Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Politics of Rice 25

The police seems to get it. But Kompas? Not really. A headline today reads, "The Police Caught Rice Speculators". That gives an impression that rice speculation is a crime (how about those guys speculation in the stock exchange, Sir?).

But if you read through, apparently the police's reason is different. What they are after is cheaters, not speculators. There are people who buy rice from Bulog at subsidized price and sell it to other with higher price (this is 'speculation', and I don't think is a crime) and replace the label as to hide that it is from Bulog (this is the cheating -- a crime).

Remember the fuel-kerosene cases? Yes, the story is similar. You should not punish me for buying subsidized Pertamina fuel, stocking up, and selling it at higher price. But when I mix it with kerosene and tell you that it is the same fuel you can buy at the gas station, I lie to you. I cheat. Punish me for that.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Politics of Rice 24

According to Bustanul Arifin, if the Indonesian national socio-economic survey (the Susenas) is conducted and if the poor are sampled, most likely the poverty number will increase (supposedly due to the increase in rice price), a condition that worries the government.

I too believe that the absolute poverty is likely to increase -- the late harvest would not be able to compensate for the skyrocketing rice price.

But what strikes me is the fact that Bustanul implies that there is a possibility that the poor will not get sampled in the Susenas. That is ridiculous. Is he saying that you can actually exclude the poor from such survey?

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Politics of Rice 23

Aha, Kompas finally believes that the domestic rice supply is short. That's one step in the right direction.

I am not surprised that they are surprised.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Politics of Rice 22

So now they blame it on hoarders and speculators. Said newspapers, those who buy and stock up cheap rice for profit reason should be taken into jail.

I say bullsh*it.

Everybody should be free to buy anything he wants. Yes, you say the law prohibits stocking up of 'basic necessities'. Well, even that law is ridiculous.

Of course it seems unfair that in the midst of high demand, some people use the opportunity to make more profit. But, hey, that is the very nature of entrepreneurship. You give a bad name to 'speculation', but 'speculation' is what you do in business. Only good speculators ace in business.

Government, don't listen to those liars. If you want to discourage stocking up, create competition. Open up. Imported rice will do the job. Not prison bars.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Joyful flood or bad journalism?

So people are mad at Minister Aburizal because of his remarks on the flood disaster. It was shown in a TV news, the minister was saying that all the bad news about flood in Jakarta within the last week was an exaggeration. The fact is, according to the minister, what we see on TV is happy flood victims who, while talking to the reporters, are smiling and laughing with joy.

I would have said the same thing. Aburizal was quite right. I mean, come on, turn on your TV now, pick any domestic channel and watch the news. Now, do you see that reporter swimming wet with a yellow rain coat struggling to keep his microphone dry? Yes. Wait until he gets to interview some random flood victim. There he is. He usually goes standard, ‘Pak, what do you think about the flood?’ And the interviewee goes ‘Well, my house is two meter sunk now (smiling). The government should help us (laughing)’. In the background, his fellow victims are waiving hands to the camera, and kids are free jumping to the brown water with joy.

So who says Minister Aburizal was wrong? I agree with him: people do look happy.

But I’m not Aburizal. The way I see this is beyond laughing. What I see is a terribly bad journalism. I don’t think the bad news about flood disaster is exaggerated. But I think those TV journalists fail to bring us the true picture of reality.

The thing is, they are lazy. Instead of documenting the very life of the victims: how they can’t sleep because of water and starving, how they cope with extremely poor sanitation, how they try to keep their babies alive, and so forth; they, the reporters, choose the easiest way: random interview with useless questions. (Well maybe not too lazy, because they seem pretty heroic: they jump into the water – but what is the point? Let’s see: Now that there is this new fatal disease, the evil amalgam of dirty flood water and mouse urine, are they still going to give life report swimming?).

I guess the journalists could use some economics principle: trust what one does, not what he says. Please, do not give us crappy interviews, because they are nothing but sweet talks. Show us the reality. Show us how the people live their life. More cameras and fewer microphones will do the message (and avoid Aburizal’s misunderstanding).