Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
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Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Go East Young Man

If in the near future you buy a car and find that the backseat is somehow more comfortable than the cars of previous generation, you probably should thank the Chinese.
As the Chinese car market passed the United States to be the biggest in the world, the taste of the Chinese customers start to shape how the cars are made. And one of them is comfortable backseat. The reason? "Because even the owners of compact cars in China frequently hire full-time chauffeurs". [1]

Same as here in Indonesia you say? To certain extent, yes, so we most probably would appreciate this kind of development (probably more than we appreciate cup-holders, which is created to follow the taste of American car buyers, who apparently like to eat and drink in the car...)

No wonder Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of Daimler, said "the center of gravity is moving eastwards".

The Economist magazine too, thinks it should not overlook the increasingly important Asia. It recently introduced a special column for Asia, called Banyan, to add to the existing columns on Europe, America and Britain.

"Is this not, after all, to be the Asian century? We think probably so". The magazine said. [2]

An Asian century. Let's hope they are right.

But hang on: Even if it is right, the praise probably goes to China and India.
Indonesia? So far so good, but the progress is not fast enough and not far enough. We can do better, and we should.

Would you believe if you hear that China is dead serious on building electric cars that it aims to turn the country into a leading producers of hybrid and all-electric vehicles in three years? Three years.

Where are we going in three years?
Do we know?

Or is this going to be our Carly Simon moment: when people sing the song of praise to Asia, that song is actually not about us...? [4]

[1] International Herald Tribune, April 21, 2009, Page 18: Chinese tastes reshaping global auto market
[2] The Economist, April 11th-17th 2009, page 53, Banyan: In the shade of the banyan tree
[3] The New York Times, China Vies to Be World’s Leader in Electric Cars
[4] Carly Simon on Youtube.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ta Da !

American banks are posting huge profit this quarter:
Citibank: $1.6 billion [1], Goldman Sachs: $1.81 billion [2], Bank of America: $4.2 billion [3].

Does it mean the economic crisis is over? Green shoots [4] and all that?

Not really. Because apparently some magic tricks are involved.

Says Paul Krugman:
"Goldman changed its definition of “quarter” (in response to a change in its legal status), so that — I kid you not — the month of December, which happened to be a bad one for the bank, disappeared from this comparison." [5]

That's a loss of $1.5 billion, effectively erased [6].

What? You've got to be kidding.

What about Citibank? With it's debt losing value in bond market, "Citigroup was allowed to book a one-time gain approximately equivalent to that decline because, in theory, it could buy back its debt at a lower cost..." [7]


Bank of America? "The bank booked a profit of $2.2 billion on the decline in value of its own debt, which is allowed because the bank could now repurchase that debt at the lower price." [8]. Isn't that pretty much the same trick as Citibank?


But you said you want profit. Don't you want profit?
So we give you profit.

Here. Ta da !

[1] Financial Times - Results boost for Citigroup and GE
[2] BusinessWeek - Goldman: The Same as It Ever Was
[3] UPI - Economic Outlook: Underneath the profits
[4] Guardian - Federal Reserve sees green shoots but shops feel the rot
[5] New York Times - Green Shoots and Glimmers
[6] International Herald Tribune, April 22, 2009, Page 20, What's next in their bag of tricks?
[7] International Herald Tribune, April 20, 2009, Page 15, Creative accounting helps Citigroup return to profit
[8] Washington Post - Bank of America's Profit Mainly Due to Recent Deals

Monday, April 20, 2009

Water (and it ain't about the flood)

This may be difficult to digest for some of us Indonesians who are regularly flooded every rainy season: We are looking at a global water shortage.

Many of the world's big rivers (China's Yellow river, Germany's Elbe, America's Rio Grande) no longer reach the sea [1]. According to the United Nations World Water Assessment Programme, "urgent action is needed if we are to avoid a global water crisis".

OK. But then, what can we little people do about it, really? Other than using water sparingly?

Interestingly enough, us saving water may not help much: Water consumption for domestic use only accounts for a tenth of the world's total. So who's been using a lot of water? Industry? Industry consumes 'only' a fifth.

What then? Our food! 70% of water usage is consumed to produce our food. Read this: to produce 1 kg of wheat requires 1000 litre of water. A lot you said? Then how about this: to produce 1 kg of beef, it takes a whopping 15.000 litre of water [3].

The growing population will push the demand for food even higher, and as living standard in the developing world (such as ours) improves, our diet shifts and we will start to eat more meat.

In China for example, in 1985 the people there on average ate 20kg of meat. This year, it would be 50kg (which will require 390 kilometer cubic of water - equal to total water use in Europe!) [3].

So we can help preserve water by eating more vegetables and less meat.

Why not? It's healthier too!

[1] The Independent - Rivers: a drying shame
[2] Water in a changing world, The United Nations World Water Development Report 3, hal 106
[3] The Economist, April 11th-17th 2009, Hal 54, Water: Sin aqua non

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