[Kajian Post] The Political Economics of Traffic Jams

Oleh: Nathaniel Rayestu | Kadiv Kajian Kanopi 2012 | Ilmu Ekonomi 2009

The discussions regarding the heavy traffic jams that is a regular in Jakarta never comes to end. Different people have different ideas on how to rid this city off its number one problem. Numerous ideas have emerged, we needed MRT, we needed subway, we needed this we needed that. The problem is so severe that evena new mayor has been elected solely on the issue of Jakarta’s unacceptable traffic jams. We all seem to want to live in a traffic-jam-free city.

But really? Do we all?Of course not. There are a huge number of people that would come out be a lot worse off if we are succesful in our anti-traffic-jam iniciative.

If Jakarta manages to get traffic-free, that basically means a huge decrease in the number of cars that are on the road. That means less car sales. Less money for automakers and all the people that work for them. That also means less business for repair workshops, spare part stores, gas stations, tire-patch vendors, and more. The list goes on and on and on. Remember that a lot of the cars on Jakarta roads have a huge chunk of local content. All the people in the auto-business will stand to lose.

All these being said, the fight against traffic-jams is basically down to political economics. It is in the interest of a lot of motorists and commuters that roads be less congested. But it is also in the interest of the auto-industry to maintain and grow the number of cars and bikes on the road. As long as the government listens more to the latter, there is no way roads will be less congested even if massive public transportation iniciatives get under way.

Which of these two groups have more incentive to push for regulations that favor their interest? Obviously the latter. Consumers are never adequately organized to protest and to lobby for their interest.  On the other hand, GAIKINDO (automobile industry association) and AISI (motorcycle industry association) are there for this purpose. The newly drafted Low Cost Green Car incentive for example, will really boost the automobile industry. The ‘move cars not people’ principe in Jakarta with a few new non-toll-freeways also benefit the auto industry dearly.

Therefore, there needs to be a solution to Jakarta’s traffic jams that will be a win-win for both motorists and automakers. A ban on vehicles older than x years might work, as it means older cars will not be on the road. This means car sales to less-wealthy people who plan to use the car for more than x years will go down. Hopefully this will be compensated by the fact that those who can afford it must get a new car sooner than before. Auto industry wins, motorists win.

Who loses? Those who cannot afford to change cars very often. But hey, you can never please everyone. 

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