It’s the season of new money in Jakarta

As I passed by the old town area, I stood gaping at who seemed like tens of poor people holding out huge stashes of cash in their hands, perched 10 metres apart along the street. I asked my Indonesian friend about what’s going on and she said “It’s free money. New monnney.” I didn’t quite understand but she then explained how people need fresh new bills that they give out to loved ones as presents during the holy days of Lebaraan and these people on the street sold fresh notes in exchange for old ones for a commission which varied between 10-20%. She also mentioned that one need not pay this commission if they had a good relationship with their bank. I was suddenly reminded of my mum (who works for a bank back home) always brought free money for family and friends for festivals and funerals. I guess she never felt the need for a commission which makes me wonder if “Necessity is really the mother of monetary extortion”.

Every morning on my way to work, I see young men in their late teens who my driver calls “Wild Police” jump onto the middle of the street out of nowhere to start directing the traffic simply because there exists no traffic signals or traffic police. Anyone they direct and grant a right of way ahead of the others drops a few 100 or 1000 Rupiah in their hands. The wild police stands there as long as he makes enough money for a meal and then moves on. I realised that one of the biggest factors causing traffic in Jakarta is the lack of infrastructure for traffic management at intersections. This problem can be evaded by taking tolled roads that seldom have any intersections. However, the queues for these tolls almost always seem to be much longer than the jams on non-tolled roads. This shows that people are willing to make this initial huge investment of waiting to get onto a tolled road rather than be stalled at every intersection (or not).

I have seen so many street side full time jobs here – selling gasoline in bottles, collecting donations in fishing nets, etc. These and several more things I have seen in just the last one month in Jakarta a land of entrepreneurs and a land with growing needs, gaps and entrepreneurs always means the season of new money (Foreign investment). The amount of foreign investment is beginning to get a little overcrowded just like the roads in Jakarta.


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