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colson/jerry van den brink: Utomo, the presidential elections in all likelihood were very successful and as for the loss against Argentina I think the Dutch squad actually were way [...]

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Venice at the Java Sea


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 apparatusesprohibited 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.

14 comments to Venice at the Java Sea

  • ssst.. dont tell Indonesian that Venice is plague by flooding. I saw some talk about building buildings along the river banks in Jakarta, because it happened in Venice, too and they are a major tourist attraction. :D

    What happens at the moment, people are too obsessed about Jokowi, that when you give any critique at all, the supporters go after you. Sorry, even though jokowi and ahok did plenty of good things, they are not perfect. but hey, this is just between us, ok. I dont want their supporters go after me again:D

  • @ triesti: I swear I will keep it a secret. I don’t want you to fall victim to the good guys after having escaped many times the bad guys (FPI, I mean). But only for as long as you know that I know :).

  • Wavatar Mauricio

    What say you about the initial seat of the VOC, Meneer, before it relocated its HQ to Batavia? That first location is a forgotten treasure where Belanda is more palpable than Kota.

  • @ Mauricio: Blushing I admit I also forgot about that treasure. Wasn’t the decision in 1610 by the “Heeren XVII” ( the board) to appoint Pieter Both first Governeur-Generaal (General Manager), location Batavia (Jakarta), the start? Of course there where older VOC settlements outside Indonesia and military expeditions between 1603 and 1610 -like the one in 09 (?) in Timur. But I confess shameful ignorance as to the location you are referring to (though I fear it will also be in a desolate condition).

  • Oh man, it’s been raining a lot recently and the water could rise knee high. I can see the Venice in Kota Tua to be honest. Hahahaha!

  • @ Uti: Troublesome precipitation everywhere >:D ( we had our first white day – by noon we had some 5 centimetres of snow which already has melted away now). But, eh, so no need to transform Kota Tua? It IS Venice already??

  • I am missing this ideal vision “too good to be true”….

  • @ Utomo: So am I :(.

  • Wavatar Mauricio

    I believe the first seat of the VOC on what is now Indonesia was Bandaneira.

  • @ Mauricio: Okay. On the surface it also stands to reason. Spices etc. So, thanks!

    (It triggers the wish to update my historical knowledge :). Up till now I thought the Dutch did first kill a lot of people over there and then established a few forts : Nassau, Belgica. I might also look to Bantam’s role – which is the place VOC activities on Java started in the pre-Gouverneur-Generaal period ).

  • Hi Colson, thanks for the mention. The article is online now:

    I must add that there’s no plan to cut the number of civil servants by 25% (if only…), just that the budget for the division Public Works will be cut by 25%. It’s a nice start :-)

  • @ Jacco Hupkens: Thanks for feedback and correction. I’m sorry I managed to change factual information into a canard about reduction of the number of civil servants :(. Though, a budget cut by 25% will probably impossible without reducing the number of civil servants :).

    Looking forward to your next articles on Indonesia in NRC and Groene.

  • Colson! You see what the power of words have done! It’s flooding in Jakarta now. =(

  • @ May: I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I clearly underestimated my powers.