Live in Jakarta and feel the change

Orly Mercado

Posted on September 23, 2009

Every time I am out of Jakarta where I now reside, I still encounter friends and acquaintances that still have an outdated perception of life in Indonesia. We have all accepted the mind-boggling changes China has gone through in just four decades. Those whose memories of Jakarta, are as recent as a decade ago, are in for a surprise.

Most of us are familiar with the statistics. Its GDP growth for the first half of 2009 is the third highest in the G20, after China and India. It is proving itself to be a stable democracy with great economic potential. Rich in natural resources, the future of its export of commodities looks even brighter as the global economy recovers.

Whether in a high-end mall or a farmer’s market, one can feel that domestic consumption drives the economy. To be sure, much needs to be done in the area of infrastructure development. Jakarta’s traffic jams continue to drive home this point daily.

For me, the brightest spot is in Public governance. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s anti corruption credentials are most appreciated by locals and foreigners alike. It is still easy to encounter petty corruption on a day to day basis, but there is a palpable consciousness of the consequences of bribe-taking. It is a good start.

Unlike China or even Vietnam that shifted to a market economy from a more egalitarian socialist system Indonesia’s biggest challenge is income inequality. It is obvious that the fruits of economic growth are being enjoyed mostly by the middle and upper middle classes. Indonesia is still far from realizing its full potential, but it is getting there. It is certainly not boring to witness these changes first hand.

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