Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Framing Jakarta’s Subsidence Problem as a Choice

The Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy article provides an interesting take on approaching strategic possibilities from a management perspective. Upon reading the article, it became apparent that this methodology could be broadly applied to the public sector and aid policy makers in their decision-making processes. Since the subsidence issue within Jakarta, Indonesia is one of great concern, it is appropriate to discuss this manner and relate certain steps in the possibilities-approach to the situation.

Move from Issues to Choice. In the realm of public policy, oftentimes policy-makers fall into the trap of constantly “describing or analyzing the challenge” and not focusing on the possible solutions.[1] In Jakarta, the government analyzed three options to address the city’s subsidence issue. The options included:[2]
  1. to move the capital either to higher elevations southeast of the city or to another island 
  2.  “To abandon the old city district of north Jakarta”, or 
  3.  to reinforce coastal defenses and “refurbish the flooding canal system” by developing a Giant Sea Wall (GSW).

Specify the Conditions for Success & Identify Barriers to Choice. The issue with moving the capital, or abandoning the old city district, is the blatant costs and unpopularity of these two options. According to the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, Robert Sianipar, “If we abandon north Jakarta that would cost $220 billion in assets – not to count the number of people and productivity that would have to be replaced.”[3] However, option three has issues surrounding it as well. According to the Jakarta Post, the development of the Giant Sea Wall involves “the disappearance of islands and damage to the maritime ecosystem.”[4] In addition, though less costly than the other two options, the GSW involves an estimated $40 billion investment. Thus, a condition for the success of the GSW requires involvement from the private sector as this USD $40 billion project cannot be financed by the Indonesian government alone.”[5]
Conduct the Tests & Make the Choice. Even when dealing with private-sector issues, like the one Procter & Gamble was faced with, conducting tests is difficult. When faced with decisions like the ones Jakarta is facing, it is even more problematic due to the sheer number of lives impacted by the choices at hand.

Though Jakarta has technically made its decision to complete the Giant Sea Wall by 2025, it is unknown the future implications of the wall’s creation on the environment and citizens of the region. Therefore, it unsure whether this really constitutes a decision or a “test”. It is safe to say that time is a key factor in predicting the uncertain future of Jakarta.

[1] Alan G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin, Jan W. Rivkin, and Nicolaj Siggelkow, "Bringing science to the art of strategy," Harvard business review 90, no. 9 (2012): 3-12.
[2] Bill Tarrant,. "Special Report: In Jakarta, That Sinking Feeling Is All Too Real," Reuters, December 22, 2014, Special Reports sec,
[3] Bill Tarrant,. "Special Report: In Jakarta, That Sinking Feeling Is All Too Real," Reuters
[4] Corry Elyda, "Sea Wall an Environmental Disaster: Study," The Jakarta Post, October 7, 2015, Jakarta sec, Accessed December 2, 2015,
[5] "Giant Sea Wall Jakarta; National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD)." Giant Sea Wall Jakarta; National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD). Accessed December 2, 2015.

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