Tuesday, March 20, 2007

'Civil service' in Jakarta

I ran an import & export business besides an agency for foreign students. I sourced some of my products from Indonesia and used to travel there often to buy goods in the 90s. I have a few parents of my Indonesian students to thank for. I will never forget their support and help.

Although they are wealthy, they are ever ready to help me out. Sometimes they would get their drivers or staff to collect my goods and send them to me. They even paid for my airfeight. When I went over to Jakarta, they readily offered their homes for me to stay and their chauffeurs and cars to drive me around.

The corruption in Indonesia is horrible. Not only do you have to give money for information and registrations, you have to bribe to get things done. Even when I was travelling on the road with only two boxes of goods in the car, the traffic police would stop me for money. The airport was the worst place. Once you enter the departure lounge, the customs officers on duty would pounce on you.

The first few trips, I had to pay every customs officers who approached me. They were sharp-eyed and know you are a tourist. They would make things difficult for you when you carry more than two luggage. They made you open all the nicely sealed boxes, although from the x-ray machine, they could clearly see that it contained food or toys. And after that you have to think of a way to seal the boxes back yourself. As long as you give them money, everything would be fine.

You would need the help of a high-ranking officer to stem the blatant demand for money. I was lucky to find one. Whenever a customs officer approached me, I just had to give my Protector's name. If I have too many boxes of goods to carry, I could call the Protector and he would arrange for someone to pick up the goods from my place of accommodation.

There were great demands for branded goods in Jakarta then. I would receive orders from my Indonesians clients and then bring them in for them. A call to the Protector and he would be waiting for me at the Arrival gate, he helped to wheel the goods to my waiting car. No hustle, no one to stop you. No questions asked. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

And if you do not want to pass through the normal immigration stand, you can go to the first level, place some notes in your passport, hand it to the one and only officer and it will be stamped in a jiffy. Express Lane. No queues. haha.... amazing. Efficient and productive albeit with a little money.

Next time you encounter difficulties in Indonesia, try giving them Vitamin M. hehe.....


  1. Thanks for the infor.

    Currently there are some parties that are keen to have my products in Indonesia and the first thing that they told me is we gonna prepare some extra 'M' to 'thank' the officials.


  2. Wow, thanks for a very insightful first-hand report on Vitamin M!! Such a pity there is so much rampant corruption going on.. not just in Indonesia, but in Africa too.. Human nature is just sometimes too horrid. Luckily there are some bright spots here and there..

    ps: Thanks for dropping by!

  3. ang mo kio,
    Be careful orh! The M is very good to use but can be quite costly and the mouths get bigger every time.

    If must, give a little first, then if they dun deliver. Forget about the deals.

    Their government also can flip-flop, so dun be naive!

  4. Hi LB!

    Many countries practise the Vitamin M policy la! Even Singapore also has but people blow whistle sometimes get silenced la!

  5. I believe that the problem stems from the low wages paid to their CS. When I drove into a neighbouring country nearly 20 years ago, I found that their Uncle Sams were very friendly (read overlooked my traffic "offenses" provided I was willing to grease their hands a little).

    Wonder if they are still like that.

  6. aiya, leopards cannot change their spots wan la! We don't drive in anymore. We also kena before a few times. Hear from friends who went, now also liddat.

  7. How true. My previous car had some sort of escort protection in certain parts of Msia. All thanks to my uncle's Vit M. I don't have that much Vit M to share with them though.

    Especially places like China, it's more about who you know and how to get around the system.

    In Singapore... LOL... let's not go into that. I'm just a quitter.

  8. Ya Ed,
    Been there, done that.

    I am one of the silenced in Singapore.

  9. Wow..! i know indonesia is bad.. but i didn't think they are this bad now..??

  10. Vitamin M always will grease those tight joints ya? Sad though. That it is neccesary.

  11. "Leopards cannot change their spots"

    For a moment there, I thought you were refering to S'pore CS. We may take a free lunch every now and then, but we are not corrupt, hee.

  12. That was quite eye-opening aboout Indonesia. I had no idea!

  13. Things haven't changed much. Corruption is a deep-rooted problem in many countries in the region.

  14. Lucky it's not scratch backside ah!
    With that Vit M thingy, I wonder how many Express lanes next time. Coz all the Express lanes starts to become "normal" lanes (how come like S'pore edu system ah)....then you need new fancy names such as "First-Class" lane..."Elite" lane...or "Billiondollar table" lane...
    BTW, I just passup my homework here!

  15. SA,
    Right. It's compulsory to grease the palms of the authorities.

  16. Victor,
    Omg, CS come to my popiah party can be charged for corruption? Next time you have to pay lor! hehe....

  17. jean-luc picard,
    There are many countries that practise Vitamin M policies. Usually politicians and businessmen know this very well.

  18. tigerfish,
    How insightful!

    Why pass up so late? Notti girl!

  19. CS come to my popiah party can be charged for corruption?

    Chun See's favourite question: CS stands for Chris Sim or Civil Service? Wahahaha.