Paying Fine to Trespass Transjakarta Lane: Is It a Good Idea?

It is interesting to follow political condition in Indonesia especially during the turmoil between Police and Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). However, current writing is not devoted to this particular issue. I would rather talk about recent issue in Jakarta with its current governor, Basuki Tjahja Purnama, who is also very well-known as Ahok. Just recently, he has sparked a further debate about allowing very-rich people living in Jakarta with their luxury cars for being able to go through the Transjakarta bus line provided that they will pay sufficient amount of money which will then be used as Jakarta’s revenue. Further clarification coming from Ahok saying that the essence of this policy is not to “merely allow” the luxury-car owners to have special treatment; rather, more importantly, it is about deterrent effect that is going to be exploited: the amount of money that should be paid will be increased as long as there are still people who are courage enough to trespass the bus lane. To be fair, such a policy is quite unique since Ahok can actually generate money from the very-rich people by exploiting the possibility of them to avoid traffic jam in Jakarta. Despite of his seriousness in applying this policy or his actual meaning in saying the statement, there is one question to be asked is: is it really a good idea for citizen in Jakarta and Indonesia in general?

It is true that such a policy has sparked debate and controversy. Some agree and some do not. A simple reflection can lead people to rethink about the goodness of the policy. A simple question can then be asked: what condition that will lead us to be a good citizen in ideal condition?

In answering this question, I would like to refer to john Rawls about his theory of justice. Rawls says that behind the veil of ignorance, people will be very likely to prefer a policy that sides with people with high vulnerability. Thus, for example, justice will be preserved by alleviating people who are living in dire circumstances. Only by doing so a country can be considered as just. The main reason behind this idea is clear: because we choose a basis in which we know nothing about our current condition in real world, we will then try to avoid to have a policy that will not support people living in dire conditions. Of course, people living in such conditions do need our help and as we do not know exactly about our outcome, we tend to choose the policy. Generally speaking, equality is much more preferable in preserving justice. Of course in actual circumstance, we cannot have such a veil of ignorance. But it does not mean that we can just ignore such a preposition. In this case, there is one thing important that can be adopted: the importance of equality to preserve justice.

If we take back this theory with Jakarta current case, it is then clear that in we live in unequal condition. This is proven by, for example, a Gini coefficient. Some people are very rich and some of them are very poor and the rest are moderate. However, will this condition justify the way we obey law? Law is made to preserve justice and to ensure that everyone is bound to it. Punishment is then necessary to insist people so they obey the law even though, according to Rawls, in very high degree of civilization, punishment is indeed not necessary because people have trusted each other and no one would like to breach the principle of justice. It is then clear from the point of view of justice that avoiding traffic jam by going through Transjakarta bus lane and paying fine can actually be considered as unequal condition that only sides with very rich people. Those who are very rich can easily say that the fine is actually nothing thanks to their very high income. The situation will be different for people with moderate income since they will be very burdened by the fine that they should pay. In this case, it is clear that justice is not preserved to the very least group. Rather it only accommodates very rich people who can afford in paying fine.

Furthermore, it also negates the essence of fine itself. Since fine is correlated with punishment because of breaching laws, having such a policy will only say that: as long as you have enough money to pay the fine, you will be fine. Of course this is not the case of building a good country. Punishment should be made in order to increase awareness degree of any citizen that it is also their duty to preserve justice as mandated by laws. Otherwise, punishment will only get sharp to the very vulnerable groups and not to the very-rich ones. This will eventually lead to the negation of principle of justice as stated above.

It is quite good actually to fine people who dare to breach Transjakarta lane. However, this should be done indiscriminately. And one thing important to note here is: fine is not a mean to let very-rich people avoid traffic jam in Jakarta. Thus, the most important thing is not to increase the fine amount. Because even if you put fine for 1 billion rupiah, I am quite sure that there are still few people dare to breach the law as long as what they have in mind is: as long as I can pay, I can breach the law. Thus, what is more important is deployment of law enforcers to prevent such drivers breach Transjakarta lane. This is more effective to increase the awareness of any drivers that they are strictly prohibited to use Transjakarta lane.

Last but not least, I think Jakarta already has sufficient revenue. Even recent news have also showed that only around 59% of city’s budget was effectively absorbed last year. This clearly indicates that Jakarta is not that in dire condition in craving for money. What is more important is to increase awareness of people living in Jakarta that if you want to avoid traffic jam, you have to switch to public transportation in order to reduce the vehicle volume in the roads. Of course, this has also to be incentivized by improving the public transportation service. Without doing so, traffic jam will still be a persistent problem for the city.