Recently the media released the news about the updated regulation by the Indonesian Ministry of Finance for imported goods which entered the country through personal passengers/air-crews. Not surprisingly, due to the ambiguous way they reported the news (illustrating our deep entrenchment in infotainment culture), multitudes of Indonesians, at home and diaspora, voiced out their outrage towards the regulation. Many, particularly the diasporic Indonesians, are worried that their personal belongings will be taxed as well when they entered the country. And what puzzles me is the lack of will to find and read the regulation itself. Let us do our homework first. And it matters, since the regulation itself never mentions such thing. The import tariff only applies for those goods which were purchased overseas and meant to stay in Indonesia. So, it doesn’t apply for, e.g., our laptops or handphones which we (I’m speaking as an Indonesian living in the diaspora) will bring back anyway (see article 7.2).
What does the regulation really mean, then? Well, basically the regulation extends the definition of imported goods, such that they don’t simply include those goods imported for trade, which is the more conventional definition, but also those goods purchased for personal use. The debate, if any, should be located on this extended definition of imported goods, i.e., on whether imported goods for personal use (or gifts) should be taxed similarly as imported goods for trade. Although in the end perhaps such discussion would be mute since rule and practice are known to be different and often contradictory things in our motherland.
In other news, provincial government of Jakarta is planning to tax small food stalls more commonly known as warteg to increase its revenue. Indeed, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Rowan Williams wrote on the preface to his book, Arius: Heresy and Tradition, that originally he planned to do a minor study on Arius. However, the plan vanished soon enough as he found “the idea of writing a longer treatment of the whole area became increasingly attractive, if only for the sake of clearing my own mind.” (p. ix) Sometimes I do write “only for the sake of clearing my own mind.” And this is an instance of customs clearance of mind.