This is gonna be a positive post. Let’s for a change leave my sceptical me in the bathroom and look with rosy glasses to some news-items. Let’s call them for the time being omen of an imminent change of paradigm, a cultural revolution, a springtime in the tropics.
And I’m not alone in this exceptional mood. Even “De Groene Amsterdammer“, the weekly I subscribed to to polish my intellectual image in the family, dedicated some 300 admiring words to bad cop Ahok and good cop, the Governor himself, this week. The journalist tells about the first one who on Youtube, so publicly, addressed a considerable number of meek looking leading officials to cut their department’s budget by 25% and eradicate the rampant corruption in their bureaucracies. An unprecedented political show by a member of the vulnerable minority of ethnic-cultural Chinese-Indonesians. As unprecedented as the governor’s, Jokowi, unorthodox style. The man in charge is busy pleasing young urban professionals of Jakarta by announcing a wide variety of real ambitious plans and initiatives to solve some of the main problem of city at least to a substantial degree; affordable houses for rent, improved healthcare, new public parks and public transport to mention a few.
My usual cynical me would have put all this aside by calling it irresponsible boasting or verbal political overstretch – but not today. Perhaps because I would love to have some daring charismatic politicians with a vision almost too good to be true, over here in Europe. That kind of inspirational leaders are conspicuously lacking here. But make their presence felt in Jakarta. And who knows, they may manage to have times actually changing in the capital. And perhaps eventually even in the archipelago at large.
Take Kota Tua.
For many years now Jakarta’s “Tempo Doeloe’s” colonial heart has been a potential cultural and architectural gem. Which unfortunately year after year and month after month fell ever more into disrepair. When I visited the place last year I feared the point of no return had passed. The Jewel of Asia seemed to have gone forever .
It’s a genuine shame. Especially because apparently enough investors were ready to rebuild these old quarters. However bureaucracies of “central government and local government as well as other government apparatuses” prohibited any progress. So it’s quite a happy change of direction that the present deputy governor announced the Jakarta Provincial Government will add some $ 20 million to the $ 1,25 budget next year to renovation ( and restoration?)of buildings. Also measures to clear the place from beggars and thugs as well as managing street vendors are part of the plan. More particular the area along Besar River will be targeted. Ahok also promised a clear concept for Kota Tua. Ultimately to create an up to date exclusive ( and expensive) posh Old Town’s district, where today some 200 colonial buildings are sadly deteriorating.
This initiative may bring proprietors and investors on board as well – thereby increasing the plan’s feasibility.
Positive news. High spirits. Great expectations.
But back to normal now!
The amount of money, twenty million dollars, is only a tiny part of what really will be needed. The technical problems ahead are colossal. Reforming the bureaucracies into smooth operating machines is a Herculean task. So let’s brace for disappointments. Just look at this JP’s header: “Jakarta Administration to turn Kota Tua into Venice”.
What else is that but a hyperbole crashing off the rails ? A strategic mistake. For sure Venice would hardly be a fruitful model. That famous Italian city drowns several times a year. It’s gradually disappearing into the Aegean Sea. Very unfortunate example
So here’s my advice: wouldn’t Amsterdam be a much better reference city (^_-)?
* Photo: From this source: San Marco, Venice, November 2012.