Same old, same old?

Posted in December 2011, Reader dialogue | 1 Comment

Welcome to the Mata Pribadi Xmas Edition!

Welcome to Mata Pribadi‘s special bumper Xmas edition wherein we bring you lots of stuff with nearly nothing to do with, er, Xmas, though our Fill in the Bubble this month is highly seasonally themed and we are hoping for lots of entries for something that has already become a Mata Pribadi staple, generating as it does more direct user feedback than everything else put together.

Have to say however that, while overjoyed by the overall reaction to our November Edition, we were a little disappointed by the viewing figures to our report about the birth of the earth’s 7 billionth baby, born of course in Bintaro; if you are a well heeled expat with a social conscience then do pay a visit if you missed it.

Regardless, we hope you have had a great month since our last edition, as ever there has certainly been lots going on in The City that really never sleeps™ not least the marriage of the son of the President to the daughter of Hatta Rajasa, the coordinating minister for the economy – a marriage that has been described by cynics as the union of two political dynasties and which allegedly seals the deal on Hatta standing for President with the backing of Partai Demokrat as well as PAN in 2014.

We at Mata Pribadi are, however, firmly committed believers in romance and true love and wish the couple a happy and prosperous future in a troubled world. Edhie has made an excellent start on the prosperity bit already and that will be the subject of future ill-informed speculation in the pages of this organ.

Another major development of course has been the arrival of the rains; our congratulations to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) on their successful prediction that they would come; those guys really earn their money. For the golfers amongst you, Palm Hill is offering a deal to give you a rain check if you can’t finish 18 holes. seems like a deal, though we have yet to fully test the offer despite being stopped by rain there at the 16th the other day, we were too embarrassed to ask for a rain check.

Anyway, here is what you will find in your stocking from Mata Pribadi this Xmas

habis-pak Looks like you will struggle to add Red Rull to your favourite tipple this Xmas– Mata Pribadi provides the background and ponders on the reasons why.
BlackBerry Bellagio Getting strange charges on your mobile phone bill? … wondering why there are more than 350 million SIM cards in Indonesia? – Mata Pribadi takes a look at the “handphone” scene here
Classifieds Lots of pre-Xmas opportunities to be found in Mata Pribadi’s classifieds if you are an attractive female caddy, a shallow water diver and much else besides.
bouazizi2 A look at the events of the Arab Spring and the common background to their histories – Mata Pribadi asks the question, where next?
Land Drilling Scene Oil Field Trash take a heavy blow from the KPK in the Jakarta Post, Mata Pribadi gets up off the canvas and delivers the truth with a knockout blow.
……..Fill in the bubble - competition #2 winner “Ical” Bakrie has taken some hits from Mata Pribadi lately, so we measure him up in an unlikely contest against that other Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.
Bapak Christmas small Our ever popular Fill in the Bubble competition goes all Christmassy as we provide a new face for the old guy; all the usual generous prizes of course.
Royale Jakarta An open letter to the Minister of Tourism suggests that golf tourism can be hugely developed. Mata Pribadi takes the strongest of exceptions.
Posted in December 2011, Reader Dialogue | Leave a comment

Red Bullshit – a case for the KPK?

A case for the KPK?

While a little behind the the rest of the world in taking off, Red Bull has recently been going gangbusters in Indonesia, and this  despite being four or five times the cost of not dissimilar drinks made locally – and availability had steadily increased to include all of the major supermarkets and now to every one of the 24/7 chains.

Matter of taste of course, however, your Food and Beverage correspondent finds the taste of vodka with Red Bull that of a union made in heaven and couldn’t have been more pleased that distribution improvements meant that running out in the evening required no more than dispatching the Jaga to the local IndoMaret.

No more however and, in a recent exhausting city-wide search, the writer’s wife was unable to find so much as a single can of Red Bull for sale ANYWHERE, tidak ada, habis, finito. And nobody knows when it might be available again.

So what is going on here? Mata Pribadi has no facts (astonishing – ED) and would welcome any info from readers as to the cause. We do however have a theory and, as ever, all it requires is knowledge of the dictum “follow the money” and a modicum of imagination.

So, how many cans of Red Bull do you imagine are currently lying unloved and unmoving in the Customs sheds of Jakarta Port and will do until appropriately large brown envelopes are delivered to the Usual Suspects? Answers on a postcard please.

Posted in Business, Corruption, December 2011, Food and beverage | 3 Comments

But were afraid to ask …..

The mobile phone market in Indonesia is a very rare example of a market working relatively well and largely in the consumer’s interests.

There are three major national players, Telkomsel, Indosat and XL, all competing vigorously against each other – and with as many as ten smaller outfits in regional markets keeping them all honest.

Charges to consumers are generally affordable in a very price sensitive market and low by international standards and with waiting time for a connection close to zero.

In many ways the market is a model for developing a vigorous free market in other sectors; dismantle monopolies, deregulate, remove the dead hand of government, let it rip and pick up the taxes. Don’t hold your breath though.

Downsides are generally low grade voice connection quality and laughably slow speeds for Internet connections, though all operators are well aware of the issue and are making significant investments to improve, not least by employing expatriates on very competitive terms – as testified by a number of our own readers.

Existing operations are elderly GSM or CDMA based stuff and real improvement in voice and data will only come with new generation technology. Unfortunately the Government is “in the process” on appropriate bandwidth auctions and technology selection and nobody your Telecoms Correspondent knows can even guess when that process might complete. As can be imagined, there are huge vested interests involved and equally huge brown envelopes to be distributed before the starting gun can sound on 4G/LTE. And you can add 2 years to that before there is general availability of CNN in HD on your iPhone.

There is at least one thriving mast infrastructure operator and all the players are looking to farm out this activity to third parties with Telkomsel itself having recently sold thousands and leased back capacity on them.  Third parties have far less desire to have one mast for each operator and the move should result in significant cost savings, a better service and lower barriers to entry for new operators.

Current problem children in the arena include the purveyors of music, ring-tones, gossip magazines, horoscopes and dancing dwarves who are being banned and/or subject to far tighter rules by the major operators – a long time after their fraudulent charging practices had been exposed amid a million consumer complaints. The time delay was doubtless, in part at least, due to the fact that operators were taking up to 50% of the purveyors’ gross take – hard to let that go. To give you an idea of how big the market is, there are currently in the region of 100 million Internet page impressions a day from Indonesian phones – monetising that traffic is the challenge.

Indonesia is Blackberry’s largest and sole remaining growth area following the rise elsewhere of first iPhone and then Android based smart phones, with its strength here coming from its attractive hand phone pricing and the cheapness of its BBM service which led to the self reinforcing network effect seen today. The Government is less than best pleased with Blackberry, however, mainly because of the company’s recent decisions to base its manufacturing operation in Malaysia and its Indonesia server operation in Singapore. Expect more fire and fury from the Government and an eventual at least partial climb-down by Blackberry.

With a population of only (!?) around 260 million orangs, it is somewhat surprising to learn that in excess of 350 million SIMS have been issued. This is due to three main factors, firstly the huge and burgeoning enthusiasm for the service itself, secondly the cheapness of the least sophisticated devices (right down to $25 including a bunch of usage credits meaning that all but the most humble can spend their days sending SMSs to their friends) and, lastly, the endless obsession here with “cheap” meaning that the various networks offer of free or near free calls and SMS to other members of the same network has led to many having a SIM for two or more networks. Cards available for as little as Rp 2,500 have served to exacerbate this trend.

Just like in the rest of the world, voice is on the way down and data (SMS/Internet)  is on the way up and is another issue to be faced by the incumbents as most of their revenue is still voice and endangered by Skype and the likes and are struggling to get data pricing plans together which don’t cut their own throats. It’s not all beer and skittles for your mobile operator.

So, enjoy the low prices in country now (roaming is another issue and one to which we will return) and stop grumbling when you lose your connection – in five years it will be much better, though all that 4G/LTE kit and those expat houses in Pondok Indah will need paying for, so pricing is likely to change too – and not in your favour.

Posted in Business, December 2011, Reader Dialogue | 2 Comments

Mata Pribadi Xmas Classifieds

Looking For: an honest Indonesian national with analytical background and negotiating skills for very senior management position. Previous applicants should not re-apply, Apply: KPK Jakarta Seaking native English language speeker,  prefareably a gradguate  – to chekk speling/ spunctuation grammar and stuff like that. Apply: Jakarta Post
Hard Disk Expert – to recover 29 years of playing data from a 760GB Western Digital X2873 running under NTFS. Getting desperate. Payment by results. Apply: Rich Whyme, Tee Set Female Caddies Needed!! immediate start, salary crap but tips OK and every chance of a lucrative long term relationship with one of our many Expat members Apply: Jagorawi Golf and Country Club
Immediate Start!! 3 Senior Structural Engineers sought – must have designed a bridge that didn’t fall down during the warranty period Apply: PT Hutama Karya Generous Reward Offered – for  recovery of a missing 7 iron from a much loved matching set. Recently lost in no more than 3 metres of water at Pangkalanjati GC. Apply: Del Meeds
Blackberry Bellagio – recent purchase, slightly crushed but in fine working order. Apply;: The Executors of the Estate of Bapak Hendra Sunowono, Pacific Place 2nd Advertisement – forget previous demands for experience and education, we will settle for someone who can add up reliably. Apply: MIGAS Oil and Gas production forecasting unit
Essay Prize!! – 1,500 words on the difference between US position on Syria and its stance on the defence of American commercial interests in Irian Jaya Apply: American Embassy LOST!! – 24 billion rupiah in American Express Travellers checks – Large reward to finder, forgotten where I lost them. Apply: Nunun Nurbaeti
Posted in December 2011, Small Adds | 3 Comments

Another Spring?

The situation continued for decades following the departure of the former colonial masters;

a leadership and an elite ruling and exploiting ruthlessly with the backing of the armed forces. The armed forces given special treatment and allowed monopolies and concessions to keep them even happier, and a populist free rein at suppressing troublesome minorities;

a judiciary loyal only to the man with the largest envelope;

a police force corrupt to the core and more criminal than the criminals they pretended to bring to justice More often than not cooperating with criminals in joint money making schemes;

a semi-independent security force bullying, murdering, raping and shooting as directed by their masters, and of course for their own fun and profit;

a massive bureaucracy “administering” the land, in truth paid not very much but able to rent seek through their involvement in the granting of licences, permits and permissions for the largely trivial, a hidden and rapacious tax upon the whole population and its businesses;

a miserable and pathetic education system designed to keep children almost as uneducated as their parents – while the elite and friends avoided the chaos by sending their own offspring to the US, Europe and Australia.

And then came the Arab Spring to remind anyone willing to listen that no people will stand for such oppression and exploitation forever.

A small prize to the first reader who can think of another country that shows the same or similar characteristics and might possibly become the subject of its own “Spring Clean“. All it needs is another brave and angry fruit seller.

Answers on a postcard please.

Posted in Corruption, December 2011, Politics | 2 Comments

A new standard for “low”

There is of course amongst our demographic a significant presence of oil field trash and we are proud to have you, not least because your Editor was oil field trash himself until not very long ago.

At least we were proud until we read this in the Jakarta Post the other day:

JAKARTA: The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) confirmed that since 2003 it had managed to recover up to Rp 152 trillion (US$17 billion) in state funds from foreign companies in the oil and gas sector.

“Yes, the KPK has returned assets and money worth Rp 152 trillion from the oil and gas sector to state coffers,” KPK deputy chairman Haryono Umar said on Friday, as quoted by

He said that the country was vulnerable to huge losses in the oil and gas sector due to a lack of clarity in the government’s methods for recording data related to assets in the sector.

“This is very dangerous. There has been no accounting of state assets in the oil and gas sector,” he said.

Haryono added that the commission had reported the return of funds to the House of Representatives and also asked legislators to urge the government to begin recording the country’s assets and finance options in each particular sector.

The KPK explained that many of the state’s unrecorded assets, such as helicopters, cars, land and houses, were often used by foreign companies.

The message is as clear as it unbelievable, you guys, not content with stuffing your pockets with an average $2 billion a year, add to the insult by living in palatial houses and swanning around in helicopters and large SUVs all paid for by the state. God bless the KPK for riding to the rescue and recovering $17 billion. Guys, hang your heads in shame!!

OK, enough of that crap, what is the truth of all this?

A little known and terribly interesting fact is that the first implementation as we know it today of the Production Sharing Contract or PSC , was here in Indonesia in the late 1960s. One of the wrinkles of a PSC, in a sop to national sensitivities, is that any asset purchased by an oil company toiling under the provisions of a PSC immediately becomes the property of the State, with the oil company being granted the “free and exclusive” right to use the asset so long as it continues to operate.

So, in brief:

oil companies have purchased $17 billion dollars in assets for use in their businesses since 2003, mostly oil wells and processing plants but including the infamous “helicopters, cars, land and houses <they> often use”;

all these purchases, and much else, have been reported by the oil companies to the relevent Indonesian Authorities;

the relevent authorities have neglected to put them in a big spreadsheet and add them up and declare them as national assets;

KPK’s claim to have “returned assets and money worth Rp 152 trillion from the oil and gas sector to state coffers” is as self serving and populist as it is misleading and outright wrong. Having said some very nice things about the KPK in the past, this comes as something of a disappointment;

the Jakarta Post’s reporting sets a new standard for “low”.

So, relax boys, it wasn’t you wot done it, go have cold one.

Posted in Business, Corruption, December 2011, Oil & Gas | 4 Comments