Learning from Japan

Four things struck me as I returned from a trip to Japan. The first was a car, well nearly. I was crossing the street between Plaza Indonesia and Kempinski on a zebra crossing and it never entered my mind that a car, in clear sight of me, would not stop, having spent a week under

Alistair Speirs

Jakarta’s Bulk Stores, A Battle for Survival

In 2018, bulk stores began to mushroom across the city, many established by young, hopeful entrepreneurs. With a growing awareness of plastic pollution, and a collective mission to reduce single-use plastic products (grocery bags, straws, sachets, product packaging), bulk stores seemed to be the perfect business trend, set to ride the swell of this new


Smoke and Mirrors in the City of Smog

Over the last few months, Jakarta residents have once again come face-to-face with difficulties posed by intensifying air pollution. On 13 August 2023, the city’s air quality was ranked worst in the world according to data from organisations like IQAir, sparking serious concern among citizens. Whilst the smog itself is quite visible across the city’s

Making Bali an International Dining Destination

With so many reasons to come to Bali, the local food and beverage industry believes that they should certainly be high on that list. Does the now thriving restaurant scene have what it takes to attract visitors to the island in its own right? The recently formed Bali Restaurant and Café Association believes that it

A Birthday Wish for DKI Jakarta

How should cities “develop”? And what can we do to ensure it is done correctly? Those are probably the questions that many people inside – and outside – the city government are asking. What do we have to do to ensure a good future for the citizens of the city of Jakarta, especially when it


As you drive about most cities, or better still walk, you can get the feeling of how it was planned. There are really different feelings evoked by different districts, through their design & layout, through the type of shops and restaurants that are housed there, the offices, the apartments, the houses, the schools and of


The Consultant Conundrum: The Infantilising of Government

First of all, I have to admit, I am, at least part of the time, a consultant, so everything I write from here on in has to be conditioned by that. I am part of the problem, though I have to admit, a very small part indeed… But hold on, I haven’t told you what


Can Jakarta Become a ‘Biophilic’ City? 

I was recently watching a very good documentary on Singapore’s impressive progress on sustainability, which now falls under a new but very relevant term: Biophilia. This is a term given for the love of biodiversity, and whilst it may seem futile to compare what Jakarta has done or can do in comparison, we honestly have

The Era of Suspicious Sustainability

Yes, finally it’s the time for everyone to claim “sustainability” as their new mantra, new passion, or in many cases, just their latest marketing campaign. “Surely not“, I hear you say, “doesn’t sustainability have to be real, certified, audited or something to prove the claimant isn’t just giving us a load of hot air?” (or

Love in Indonesia: Redefining Valentine’s Day

In Indonesia, Valentine’s Day has been somewhat of a ‘taboo’ celebration. As someone raised in a Muslim family, I was never prohibited from celebrating Valentine’s Day, but it was something that was frowned upon by my parents, or those more religious than myself — many of us were told that the origin of this observation

Can’t be Bothered to go to Work? Here’s why.

I don’t know about you but I honestly believe that governments are elected – and paid – to look after their citizens, exercising their judgment as to the right path of course, but basically looking at the essential elements in the lives of their people and saying: “right we’ve got to fix this or make

Celebrating Imlek, Embracing Identity

It’s not that many years ago that anything even vaguely Chinese was absolutely forbidden in Indonesia, even though for literally hundreds of years there has been a strong presence of ethnic Chinese people here. There was no visible Chinese language anywhere public or published, and certainly celebrations were not allowed in public places. Even the

Rebound and Revival, but no Rethink or Redesign. 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but life in Jakarta has rebounded to pre-covid levels, and perhaps more. Cafes and restaurants are busy, with the tables quite often full of laptops and notepads, as people take their negotiations to their favourite coffee shops. And there are more and more of them: PIM III is bursting

Now Bali