Thursday, 27 May 2010

Dark clouds over Europe.

Black Economy.

Black plumes of volcanic ash
Economies feeling the lash
Greece on its knees
A salary freeze!
'What is it with Wogs and cash!’

And it ain't just Wogs. Not that long ago, an opportunity came my way that looked so good I almost went there.

On a holiday that included a few days in and around Kupang in West Timor, on the highlands near Soe, we passed by some vacant land that I was sure would grow asparagus during July and August. In those months asparagus prices are always high.

So, we arranged for three farmers to grow trial plantings, sent them crowns and went back a year later to see the results. Sure enough, they did grow as predicted so we looked into the logistics.

Labour then cost about A$25 per month and land rent was similarly cheap. But we needed to build an Australian standard packing facility so the product could be shipped by air from Kupang on a daily basis without the need for inspection of every spear in Singapore, our target market.

That would have entailed selling my Australian asparagus farm and borrowing about one million Australian to set it all up.
Then I met my army officer 'partner', whose contribution was to be nil but his cut was to be half the profits. I was told ‘if one didn't have an army officer as a 'partner', one would encounter obstacles such as product left in the sun at the airport, mot loaded, or any number of accidental disasters’. OK, that's how they do business. I didn't like it. It did raise doubts in my mind, but I pulled out for other reasons.

We went to Flores to see some land that looked even more promising but when we tried to fly back to Kupang, we stuck a problem.

At the airport ticket counter we waited and waited for attention while staff laughed and joked together only a few metres away, none moving to the counter. Eventually, as take off time approached, I asked Moe, our interpreter to ask if there was a problem. He got the answer that we would not be served 'because we were Christians'. The problem was, that one of our party was a woman with no head scarf.

So we hired a Bemo (taxi) to take us to a 'Christian' airport on the other side of the island, A$50. Half way there, in dense forest, we were stopped by a log across the road. The driver asked for A$20 which he passed to a machete wielding bloke who smiled at us like a crocodile before a dozen men appeared, moved the log and we were on our way as the log was dragged back to re-block the road.

That was enough for me. I went to the farmers who did the trials, gave them instructions on how to grow, pick etc, wished them well and never went back.

The old hands say you just need to do it their way and it's OK but I wasn't prepared to risk all, including maybe my life. With such lawlessness rife, I could imagine getting the whole thing up and running just to be chucked out of the country with nothing to show for it but debt.

It is a tragedy that those farmers, all hard working honest people were denied that opportunity because of the endemic corruption and religious bastardry that was stifling their economy. Sukarno had his hand in every till but one hopes Bang Bang has a wider view, keeps religious nutters out of his government, gets serious about the rule of law and rids that delightful country of its corruption and black economy.


  1. Really seems that you made the correct 'No Project' decision. Guessing that you are not the first or last businessman to judge it that way. You're right, corruption of all scales likely cripples many governments to efficiently serve their populations


  2. Great story Stafford. That log on the road trick is a bit much :) Cheers Gabrielle

  3. QwkDrw, absolutely and one heart breaking observation is that most Indonesians I met in the villages were hard workers and great parents, peaceful and enthusiastic but over half were unemployed or under employed. I just hope Bam Bam is fixing impediments to investment.

    GB, that ain't all, believe me. May do a few blogs on those Indonesian trips!

  4. hi, I found you through Brian ... as someone who lives in Europe you made me laugh with your European poem ... LOL!! sorry it didn't work out for your plans but it was probably a very wise decision to let it go ... have a great day!

  5. Hard working, loving parents , wonderful when kids are young..

    Skulduggery the " Mantra " for their future..
    Same the world over , in one form or other..

    Bang, Bang will be forever " Banging His Head Against The " Might of The Corruption "..

    Same the world over, in one form or other ..

    Makes No Sense..
    Never Did
    Never Will ! !

  6. Robeeena,I am afraid you are right but one lives in hope of evolution of more social conscience!


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