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Brilliant commentary on paratransit realities in the real (Third) World

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  • ecopl@n.adsl
    Comment: The following note was just posted to Sustrans and is so balanced and well informed that I would like to share it with you. The real point to my mind
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 24, 2000
      Comment: The following note was just posted to Sustrans and is so balanced
      and well informed that I would like to share it with you. The real point to
      my mind is that his comment is fair, interesting and informed. I do not take
      it as a slander at all - rather a breath of fresh air which can help us
      better understand the lay of the terrain. And just so no one thinks there
      is any barely disguised condescension or racism in this, I might mention
      that if you read the news you will notice that the only reason that
      President Chirac is not being tried for taking his own fine version of, as
      Matthew puts it: "the much larger 'informal' income... collected from
      'levies', bribes, kickbacks ...". And he of course ain't the only one on
      the take in our fine advanced economies, is he?


      Eric Britton

      ecopl@n ___ technology, economy, society ___
      Le Frene, 8/10 rue Joseph Bara, 75006 Paris, France
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      Date: Fri, 22 Sep 2000 12:39:51 +1000
      From: "Matthew Burke" <matt.burke@...>
      Subject: Help Wanted (Indonesia)

      Dear Alan,

      I've been through Java a couple of times scoping out public transport
      operations as part of some previous research. I've never spent any time in
      Malang [travelled through once in '97 and didn't stop] but I assume the
      chaotic vitality and despite-everything-effectiveness of the operations
      elsewhere around Java will be the norm. The variety of paratransit is
      enormous, ranging from three wheeled pedicab 'becak' [the 'Gondola of the
      East' - well almost - do take a ride on a nice boulevarde at night some
      time when the traffic is scarce and the lights are out], the 'ojek', the
      'andong' or 'delman' horse-drawn carts [rare nowadays in most centres but
      often found on the fringe and in small towns], regular taxis for the
      bourgiousie the 'mikrolet' medium-sized vans [Colts, Diahatsus, etc.]
      seating around 12 pax., some larger minibuses [20 pax], and the like. In
      Jakarta they also have the horrid little bajaj of South Asia - dirty,
      expensive little three wheeled motortrikes. Only mikrolettes and up have
      'fixed' routes, the rest are for hire services. Then there are the bus
      companies, Govt and non-government [ususally you can tell the difference
      right away and the fares correspond somewhat to maintenance and service

      Traffic flows are something to behold. Reg's are almost never enforced and
      with highly varying traffic speeds the usual Two-Thirds-World mayhem
      results. The corruption is so endemic, so open and yet so impenetrable in
      society that almost nothing can change without paybacks to everyone in the
      food chain. Desk job public servants in transport and planning agencies
      usually receive two paychecks. The first is their meagre 'formal' wages.
      The second, coming around in bags the next week, is the distribution of the
      much larger 'informal' income - what they actually live on - collected from
      'levies', bribes, kickbacks and so on. Even the way that pt fares are
      collected is a way to lessen the damage of corrupt driver crews. Permits
      are 'user-pays' of a sort. Monies are routinely misappropriated across
      agencies and at many levels. And economically they still haven't really
      come out of the shock of '97 with wild times ahead as the puppet-plays
      continue in Jakarta.

      But I love the place!

      Two tips: try and understand the particular characteristics of the local
      operator associations for the mikrolettes pretty quickly - they can have
      the often violent turf wars and other activities that happen in Africa and
      the sub-Continent. The circumstances, rules and reg's differ from city to
      city but the mikrolettes often form the backbone of the pt system, and not
      the regular buses. Secondly, make sure you determine who owns the different
      bus companies in Malang - you might be surprised how various high-ranking
      army groups, Chinese interests and old Suharto cronies can all be key
      players in the pt industry. Fare structures, route declarations and the
      like for all vehicle types are locally controlled with governor veto being
      a prominent element - a recipe for decision-making favouring certain vested

      For assistance from some of the main researchers who have done a great deal
      of previous research contact Prof. Kusbiantoro and the others [Soegijoko
      etc.] at the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies / Centre for
      Research on Transportation and Communcation at Institut Teknologi Bandung
      [his e-mail is something like p3wkitb@...; ph. +62 221 250 7069 -
      Indonesian business cards are generically unreadable].

      Then there's Dr Danung Parikesit and friends at the Civil Engineering dept
      at Gadja Madha University in Yogyakarta [only number I have is +62 274
      512796 but it might also not be accurate].

      Finally, can I recommend you read one book before heading there. And it's
      not a text on Indonesian transport. Friends [including members of my own
      Department here at UQ] have come to grief by not understanding the
      institutional mayhem of Indonesian nepotism and corruption - afterall,
      CorporateWatch did place Indonesia in the top three 'most corrupt' nations
      on the planet, alongside Nigeria and Cameroon recently! Try and read a copy
      of Michael Backman (1999) "Asian eclipse : exposing the dark side of
      business in Asia", John Wiley & Sons; New York.

      All the best with it and if you wish to contact me again, please don't
      hesitate to either call or reply e-mail. Though from what I gather, you
      should be fine.

      Yours truly,


      --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
      Matthew Burke
      Department of Geographical Sciences and Planning
      University of Queensland
      BRISBANE QLD 4072
      [w] +61 7 3365 3836
      e-mail: matt.burke@...
      --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
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