competitive agricultural products.
a) Reduction of truck-weighing stations (jembatan timbang) from 127 to 64;
b) Reduction of container handling charge (CHC) and set surcharges to not exceed 50%, which is expected to lower terminal handling charge (THC) from US$ 150/container to US$ 93;
c) Cancellation of 36 local govt-imposed regulations in the sector exempting charges on overloaded containers; time frame: effective October 2005.

D. Presidential decree on Govt's Purchase Price of rice. Objective: Through amendment of Presidential decree no 2/2005, it aims to maintain stability of farmers' income vis a vis the fuel price hikes.
Scope: The GOI will increase by 36.2% its purchase price of unhusked rice from farmers; the GOI is indicating to increase the rice price by 34.4%. Time frame: The decree on rice takes effect on 1 January 2006

E. Direct cash subsidy. In place of commodity-subsidy, the GOI is now implementing direct cash subsidy 15.5 low-income households (approx. 30% of national households). Time frame: 1 October 2005 until end of the year (3 months of October through December 2005. Possible continuation until end of 2006. Amount: Rp 100.000 per month.

Vouchers for direct cash subsidies for poor families, Rp300,000 for 3 months: October, November and December 2005, to cover 15.5 million families, or 62 million people


1. BPS to census the poor;
2. Data to be sent to and validated by Ministry of Social Welfare;
3. The Ministry to instruct PT Pos Indonesia to print the fuel compensation vouchers;
4. Vouchers to be distributed to regional postal offices;
5. Regional postal offices to cooperate with local governments;
6. Vouchers to be distributed to Kecamatan (sub-districts) all over Indonesia;
7. Kecamatan to distribute vouches to Kelurahan (Village offices);
8. Village officials to hand in vouchers to beneficiaries.

Variables to Identify the poor:
1. Size of home less than 10m2;
2. Floor made of soil, bamboo, wood;
3. Walls of low quality
4. Dependence on public toilets/latrines;
5. Unprotected source of water;
6. Nonelectrification;
7.Use of wood or carcoal for cooking;
8. Consume no meat in last 1 weekl;
9. Meal frequency only once a day;
10. No new clothing in last 1 year;
11. No financial capacity to go to puskesmas or hospital when ill;
12.Breadwinner has a job;
13.Breadwinner eduicated as low as elementary school level or less;
14. Owning assets of Rp 500, 000 or less;
15. Recipient of no business credits in last 1 year.

Very poor: 16 million
Poor : 24 million
Near poor : 22 million
Total: 62 million



Issues: Widespread perception of totally free education, while actually it is very highly limited. Each schools is allowed to charge students if the amount of BOS subsidy is smaller than its actual need.


Issues: Actual numbers being bigger than that targeted by the center, local governments are expected to mobilize additional funds; but this assumption is too optimistic. There have been reports on rejection of some appointed hospitals in providing services to the poor.


Issues: This program cannot cater to all needy villages. By design it only cover about 50% of the nation's poor. Even some regions that have been selected as beneficiaries still have not enjoyed it.


Issues: Inaccuracy and discrepancy of data on the poor. Susceptibility to corruption.>

The Year of Living Utopianly

If complaining changed things, the world would've been a better place long before the first time we discovered it.

The other day I found a small writing pad from last year's symposium of the "National Symposium on Poverty Reduction in Indonesia." I'd been following the issue in the last two years, but on that particular other day a personal conclusion was established: all such stuff simply doesn't work. It'll only be terrible wastes of resources. Nah, that's quite an establishment, but not a complaint (and I'm not complaining either now). In fact I also made a vow to refrain from complaining to or cursing about the government--even silently ;p The problem any government faces in making changes is no dissimilar in nature to the difficulty a citizen faces in affecting personal changes.

OK, now I just want to take some notes on a reality-check article from William Easterly. He recently wrote on something that crossed my mind: the practically futile efforts in the "politically correct," formal fight against poverty. He wrote about the fiasco too, at the global level that is, with amazingly familiar conclusions.

Democracy Comes Second

When system fails, people go for personality. Sometimes I think my country needs enlightened bigotry, though I realize the term is contraditio in terminis. Still, Guido Tabellini will be unforgiven--for his reminders on Democracy quoted almost intact below, from Democracy Comes Second.

"But how important is democracy for economic success? Not much, the empirical evidence suggests. This might appear surprising. After all, is it not true that virtually all rich countries have democratic forms of government, while the poorest countries (mainly in Africa) are non-democracies?"

"The positive correlation between income and democracy that one sees across countries could be due to reverse causation: democracy is more likely to persist as a country grows richer. It could also be due to special historical or cultural circumstances: some societies are just more successful than others, both in terms of economic development and with regard to their ability to develop and maintain democratic political institutions.

Whatever the reason for the observed positive cross-country correlation between income and democracy, it should not be confused with causality. Being democratic does not seem important in securing economic success."

This does not mean that democracy is unimportant. But the sequence of reforms is critical for successful economic development, with economic reforms coming first. When an open and well functioning market system is in place, democracy has a much better chance to lead to lasting prosperity.

An important reason for this is that, in order to create a successful market system, the state must respect basic individual rights: the rule of law, private property, and the enforcement of justice. These fundamental rights are part and parcel of democratic government. But when it comes to economic development, these fundamental rights are more important than other purely political aspects of democracy, such as universal suffrage and genuine political competition.

This is how the Western world became democratic in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Economic liberalism came first, political liberalism later. But today's young democracies have to do everything much faster. They don't have the luxury of restricting suffrage to property owners, or to more educated citizens.

Nevertheless, we should remember the lessons of history. Political reforms are more likely to be successful if they are preceded by economic reforms. We should insist that Egypt or Pakistan improve their market system, apply the rule of law, and open their economies to international trade and capital movements. Allowing free elections and true political competition is also critically important, but this should follow economic reforms, not precede them."


Who was tolling the bell?

The three blasts shattering parts of Bali, Indonesia, put a tarnish image yet again on the bloody face of Islam in general and the moslems in the country in particular. Jemaah Islamiyah was already branded the alleged culprits. Rohan Gunaratna, head of a terrorism research center in Singapore said, "The only the group with motives and capabilities to attact western interests in Indonesia in a coordinated fashion is Jemaah Islamiyah." A fatal labelling, if you asked me. These days some local tv stations are running amateurish videos from a tourist (with identity protected) who happened to be videoing the site before one of the blasts. They were all three suicidal bombs, concluded the police, rather too quickly. Were they? if anything, all this news has eclipsed reports on the first "bomb" when the government hiked the fuel prices--a decision feared to kill many poor.

Moreover, before the blasts foreign governments had issued several warnings of the possible acts of terrorism. But who blew them off? what was the motive? How on earth could agencies predict terrors? Endless questions continue being asked and as many answers are being made available. Conspiracy theories eventually work to provide the thinking paths one wants to believe in the attempt to design "truths." Conspiracy theories work best when they are impossible to prove.

Thus Donne's question "For whom the bell tolls?" is as vague a pertinent one to ask as mine: "Who was tolling the bell?" The truth either doesn't exist, or it has fled the country. The hoi polloi cannot any more expect or afford a "one-size-for-all."


G30S-BBM and the Bali Blasts

the last two mornings and nights of september saw jakarta an unusually jammed city. cars and motorbikes lined up along the roads where gas stations were, making the queues for fueling the engines. one local newspaper headlined a warning: watchout for the G-30S-BBM, alluding the government's plan to hike fuel prices to a mystery still shrouding the country's history with the 30th september 1965 a coup d'tat.

the eve of this new month of october sent omens for the rest of the year. with the holy month of ramadhan coming very soon, the government on late 30th September finally announced the outrageous news most people had feared to hear: the second fuel price hikeof the year since last march. like many people, i had anticipated the bad news, but still couldn't escape from the shattering news. the hike turned out to be at an average of 126.6%! the figure had come from nowhere transparent. government officials including the vice president himself had explicitly said it would be just around 50%-60%.

as if the blow were't fatal enough. on the way to the airport i heard from a local radio evening news that two bombs went off at kafe nyoman and kafe menega in jimbaran, and another one at kuta square, bali, killing more than twenty locals and tourists and injuring even many more...


Blogging Axioms and Rules in but 1 Post

I honestly don't know much about Seth Godin, but I think he has something to say. I got the link to his latest ebook on blogging from Enda Nasution's. Click here should you want to grab the free PDF file. To busy fellows who want to get the gist of it, well I hope what follows is good enough:

Three axioms about the blogosphere (Seth calls them "truths")

Clutter: The amount of noise we're living with is exploding and it is changing everything. When you apply for a job, so do a thousand other people. No one cares about you. Almost no one even knows you exist.

Quality: Despite the so kalled the decline of western civilization, more stuff is better and cheaper than it was. As a result, we've become astonishingly picky about what we buy, watch and read. When it's something we care about, we go to enormous lengths to find the best.

(Un)Selfishness: Bloggers may be selfless, but blog readers are selfish. The readers are strict. They have very little choice because they have have as little time when there's a whale to read. A tool like RSS can make a big difference for bloggers to get heard.

On some blogging rules (He dubs them "laws)

Blogging calls for credibility. It's not who you are, it's what you say. Besides, on the Internet, everybody knows you're just a dog. But then again, it doesn't matter what you say, it matters who you are.

Better blog WITH and FOR your audience, not AT or TO it. Because the audience isn't yours. It belongs to itself and it has as much license as you do. Talk about the dramatically changing relationship between writers and readers.

Most great blogs have these components: 1. Candor; 2. Urgency; 3. Timeliness; 4. Pithiness; 5. Controversy; (6. Utility).

Blogs are like movies, working best over time. One frame of a movie isn't enough and one post on a blog isn't enough to make a huge difference.

Small is the new big only when the person running the small thinks big. Bloggers, don't wait! Get small. Think big!


Polemik yang Harus Segera Berakhir

Polemik tentang perlu tidaknya pemerintah mengurangi subsidi masih berlanjut. Jumat minggu lalu (23/9), Pemerintah lewat Jusuf Kalla bertekad menaikkan harga minyak sambil secara paralel akan memberi santunan kepada kaum miskin untuk menekan ekses jangka pendeknya. Persentase kenaikan tetap belum diumumkan. Ribuan orang dari berbagai lapisan masyarakat turun ke jalan untuk memprotes hasil keputusan tersebut. Bahkan jutaan penduduk Indonesia terbagi dua dalam pandangan mereka terhadap perlu tidaknya kenaikan harga BBM untuk kedua kalinya tahun ini. Pejabat atau mantan pejabat pemerintah, anggota atau mantan anggota parlemen serta TNI terus bersilang pendapat. Sebagian setuju, sebagian menolak. Persoalan fundamental yang selama ini tampaknya cukup membingungkan dan menimbulkan perbedaan pandangan masyarakat.

Debat semacam ini harus diakhiri, sebab soal mendasarnya memang bukan itu. Menyubsidi BBM adalah ide yang sungguh amat buruk! Silakan sediakan waktu untuk menyimak tulisan jernih dan lugas saudara Priyadi mengenai hal ini. Dua posting dari blogger ini merupakan argumentasi terbaik tentang polemik perlu tidaknya penghapusan BBM, dan saya senang bisa mendapatkan tulisan dengan kualitas yang cukup tinggi. Priyadi menekankan bahwa cara terbaik untuk kemajuan Indonesia adalah dengan tidak menyubsidi BBM. Beberapa kekeliruan berpikir terkait isu sensitif ini berhasil ia soroti dan urai dengan singkat namun tetap jelas. Priyadi mencoba meyakinkan, bahwa soal mendasarnya bukan tentang perlu tidaknya subsidi BBM dihapuskan (the why), melainkan menyangkut kapan waktu yang tepat dan bagaimana caranya--the when dan the how. Mengenai isu ini, kita sudah memasuki wilayah mikro yang memerlukan kajian mendalam, khususnya oleh dan bagi mereka yang terlibat langsung dalam pengambilan keputusan.

Sebaiknya pemerintah segera mengumumkan berapa persentase kenaikan untuk bulan depan. Perlu pula diarusutamakan bahwa isu tentang BBM bukanlah isu kabinet atau pemerintahan semata, melainkan isu nasional. Oleh karena itu harus ada kesepakatan atau kebijakan nasional yang jelas. Kebijakan penghapusan subsidi energi harus dituntaskan sesegera mungkin dengan sequincing yang jelas. Jadi tidak penting, siapa kelak yang akan menjabat pemerintahan, subsidi energi harus dihapuskan.


Trying to blog with Writely (beta ver...

Trying to blog with Writely (beta version)


The Pandemic of Our Time?

We should worry a bit. Panic can wait. A reading about the avian influenza in today's National Geographic (Indonesian version) sent chills down to my spines. Very little do we know about this. Following are some links to the latest info. Is Asian Bird Flu the Next Pandemic?

"Are we scaring people? I don't know," he said. "But rather than springing on people some terrible event, it's better that they get emotionally ready for what they could face. We think a pandemic is coming. Nobody knows when. But it is good to get people prepared before it arrives."

World Unprepared for "Bird Flu" Pandemic, Experts Say

"Vaccines can be effective against some influenza strains, but they currently promise little help in the event of an avian flu pandemic." "[Medical] technology has improved, but the capacity to make vaccines is not great," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the Bethesda, Maryland-based National Institutes of Health. "We have to be careful we don't assume we have everything that we need—because we don't."


Kekebeletan yang Memiskinkan

Sebenarnya bagaimana sih caranya memastikan dengan tingkat kepercayaan yang cukup bahwa kapasitas produksi minyak mentah pengilangan minyak x adalah y ton barel per hari? Bagaimana kita bisa tahu kapal anu pengangkut minyak mentah membawa z ton barel? Berhubung melibatkan volume yang besar, sistem peneraan volume dalam produksi minyak pasti tidak sesensitif peranti tera pada SBU. Tapi siapa yang mengaudit produksi minyak di negeri ini? Bagaimana kinerja dan kredibilitasnya? Apa pernah kita pertanyakan hal beginian?

Pencurian dan penyelewengan hasil produksi minyak milik rakyat Indonesia, sebagaimana dilaporkan oleh media baru-baru ini re Lawe-Lawe, mustahil baru. Pasti sudah dari dulu. Lagi pula, ini bukan dugaan; ini hasil obrolan saya dengan mantan pejabat di bidang perminyakan. Salah satu harian nasional hari ini menurunkan beberapa tulisan yang intinya senada. Mana ada yang pernah atau mampu menghitung berapa besar kerugian rakyat Indonesia selama ini!

Perlu saya sebut di sini, program penghilangan subsidi BBM memang suatu kebijakan yang perlu didukung. Saya juga mendukung penuh. Namun, penghilangan subsidi ini mesti dilakukan dengan benar dan adil (fair), yaitu setelah pemerintah memaksimalkan efisiensi produksi minyak. Kalau harga BBM dinaikkan Pemerintah secara drastis 50% atau lebih, seperti disebut Nyonya Mulyani dan Tuan Kalla, tanpa pemerintah melakukan sesuatu terhadap hal-hal mendasar di atas, ini sama artinya menganggap bahwa semua hal mendasar di atas mengada-ada. Padahal hal-hal tersebut untuk kepentingan bersama kita sebagai anak bangsa.

Bahwa kompensasi kenaikan BBM secara langsung dari pemerintah kepada orang-orang miskin akan berjalan sesuai harapan adalah suatu asumsi yang sangat mahal! Tapi, taruhlah harapan ini dapat terpenuhi 100%. Kebijakan penaikan harga BBM secara mendadak mendekati harga minyak dunia akan membuktikan diri sebagai satu dari sekian program pemiskinan rakyat. Segelintir orang, akan untung--mis. para penyelundup dan oknum serta aparat yang terlibat. Mayoritas rakyat Indonesia akan "buntung"; kita akan merasakan kemelaratan yang semakin merata.

Kenaikan BBM akan menaikkan hampir semua harga. Inflasi sebagai konsekuensinya adalah keniscayaan, karena hampir semua produk jasa dan konsumsi terkait langsung dengan transportasi. Kapan tekanan inflasi akan mengendur, ini tidak dapat dipastikan, kecuali bahwa tekanan tersebut akan bertahan lebih lama dari 3 bulan (sedangkan program subsidi langsung secara kontan akan diberikan selama 3 bulan). Sementara itu, tingkat bunga perbankan dan non-perbankan akan meningkat dan sumber-sumber pendanaan akan semakin mahal didapat.

Mengapa pemerintah kita tampaknya "kebelet" untuk menaikkan harga BBM tanpa memaksimalkan efisiensi dulu? Ada kepentingan "pasar" dalam hal ini. Hanya sejumlah kecil dari penduduk Indonesia mengetahui, bahwa mulai bulan Nopember nanti Pertamina untuk pertama kalinya akan melepas monopoli penjualan bensin di Indonesia, sehingga konglomerasi penjaja bensin swasta, seperti Shell dan Petronas, akan dapat menjual bensin mereka di pasaran Indonesia. Jadi, kekebeletan ini pasti akan baik untuk kemashalatan mereka, tetapi juga akan sangat mencekik leher rakyat Indonesia.

Tapi apa benar masalahnya sehitam-putih begini? Kok, mudah sekali; padahal ratusan juta penduduk ini terbagi dua antara mereka yang setuju dan tidak setuju dengan penghilangan subsidi.