Whether you are a believer or not, this is a lovely prayer: “God give me the courage to change the things I can change, the patience to accept the things I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference”.
So here we are in Indonesia, in its extraordinary capital city Jakarta, and we have to really identify the “things we can change”, so we don’t waste our time on trying to change “things we can’t change”!
So let’s be honest, what can be changed of all the things we don’t like about how our city is run? Well, according to me…..everything can be changed - we just need time, commitment, money, skill, expertise and vision. The real question is, which of the very long list of things that need attention should we prioritize? And do we have these crucial factors necessary to make them? Well, what I think we need to do first is to concentrate on just two things.
One: education, because that is the key to the future. Creating smart consumers, future leaders, visionary administrators, good workers, people who care about sustainability, efficiency, honesty, and the environment. There is simply no substitute for good education and if the government simply hasn’t got the capacity – they need to give much more opportunity to the private sector.
Two: over-haul the structure of the local government. Change the way every department works, change the qualifications needed to work there, increase salaries to above private sector levels and demand totally excellent performance with serious, visible KPI’s. At the same time it may be a good idea to rethink how local parliaments work (DPRD). Do you know there are 415 “kabupaten” (district administrations), 93 “kota” (city administrations) and one special area (Jakarta) in Indonesia, each of which is supervised by a local parliament?
That means that all the local governments (and there are really far too many of them and often not well trained and well structured) are “matched” and controlled by mostly poorly educated and poorly elected assemblies, who also have a terrible record of corruption and mal-administration, making efficient operation impossible! It’s a real nightmare which needs serious attention.
I suppose that the Jakarta administration and its local parliament will be amongst the best in the country since this is by far the richest local administration, but even here it seems that efficient operation is still far from being achieved.
So back to my prayer: do we have the wisdom to know the difference between things we can change and things we can’t? Wel, there’s only one way to get that. Pray even more!
Alistair G. Speirs