Supporting geography educators everywhere with current digital resources.



The Lure of Singapore

Chinese individuals now see Singapore as the vessel that can navigate them through a series of expected storms. At the same time, they add, it is becoming an increasingly vital place for outposts of Wall Street and the global financial industry to interact with them. For many years, Singapore has liked to sell itself as the Switzerland of Asia. The new cold war, says one former top official, is finally turning that pitch into a reality. The big question, though, is how far Singapore will tolerate being Switzerland with Chinese characteristics.” SOURCE: Financial Times

Singapore is small, but it is strategically located and tightly linked to all the important players in the region.  Singapore (about 75% ethnically Chinese) has played a role in Chinese migration and wealth and more Chinese companies are choosing Singapore as a base of operations.  With many companies and countries leery about the Communist party, having a company operating out of Singapore is a safe bet for investors, so investors and Western partners are also choosing Singapore as a politically neutral safe haven for investors. This article nicely outlined the economic and geographic appeal of Singapore that has made it an economic powerhouse.    

TAGS: Singapore, economic, SouthEast Asia.

Indonesia Tightens Religious Freedoms

Indonesian lawmakersunanimously passed a sweeping new criminal code on Tuesday that criminalizes sex outside marriage, as part of a tranche of changes that critics say threaten human rights and freedoms in the Southeast Asian country.” SOURCE: BBC

Classical liberal values (free speech, rights for minority groups, fair elections, freedom of press, etc.) have grown in most places in most times, but that isn’t a guarantee that it will always be so or that it will in all places it will be maintained.  Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim majority population with a diverse set of religious traditions emmeshed.  Indonesia, with thousands of islands, is also home to great array of linguistic diversity.

Indonesia, at the end of 2022, outlawed sexual interactions outside of those legally recognized marriages.  The government framed the old laws as vestiges of an old colonial legacy that will allow them to return to traditional cultural values of the country, while others feel that this is conflating what is considered sinful with the criminal.  This with likely impact the tourism industry as those traveling abroad that are not in marital unions will likely head to other tropical Southeast Asian destinations. A week after the law was passed, the governor of Bali (a noted travel destination for Australians and Europeans) went on record that tourists would not be investigated under this law.  

Additionally, the Indonesian government has also strengthened blasphemy laws.  The majority of the convictions of the blasphemy laws are usually members of minority faiths, and human rights groups fear that this politically and culturally erodes religious freedoms.        

TAGS: Indonesia, religion, political, SouthEast Asia.

Balikbayan Boxes

Massive numbers of Balikbayan boxes are sent around Christmastime. SOURCE.

A Balikbayan box is a huge cardboard box (often weighing over 100 pounds) that Filipinos living all over the world send to family members who are still living in the Philippines. The word Balikbayan literally means homecoming in Tagalog. 400,000 thousand of these Balikbayan boxes arrive in the Philippines from around the world per month. But the holiday season is the busiest, with mothers sending to sons, brothers to sisters, and hundreds of thousands waiting in the Philippines for their box.” SOURCE: 99 PI Podcast

The sending of remittances is an important inter-regional economic flow concept and there is no better example than the Philippines. This 99 Percent Invisible podcast is an excellent portrayal of the cultural and economic impacts of the Balikbayan boxes, with a full transcript, good video clips, and nice images.

With unemployment high after WWII, the Philippines made an active economic strategy of remittances by encouraging citizens to work abroad and to send money back home. Filipinos went to the United States, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Singapore and throughout the Pacific. But the government didn’t enter trade agreements to grant them full citizenship in the new country as whole families, but often as individual temporary workers which meant that they always kept one foot (and their heart) in the Philippines. 

Balikbayan means “homecoming” or “return of our people.” The people that left, the Balikbayan, are treated with an elevated status upon returning and often feel a sense of responsibility to those that they left behind.  The Balikbayan boxes are care packages that they send back home to loved ones in the Philippines, but so much more so.  Huge boxes loaded with commercial goods like chocolate, electronics, toothpaste, and yes, SPAM (SPAM is especially loved in the Filipino community for some fascinating cultural and historical reason). Christmas is celebrated for several months in the Philippines and the busiest time for Balikbayan boxes to be sent from all over the world.   

TAGS: Philippines, economic, migration.

Packed with goodies, Balikbayan boxes bring consumer goods to their loved ones.

Indonesia ‘discards’ its capital Jakarta for a new one, but we can’t just dispose of cities


Indonesia’s government is advancing plans to relocate the country’s capital more than 1,000 kilometres away, from Jakarta on densely populated Java island to Borneo. At a time when modern consumer societies are awash in disposable products, the relocation plan seems to exemplify global society’s tendency to throw things away once they can no longer be used. In other words, Jakarta is a ‘disposable city.’ The situation with Jakarta is only the latest case of a country shifting its capital from an unmanageable urban context.”   Source:  The Conversation

This article, while on the surface is about forward capitals, and Jakarta’s plan to change it’s capital city,  is truly about unsustainable urban land use practices.  Relocating a capital is a part a a fix to alleviate the pressures on the government, but it does not solve the ecological problems of the city itself.  This article is a plea to push for more sustainable urban initiatives.

GeoEd Tags: Indonesia, megacities, urban ecology, SouthEast Asia.


Indonesia chooses a new capital

Capital Indonesia

“Indonesia will build a new capital city on the island of Borneo, home to some of the world’s biggest coal reserves and orangutan habitats, as President Joko Widodo seeks to ease pressure on congested and sinking Jakarta. The relocation of the capital, some 1,400km away from Jakarta, will help spread economic activity outside the nation’s most populous island of Java.”
Jakarta is a megacity that will continue to grow, but it is a sinking city–in fact, the fastest sinking city in the world. The pressures of being the primate city are enormous–the rush hour traffic is considered one of the worst in the world and the continued centralization of government in Jakarta limits economic group in other regions of the country (here is the Guardian’s primer for understanding the situation).  This plan to create a forward capital to encourage growth in Borneo and attempt to limit growth in Jakarta will be fascinating to monitor.  The move to a new capital won’t begin until 2024, and is estimated to cost over $30 billion. For more on forward capitals, here is a BBC article with 5 other examples of countries that have changed their capital cities.  For more on the idea that we just can’t dispose of cities like trash, see this article from The Conversation.

GeoEd Tags: Indonesia, megacities, urban ecology, governance, urban politics, SouthEast Asia.

Jakarta is overcrowded, polluted, and sinking.


Why no-one speaks Indonesia’s language

Bahasa Indonesia was adopted to make communication easier across the vast Indonesian archipelago, but its simplicity has only created new barriers.


Linguistic diffusion faces many barriers, and an island state like Indonesia faces cultural centrifugal forces.  Adopting a national language might be good political policy, but culturally, that doesn’t ensure it’s viability.  This is a great case study for human geography classes that touches on many curricular topics. Tags: languageculture, diffusion, Indonesia.

WordPress TAGS: language, culture, diffusion, Indonesia, SouthEast Asia.

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