Greasy Cogs Make for Easy Life

By Richard Boughton

It’s that time again – for me, anyway. Time to renew the old KITAS and sign up for another year of merry madness in Bali.

Some of you may have heard that a new law had been passed in Indonesia allowing foreigners married at least two years to an Indonesian citizen to receive a five-year KITAS visa this time around. Well, you heard right. The law was passed. But it doesn’t matter; nor does it apply. Not yet, they say. Maybe next year.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. It’s PID, the national byword, Progress Indefinitely Deferred.

You see, the thing is, the law was passed by the proper governmental body in Jakarta, such that said law is now the law; but that’s all it is, lacking, as it turns out, any vehicle for implementation, the arms and legs of bureaucracy. The apparatus is not in place. There are no forms, no duplicates, no carbon copies, no network of experienced scammers in place, no agreement upon a reasonable levy for bribes and payoffs. Oh, and the agents who presently handle our yearly KITAS – they know nothing whatsoever about this new law. Never heard of it.

So here we go again. Hand over your documents, your proofs, your own various forgeries and white lies and, most importantly, your money – and then wait.

It has often been asked why this process must be so convoluted, why it cannot be streamlined, made more simple and direct (as it is in so many other countries). Considering in particular that tourism and immigration can only benefit the economy of Indonesia, and especially of Bali, why does this counterproductive confusion of paperwork mazes persist?

It’s all about money, folks, and how much of it can be transferred from our pockets to theirs. If the KITAS process were made simple, or at least manageable, such that the common applicant could unravel the thing, why, then the individual could do it for himself. And what then? Horrors! The whole teetering tower of cards must tumble, and the intricate arrangement of agents and middle-men vanish.

Make no mistake, there are those who depend upon the perseverance of this confusion for their very livelihoods. Will you take food from the children’s mouths? And what about the monthly payment on your agent’s brand new SUV? It’s unthinkable, unacceptable. It is quite simply the way business is done in Indonesia, from the KITAS to the SIM driving licence to the roadside bribe.

Corruption, you say? Well, it’s really too strong a word, isn’t it? It’s just life the way it’s lived, the way things are done and have always been done. Those who are cogs in the machine are glad of the machine, for it churns out their daily bread. Governments can talk all they want about anti-corruption commissions and eradicating graft, just as they can talk about guaranteeing religious freedom and ensuring cultural tolerance, but until they provide something real, in the way of education, opportunity, fair practices and the enforcement of the same, it’s just that – talk – and all the progressive words in the world don’t amount to a hill of dung.

Am I complaining? No, not really. Peace, as has been said, is a product of acceptance, and contentment a matter of simply getting in sync. Think about it the next time you get stopped by the police on the bypass. Think about the wiggle room afforded by the prevailing practices, the chance to negotiate, to dicker, to bargain – and maybe even get away scot-free.

Do you have such an option in the West? Think about the convenience of being able to simply handle the thing on the spot and then be on your merry way – no ticket, no court date, no filing fee. Voila, it’s done – and for what, five dollars? Ten? In America you will pay 100, and more. Need a new licence? Just pay the man. No need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, take a number, stand in line for most of the day and then argue with some cranky clerk who hates his job. And what about the Department of Environmental Quality? Receiving your summons, taking your car through, failing the test, repairing the car, driving it through again, paying your fee. But here in Indonesia – hey, what environmental quality?

In Indonesia you cut corners, or rather you pay someone to cut them for you. And so what? Aren’t we here, after all, to enjoy a bit of life for a change, free from the endless tedium of rules that has all but suffocated daily life in the West? What’s the fair exchange for that? If you ask me, it all comes out even in the end.

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Practical Paradise

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