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Showing posts from 2014

In Crikey: Jokowi hailed a beacon of hope, but could be a shrinking violet

An opinion piece of mine has appeared in Crikey today.

Subscribers can read it here, and freeloaders can read it here:

When world leaders gather in Jakarta later this month for the inauguration of a new president, hopes will be high that the new occupant of Istana Merdeka will bring great changes to Indonesia and its underperforming US$870 billion economy. With a background as a furniture seller from Central Java, president-elect Joko Widodo lacks the aristocratic heritage of the the six people who have held the office of president since Indonesia’s independence in 1945. Jokowi, as the incoming president is popularly known, is the first president to come to prominence in public life since the fall of Suharto in 1998. To ordinary Indonesians, Jokowi represents a beacon of hope who can deliver the basic health, education and welfare services people crave from their government. To entrepreneurs, Jokowi also represents the possibility of change — they hope he can cut through the…

"Risky Business" out this month

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I'm proud to announce that my debut book, "Risky Business: How Indonesia’s economic nationalism is hurting foreign investment – and local people", is out this month.



From the back cover:
As a young democracy with an emerging middle class and an abundance of natural resources, Indonesia is attracting plenty of interest from foreign investors. While the potential benefits of doing business in the developing Asian economy are obvious, the risks can be tougher to spot. But journalist Ari Sharp has found there are plenty of things that can go wrong, and often do. With widespread corruption, a crooked legal system and dysfunctional infrastructure, Indonesia can be a high-risk destination for outsiders keen to invest. Looking back over the past five years, Risky Business investigates real-life investment nightmares and discovers that plenty more pain might await others who venture to Indonesia unprepared.

“Risky Business is a frank, fair-minded, lively and very readabl…

Over and out (for now)

I've now been back in Australia for three weeks and am enjoying the manicured streets, thriving cafes and biting cold that I'd missed while I was away. It was a fun three years in Jakarta, but Canberra's now where I hang my hat.

I've taken up work on an exciting project with the Australian Government. Just like the last time I was working full-time in Australia, I'll be putting the blog on a hiatus. All the archives will stay online, but there'll (probably) be no new content coming your way.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to read my posts. It was great to have you along for the ride.

Sampai jumpa, Indonesia

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After three years and a lot of fried tofu, I am this weekend leaving Jakarta to return to Australia. It's been a fantastic time here, full of new friends and new experiences. But the time is right to pulang kampung for a new challenge.

Before I head down the tollroad to Soekarno-Hatta one last time, I offer up a collection of observations about Indonesia - where it is, and where it's going.

- The facade of democracy is in place, but it still lacks form. At first glance, Indonesia has all the institutions of democracy - a phalanx of political parties, regular free elections, a free press and an active civil society. Most importantly, just about everyone recognises that it's the only game in town when it comes to accessing political power. But on closer inspection it becomes evident that these institutions sometimes fail in practice to fulfill their purpose - political parties are personality-driven rather than policy-driven, bribes are used to woo voters, major media…

10 Jakarta hotspots that shine a light on the independence era

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Jakarta has plenty to offer history buffs. For people keen to understand what the city was like from its founding in 1527 until the Dutch finally gave up their claim in 1949, there is an impressive array of sites that convey the colonial grandeur. Visitors can check out the cargo ships docked in Sunda Kelapa harbour, or the old immigration office that's now the luxurious Kunstkring Paleis restaurant and gallery in Cikini, or the Gedung Kesenian Jakarta concert hall in Pasar Baru. While many of the colonial buildings are crumbling, others have been lovingly maintained.

But the city also has a rich legacy from its more recent past. Indonesia has a fascinating history from the time of the rebellion against colonial masters through the socialist Guided Democracy of Sukarno, the authoritarian New Order of Suharto and the chaotic creativity of Reformasi. Each of these eras has left a mark on the city, both in the way they have shaped the thinking of its citizens, and in the statues, gra…

Notes on a Java jaunt

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Stepping off the ferry at Banyuwangi, I was relieved to be free of the cloying melodies of the dangdut karaoke and sickly sweetness of the kretek smoke that battled for control of the upper deck. My company for the trip was made up mostly of migrant workers in weathered shirts heading home to villages in Java, and the occasional wealthy family reluctant to leave Bali after a few days of decadence. In the trip of less than an hour between the two islands, we had moved from the laid-back Island of the Gods to the bustling home to 140 million people. Lying ahead of me was the island where the country's power, money and mythologies reside.


For nearly three years I'd lived in Indonesia, but my trips in Java had barely extended beyond the mountains to the south of Jakarta, the ragged beach resorts on the west coast and the big cities whose nearby temples and natural wonders make them worth visiting. Through the trip I hoped to better understand the cities and villages, farms and fac…