My favourite prayer, which I have written about often in this column, is very simple: “God, give me the courage to do the things I can do, the patience to accept the things I can’t do and the wisdom to know the difference.” Here in Jakarta there are so many things that need to be done, but somehow we don’t seem to have the courage to do them.
Doing things is simple: identify the problem, look for the solution, find the people who know how to do it, allocate the money and resources and get on with it!
All around us in Asia there are cities who have mastered their traffic, set up their mass transit system, created waste management programmes and implemented recycling, secured their clean water supply and dealt with their waste water and sewage, cleaned their air, prioritised their education, created parks, play areas and exercise areas, greened their neighbourhoods, attacked their drug problems, solved their air pollution, secured airport capacity for the next 30 years, created public parking areas, created sports facilities, and battled public noise pollution. Why can’t we just copy them?
Why am I complaining? Because in my personal view, we have the resources and we have the people, but seem to lack the vision of what really needs to be done, so we are throwing money at the wrong things. Here are some examples:
We have created a magnificent sidewalk down Sudirman and Thamrin.
Why? People need walking space when they are shopping (e.g. Orchard Road or Oxford street) but they don’t need it for going from office to office! There is no underlying need and it is not used to capacity and never will be. (There is a cycle lane there, which is great—but no one is cycling!).
We built a toll road from Simatupang to Depok. Why? That brings in more cars to the city instead of building a railway or a tram line and making it easy to ask people in Depok and the many dormitory estates in the south to take the train or tram.
We have a huge number of three coloured bins for us to put our dry/wet/toxic waste into so that we can join the world in sustainable waste management and recycling—but we don’t have the segregated waste trucks to safely and correctly collect the separated waste. So the whole exercise is, at this stage until they are bought, a complete waste of money.
So I would like to change my prayer a little to: “God, give us the strength to do the things we should do, the courage NOT to do the things we shouldn’t and the wisdom to know the difference!” We can do anything anyone else in the world can do, so why don’t we? Why don’t we want to make Jakarta into the city which everyone wants to live in and visit, not the place we have to persuade overseas visitors to come to? There are so many things we can fix. Let’s just get out there and do it!