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The Semi-Regular Newsletter


Indonesia, March 19, 2001

Our Jakarta Correspondent

Hot and Wet: bad if you're in a jungle, great if you're in a woman

he's not riding in a Merc
He felt that sucking sound
rivers of light
Looks just like Russia too!
train-front office
Cheap office space
rivers of light
Sean, Meeting!
jakarta street corner
Taxis waiting for business

---- Wayan's Note ----
I'm sure you remember my cousin, Sean, from his note on my wedding and his mug on my website. He's living in Singapore these days, hoping all over the globe to do dodgy investment deals for a big Australian bank. Yesterday he was in Jakarta and here's his great take:

---- Jakarta Correspondent ----

by Stud Cuz Sean

I woke up this morning at the Shangri-La in Jakarta. My view was stunning from the 22nd floor looking directly across the city to the financial centre. A multitude of fantastically over-designed high rises; banks, foreign company local headquarters and 5 star accommodation aplenty. These truly stunning buildings with their slightly eastern flavour are surrounded by squalor, however I am yet to feel it.

Beautiful palm trees partially hide the thatched, corrugated and half tiled roofs that lie below the towering wealth. Closer inspection allows one to see the apparently chaotic movement of people and just make out the truly chaotic movement of the vehicles through the blue smoke created by Indonesia's heavy crude petrol and zero engine maintenance.

It transformed in my mind to a series of large sucking vesicles that sapped every cent out of every man on the street and left them almost bare. Left with enough for work the following morning to gruel away a stolen existence.

The capitalism that enabled the growth of barely needed infrastructure was extracting it's cost of capital, a familiar term in the west, but one painfully underestimated by the soul of Jakarta.

A reminder of common sense versus discounted cashflows were the tens of high-rise concrete shells thrusting their rusting steel insides to the sky, asking for completion, instead left untouched by the capital of the west and allowed to sit through tropical storms, empty, useless and foreboding. Easily passed by in endless Jakarta traffic, however my subconscious was disturbed.

I was one of the big cats of the savannah living off the easy kills of Indonesia, but times had dried up; only the vultures were left. The evolution of infrastructure in which one cashflow supports the next allowing each beast to continue to kill and provide food for the next litter was gone, the lending banks of the world have come to take the bones home.

A vicious and swift attempt to strip the carcass and salvage what each man can. This was not like the opportunity cost of paper profits in the tech stock crash, this was the Asian Crisis. It was now and real, three years after the fact.

As I sat in the office of what was going to be one of the greatest western investments in Indonesia, I looked around the mahogany & digital office. Wealth was here and it was real. Outside the glass was surreal.

One young girl flying a kite in the garbage dump that was the next office tower foundations; marked and semi dug, but fractionally complete as people questioned where the cascade of cash came from. Silver and Black Mercedes with white leather interiors played a dance next to her, continuously stopping at the front or my building to disappear as the next drove by her, unnoticing.

The Indonesian flag flapped intensely in the midday breeze as the brooding tropical storm built for its afternoon duty. Sean. Meeting Now!

Discussing accounting, not really my scene, but people felt it appropriate for me to be there. The Japanese equity wanted to pay real cash to the Indonesian government to get paper earnings to report to the Japanese stock market, I didn't want to pay the cash and screw the $100m USD earnings - bunch of paper crap not reflecting reality.

This took three hours of my life to discuss with someone who did not have the power to negotiate or make compromises. Throw him away and bring me the man who can. Back up the chain again.

The highlight of the meeting: he dropped his wallet. I told him "Joji-san, you have dropped your wallet on the floor", he replied "Thank you, I didn't notice". Do not go near the Japanese market, it has lower to go.

The tropical storm came to the brink and subsided; unfulfilled and leaving the streets dirty for another day. The endless Jakarta traffic passed by, indifferent.

Indonesia, February 9, 1998

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