Posts Tagged ‘PLN’


The Marquee Job – A Metaphor For The Planning Process In Bali?

May 1, 2013

Bali has many attractions to tempt visitors. Its culture is alluring, the scenery is stunning – once you get away from the The Great Southern Urban Blight – and the opportunities to relax are boundless. With proper planning,  sustainable policies and infrastructure that matches its population, it could be fabulous.

Good planning would mean that hotel and condominium permits are curtailed to match demand. Instead, permits are issued at the whim of Regents who can not see beyond the windfall of the ‘special fees’ that such permits deliver. The resulting oversupply of beds means that competition for guests is fierce.

But instead of competition driving down the high room tariffs, hoteliers have been told by the government that a ‘fixed price’ regimen is to be implemented for accommodation. Ostensibly to maintain the perception of ‘quality’, the real reason is obvious. Lower room tariffs mean a reduction in the government tax take. Hoteliers are now being threatened with loss of their star rating if they reduce prices in line with the normal rules of supply and demand. A modicum of long-term planning could have avoided this ridiculous situation.

Good planning would also mean that supplies of electricity and water were sufficient for both the existing and the projected population. It would also involve introducing methods of conserving and recycling both water and energy. Proper planning would avoid the situation we see regularly here – load-shedding power blackouts, a poor water supply and distribution system, and salt-water contamination of ground wells. But there is little evidence of any such planning.

Good planning would mean that purchasers of cars here would have to demonstrate that they actually have somewhere to park the things, instead of clogging up every narrow road and gang outside their garage-less dwellings. Pro-active registration policies could reduce the increasing numbers of over-sized private cars, bought for status – and invariably on credit – which try to squeeze into narrow streets, causing monumental traffic jams.

Good planning, and proper information channels, would mean that owners of restaurants, stalls and other businesses would know in advance when visitor peaks are expected. Right now, the owners of hundreds of businesses are staring glumly out into the streets, wondering where their customers are. They are oblivious to the dates of school holidays and other tourism-drivers, because no-one has told them and they haven’t bothered to find out.  So they let their staff go, without pay, until suddenly the tourists are back and everyone is under-staffed and under-stocked. There is no planning for peaks and troughs, and so the mad oscillations continue.

I fear that planning, at any level, is not one of Bali’s strengths. The government seems to show little evidence of strategic long-term planning, and individuals seem to show little tactical planning ability. When action is taken, it tends to be reactive, and there seems to be little understanding of the consequences of those actions. Maybe that’s why there is so much back-flipping on policies, so many abandoned projects and so much confusion here.

Sitting and watching preparations for a wedding at a little beach restaurant in Petitenget, I witness a  perfect example of the ‘no planning’ mindset that seems to afflict Bali. In this microcosm of what is happening here on a larger scale every day, I watch a group of industrious lads meticulously setting up a marquee and table on the beach sand. They have been doing this for the last 90 minutes, perhaps ten metres from the water. The tide is coming in.

Planning Ahead - Setting Up The Marquee

Planning Ahead – Time And Tide Wait For No Marquee

One of the wedding planners wanders over from the restaurant, speaks to the workers and gestures at the incoming waves. The lads stare out to sea for 5 minutes, verify that they are indeed waves out there, then shrug and continue working.

The next wave swamps the marquee and table and saturates the carefully arranged tablecloth. The boys, bemused, move the whole outfit 3 metres back and start re-setting the decorations and replacing the wet stuff. The tide is, not surprisingly, still coming in. In fact, the high-tide mark, clearly visible, is a good 20 metres shoreward, but this does not seem to register with them or affect their endeavours.

Ten minutes later, as I am leaving, the water is again lapping at the legs of the marquee. The boys, Canute-like, stare out to sea and will the tide to retreat. Inexplicably, it doesn’t, and they painstakingly shift the whole edifice back another 3 metres.

I don’t know how many iterations of this little drama occurred, because I left, unable to watch the inevitable. But I’m willing to bet it was at least three more …

I wonder if education might help. If schools and colleges encouraged their students to plan ahead, use logic, understand consequences, and gave them the tools to do this, would this change the paradigm? Would this result in a new generation better able to plan for Bali’s growth?

Or is what I keep seeing here just “The Bali Way”, and therefore unchangeable?


In Their Own Words – The Wisdom Of The Elites: Part 3

January 12, 2012

Go to Part 1  •  Go to Part 2

PART 3 more public statements made by those in high places in Indonesia. These are an endless source of amusement, wonder, embarrassment, amazement and despair. Many of their pronouncements seem to be characterised by outright denial, shifting blame to others, justifications, outright lies and misplaced piety. Here is a selection of gaffe-prone luminaries, their immortal words, and the context in which they were uttered. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Netty Prasetyani Heryawan, Head of the West Java Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency

Showing a strange lack of compassion for a “women’s empowerment” official, she stated that women have only themselves to blame if they fall into the clutches of human traffickers and prostitution rings. As reported in The Jakarta Globe, she said:

“They’re … leaving West Java only so that they can live out their hedonistic lifestyles.” 
“For these women seeking a hedonistic life, they end up becoming victims of human trafficking.”

Marzuki Alie, House of Representatives Speaker

The poor attendance records of many House members, and their reported manipulation of the current signature-based attendance log, has resulted in calls for a fingerprint reader system. The House Secretary General, Nining Indra Saleh, announced that the cost would be about Rp 4 billion. Marzuki Alie vehemently disagreed, citing his expertise in IT:

“… my calculation is different. My background is in information technology, so I’ve processed it. It’s not correct … I don’t think the equipment should cost any more than Rp 200 million. Rp 4 billion? That’s crazy.”

A few days later, Marzukie Alie had revised his expert calculation upwards by a staggering Rp 1.2 billion, saying that the plan should cost no more than Rp 1.4 billion.

Amir Syamsuddin, Justice and Human Rights Minister

The just-inaugurated Amir refused to comment on the recent spate of killings of villagers in Sumatra, allegedly by security forces and police, defended his reluctance to talk by saying:

“I should not talk about human rights. It is something that I’m not good at …”

Inspector General Iskandar Hasan, Aceh Police Chief

After sixty four young people were arrested by Aceh police for the non-existent ‘crime’ of being ‘punks’, they were beaten, had their heads forcibly shaved, were thrown in a lake and held underwater. After their unlawful arrest, they were subjected to a 10-day ‘re-education’ program at the Aceh State Police camp.

After several foreign embassy officials questioned the illegal arrests, assaults and forcible detention, the Police Chief dismissed their concerns, saying:

“… it’s a tradition. When I was still in the police academy, we were all pushed and plunged into a lake.”

Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, Deputy Mayor, Banda Aceh

Freely admitting that she is on a moral crusade against the punk community, the Deputy Mayor justified the action taken against punks, claiming that:

“This is a new social disease affecting Banda Aceh. Their morals are wrong. Men and women gather together, and that is against Islamic Shariah.”

Eddie Widiono, former president of the State Power Company PLN

On being sentenced to 5 years for corruption involving Netway, a company for which he fraudulently approved a contract for Rp 92.7 billion, when the real cost was only Rp 46 billion, he complained:

“I feel really hurt by being said to be unprofessional,” he said. “This really hurts my track record.”

Sofyan Usman, former lawmaker from the United Development Party

During his graft trial on 29 December 2011 for allegedly receiving bribes of Rp 1 billion, he claimed that there was no problem, because he wanted to build a mosque. He indignantly asked:

“Do I, as a lawmaker who intended to help the construction of a mosque, deserve to be jailed?”

Interestingly, it was only six months earlier that a judge had sentenced Sofyan to serve a year and three months, and fined him Rp 50 million for receiving a bribe to influence the selection of a deputy senior governor of Bank Indonesia in 2004.

Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs

After a spate of episodes of religiously-motivated violence, including
attacks on Shia communities in East Java, Djoko Suyanto said his office is not responsible for resolving matters such as these, claiming that:

“It is the role of the Religious Affairs Ministry to handle violence that is related to religion.”

Because Djoko’s office would normally be concerned with criminal acts such as unlawful assaults, violence and intimidation, observers have interpreted his words to mean that the government regards assaults ‘related to religion’ as apparently not being criminal acts.

Majudien, Chairman of The Islamic Reform Movement (Garis)

The besieged GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, still being unlawfully harassed by the Bogor Mayor and resident fundamentalists in contravention of a Supreme Court order, suffered yet another attack on New Year’s Eve. The Jakarta Globe reported that a mob of enraged Muslims led by Majudien terrorized church members after becoming infuriated by a bumper sticker on one Christian’s car, which read: “We need a friendly Islam, not an angry Islam.” Majudien justified his group’s attack, complaining:

“What is the aim of that sticker being put there? That is a provocative action against us, the Muslims of Bogor.

An important fact (that had obviously escaped the incensed Majudien) was that the sticker was actually a souvenir distributed by the family of the late former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid during a commemoration of his death. All guests, including the chairman of the Constitutional Court, the deputy religious affairs minister and many VIPs, had received the same sticker. None had apparently complained.

Inspector General Saud Usman Nasution, National Police spokesman, and
First Brigadier Ahmad Rusdi, Police Officer and Plaintiff

Police officer Ahmad Rusdi took a teenaged boy to court in Sulawesi for allegedly stealing his Rp 30,000 pair of sandals. He and his colleague, Jhon Simson, had questioned three youths over the missing pair of sandals, after which Ahmad claimed that:

“The three then admitted it.”

However, one of the boys’ parents accused the police of forcing a confession by beating the teen. The National Police spokesman, Saud, then rushed to the police officers’ defence, denying the boys were beaten and explaining:

“There was an emotional action of pushing the boy until he fell.”

The officers were disciplined, but the boy still had to face court, where:

1) Ahmad, the plaintiff, told the court that he was uncertain about his accusation, and that it was more a matter of intuition than proof.

2) The court was told the court that the sandals found with the defendant were Eiger brand. Ahmad, the police officer said his sandals were Andos. 

3) Ahmad couldn’t prove that the defendant had actually taken the sandals, which had been lying in the street some 30 meters from the policeman’s rented room. 

Despite the obviously weak case, the court inexplicably ruled that the boy:

“… was proved to have engaged in theft and it was decided to return him to his parents.” 

Saud, the National Police spokesman, tried to defuse anger at the the minor’s need to appear in court by blaming the parents, saying that they:

“… demanded that their offspring … be reported legally.”

Saud further claimed that police had reminded the parents that their child was still a minor and should not be taken to court – a strange statement, given that 6,273 minors were being held on criminal charges in Indonesian jails last year.

Source 1   Source 2

And just to show that not all weird utterances occur in Indonesia, here’s a gem from the Adhaalath Party – A Fundamentalist Islamist Opposition Party in the Maldives
Ninemsn reports that luxury hotels in more than one thousand islands of the Maldives have been forced to shut their lucrative spa services after the Islamist political party complained that they were just brothels. An Adhaalath spokesman called for an end to spas, and, wait for it:

“Their lustful music”

I think it’s time for another cup of tea and a good lie down. I look at this list of gaffes and wonder why politicians, police, religious leaders and the so-called elites hold themselves in such high esteem. It’s beyond me, it really is. I may have to go and listen to some lustful music.


Fire! Unity in Adversity in Bali

June 19, 2011

I am the first to admit that some of my articles have been less than complimentary about certain local practices. Not because of any malicious intent, I hasten to add. It’s just that my bule eyes often see quirks, absurdities and inconsistencies that pique my ire, but seem perfectly normal to those in whose country we are guests. As John Milton nearly said about us foreigners: “We see Bali not as it is, but as we are”. Right on, John.

Yet other social imperatives here,  such as the sense of community spirit, are inspiring – partly because of their absence in the places we originally came from. We see people in Western cultures slowing down to gawk (but not stopping to help) at the scene of a car accident. We see them ignoring someone lying on the footpath in a diabetic coma, because, you know, they are ‘obviously’ drunk. We hear of people dying in their homes and being found weeks later, simply because minding your own business has become a matter of personal survival in the high-pressure societies many of us have left behind. The downside to this is that when we do start living in a selfish bubble, we lose some of our humanity.

Fortunately for a villa owner in my lane, the community spirit is alive and flourishing in Bali. A few days ago, while walking a departing guest out to the street, a commotion three doors up attracted my attention. A huge cloud of smoke began erupting from the front of a neighbourhood property, and large flames were already engulfing its carport roof. Two local residents were standing in the street, phones already in hand, while a third was struggling to open the villa gates. I know now that they were in fact the early-response team, rounding up help.

In the few seconds it took me to get to the scene, another thirty or so locals had arrived at a dead run. Without pausing, they rolled back the gates of the villa and dashed in to appraise the situation. The flames had reached the plastic roof of the carport, which was well ablaze, dripping fiery molten plastic onto the three motorbikes parked below. Without a thought for their own safety, the impromptu brigade manhandled the bikes out into the street. Garden hoses, already spouting water, magically appeared from surrounding houses to be passed quickly to those at the fire-front. Other people, seeing that some hoses were too short, conjured up connectors from thin air.

Cardboard boxes stacked high in the carport were well alight, the flames licking at the main structure’s window frames and threatening to ignite the entire house. The lads of this instant fire crew worked together as if they were a well-drilled team with years of experience, some pulling burning boxes down with their bare hands to get to the seat of the fire, others dousing scattered debris. They did all this while dodging the burning boxes toppling around them, avoiding cascades of hot polycarbonate streaming from the roof, and trying to keep the vicious eddies of glowing embers away from their eyes. Despite the frenetic activity, not once did they get in the way of each other, working flawlessly as a single unit.

Fifteen minutes after it started, the fire was out and the team was concentrating on blacking out the hot-spots to ensure that the fire ground was safe. One hour later, the ‘real’ Fire Brigade arrived – or at least a shiny red patrol car did. The crew of that were still there a few hours later, poking and prodding the burnt remains, taking photographs and filling out forms. The other crew, the ones who actually put out the flames, were long gone – probably enjoying a well-deserved cool drink and telling each other tall stories.

As it happened, this was the very day that PLN (Bali’s sole provider of electrical energy) had selected our neighbourhood as the target of one of their regular six hour blackouts – its load-shedding ‘solution’ for their woefully inadequate capacity problem. As a result, the villa’s emergency electrical generator was running. Well, maybe not quite as its makers intended, because it caught fire. I don’t think that’s supposed to happen. Once the flammable materials stacked around it ignited, a potential disaster was in the making.

Fortunately, it was averted. The heroes of the day were just ordinary, local guys in the neighbourhood. It didn’t matter to them that the villa owner was a foreigner who was not in Bali at the time. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t their house. They responded automatically, saved three bikes and probably the villa too. They may even have saved the life of the pembantu in residence, who might well have been trapped by the conflagration blocking the only exit. Their quick and effective action may even have saved our entire row of six villas. Not one of them had a stitch of protective clothing – just a natural and unhesitating protectiveness towards others in their community, the desire and ability to act decisively, and heaps of raw courage.

Guys, I salute you. This what community spirit is all about, and I feel privileged to have witnessed it.



More power to the people – please!

November 13, 2009

So there I am, nose buried in my laptop, revelling in the sheer breadth and rich magnificence of the online universe – and the lights go out. Again. As they did four days ago, and every four days before that. At least PLN, Bali’s only electricity supplier, is consistent in its inconsistent delivery of power. How can my reliance on being connected survive this? OK, I’m borderline autistic and prefer computers or dogs to people – but I still need my network to give me at least a semblance of human communication. My laptop is battery powered, but the wi-fi transmitter isn’t – when the lights go away, so does my known universe. No mail, no web, no Twitter, no Facebook, no blogs, no Skype, no chat – what the hell does PLN expect me to do – actually go out and talk to people?

I understand the need for load shedding in emergencies, but come on! How long does it take to replace the fish-nibbled extension lead that brings Bali’s power from Java, or pry stray squirrels out of the Gilimanuk power station generators? If the problem is that the turbines are not getting enough gas, they could at least import some Australian politicians. Ten pollies’ worth of hot air should surely produce at least an extra 1000 megawatts. And anyway, why did everyone wait until the demand exceeded supply before actually starting to do something? Aarghh!

The restaurants, warungs and bars that don’t have backup power are bleeding. Romantic as candlight is, customers tend to evaporate when the darkness descends. Who wants to eat unfamiliar dishes when they can’t see what they’re eating? Who wants to drink warm beer? Who wants to risk eating food from warming fridges? Who wants to fossick in the dark for unfamiliar money when it’s time to pay the bill? And who wants to walk down unlit streets and risk disappearing forever into one of those black holes cunningly scattered along Bali footpaths? Not many, I suspect.

Tourists are remaining in their generator-equipped hotels, and yet another night of infinitesimal takings depresses an industry already reeling from ludicrous duties and taxes on alcohol and imported food. In the last month, I have listened to various visitors saying that they are seriously considering a different holiday destination next time – somewhere where a bottle of good wine doesn’t cost the same as Visa On Arrival fees for a family of four and where there is an electricity supply that works. One said it’s like having a Nyepi Day every 4 days. When they get home, these people talk to their friends, they blog, they Twitter – and they write travel articles. The word is spreading. Can Bali afford this?

But of course, all of this is nothing compared to the real problem created by PLN blackouts – pembantu nyctophobia. I have discovered that many locals here are afraid of the dark. However, where my pembantu is concerned, afraid is a manifestly inadequate word to describe what she experiences. If there was a word that combined terror, dread, horror, panic, alarm, dismay, consternation and trepidation, it would barely begin to describe the emotions that seize her when the lights go out. Her eyes widen like saucers, she freezes for a few seconds, then stabs desperately at the keys of her ever-present handphone for some backlit salvation. 

I really tried to help. I bought a stack of emergency lights for my place. These stay plugged in, quiescent and charging, until PLN hits the off switch, then automatically light up. Problem solved, I thought. Umm, no – the lights, perhaps because they are bluish LEDs, seem to offer little solace to her. “Sir, they not real light …” she says timidly. At some primal level, she knows they are powered by batteries – and batteries eventually go flat. When I insensitively ask her whether she is afraid of ogoh ogohs – the fabled monsters of Balinese lore – she laughs nervously and denies it, while her eyes fearfully scour the multiple dark crannies of the villa, expecting large, flesh-eating entities to leap gibbering and moaning towards her. Within three minutes of a blackout, she will surround herself with every emergency lamp she has been able to find, plus a few candles for backup. Then she sits holding (but not reading) a book while sending an incredible barrage of text messages to what appears to be most of Indonesia. Despite almost never catching sight of the girl during the day, I notice that during outages, she always manages to be in the same room as me.

So of course, when I say that I’m going out for dinner, the stricken look on her face means that I inevitably have an unexpected dinner companion. I didn’t think she thought much of my motorbike riding skills, but to see her jump onto the pillion seat with such alacrity could mean that I’m wrong. Then again, I suspect that her fear of the dark trumps her fear of my riding …

PLN, you are costing me a fortune. Not just in dinners, time and inconvenience either. My pembantu is getting married soon, and I was going to give her a modest, token wedding present. Now, because of you, I can see that nothing less than a 5kV diesel generator and a full lighting rig will do – and they are not cheap.