I had the first of a couple of interviews at the World Bank yesterday. The World Bank’s office in Jakarta is in the Jakarta Stock Exchange Building (Wisma Bursa Efek Jakarta), a very modern looking high-rise filled with busy looking Indonesians (yes, mostly Chinese). It’s smoke-free now, so when I arrived (right as lunch ended) there were approximately one billion traders and officials standing out front sucking down clove cigarettes and yelling on their cell phones.
Inside the World Bank’s office you get the distinct impression that folks are quite disconnected from what actually is happening on the ground. To be fair, folks there admit this problem. They sit in their air conditioned, IKEA-furnished offices and debate the efficiency gains of removing price celings on refined petroleum products, or unbiased ways to measure unofficial corruption. It’s very stimulating as an academic, but then you leave and get into a cab where the driver complains that people just talk about corruption without fixing it, and that price rises for gasoline cut sharply into their daily take as taxi drivers. It’s a very telling disconnect.
Later today I get to go to the American Embassy to meet with the head of USAID in Indonesia. I’ll be sure to give my run-down on the security measures in place there, which I anticipate will be quite phenomenal. I’ll be able to compare it to security measures at the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, which should be instructive.