The (Partial) Return of the Expat

A few days ago we reported that TBI has done yet another major back-flip on one of  their treasured policies, unofficially ending the disastrous “Indonesianization of management” policy. As we have shown, as late as 2009 all of their Group schools were managed by expats, and by early 2012 none of them were. This change of policy was never officially acknowledged, for obvious reasons, but everyone  knew what was going on when local after local was marched in to head formerly expat-managed schools. The heyday of the expat manager was finished, and low-costs locals were the way to the future. This policy was supposed to be permanent, so it’s reversal now just shows how badly it has misfired on the hapless TBI Mafia.


Truth has always been stranger than fiction with the TBI Mafia, and the way they went about this new policy was no exception. In late 2012 when we first ran stories about the Indonesianization policy the TBI authorities sent us a copy of a document issued by the Department of Immigration. The document, dating from 2012, stated that it was a matter of law in Indonesia that foreigners are not to do management positions. Look, they seemed to be saying. This policy is simply bringing us into line with Indonesia law. We had to axe the expats; it is actually illegal for expats to do management work.

But this whole defense was tenuous at best. After all, the writer of the anonymous post was clearly a Native Speaker himself, and clearly only a manager would have access to documents from Immigration. Further, Luke Preece, the prime culprit in the abuse of business visas, was an expat too. He and Scott, his best mate, hadn made an exception for themselves in axing the expats! If TBI had been unbiased in their implementation of the policy, Luke and Scott would have gone too. Indeed, theirs was the most serious case of illegality of all, as neither of them had a degree in any subject. Therefore, they were breaking several different regulations by working in Indonesia, making a mockery of their claim to want to be more “legal”. The Indonesianization policy had never been about more than removing pesky rivals and concentrating power in the hands of a corrupt and greedy clique.


TBI is slippery as an eel. The authorities have no values at all, just a carefully crafted persona or mask which they wear to hide their real selves. This is best illustrated by  the way they completely contradict themselves over time. In late 2012, they were crowing that axing former expat managers had made them more “legal”. Ridiculously enough, we were being asked to believe that Luke axing all the expat managers except himself and his best buddy was some kind of victory for legality.

It was a nonsensical argument when they had made an exception for themselves alone, but this is what they were claiming. Now, in a 180 degree pivot, they have employed Matt Lambert, with his MA in TESOL, as the Academic Team Leader of TBI Malang and the long-delayed and still-not-open TBI Bali. The Indonesianization policy is in the trash-bin of TBI history, and now they have a new expat manager. According to the 2012 version of the truth, that means they are now “even more illegal”, as Immigration bans expat managers. But do you think Luke Preece can begin to keep track of all the lies he has told by this point?


So what has caused the sudden change of heart? Has Ibu Mariam decided that she actually misses seeing expat managers? Have the TBI authorities suddenly felt a rush of affection for all the expat managers they threw out in 2011 and 2012? Dream on. The vindictive Ibu Mariam, the terror of TBI, is a cruel narcissist who is feared and loathed by everyone who worked for her. She has run the company as her corrupt personal fiefdom for years, lying through her teeth to protect her power. There simply is no heart to change. So what accounts for the return of the expat, if it isn’t that she misses the bules?

The obvious answer is money. We have now heard many times that the Jakarta schools are in real trouble. They are very quiet, with many customers enticed away by the high-tech centres their competitors are opening in posh malls all over the city. In addition, a huge number of job ads from numerous branches have been appearing over the past couple of months. Not only are they losing customers, especially in Jakarta, but they can’t even hold onto staff. They are simply on the nose with more and more people. Therefore, in sheer desperation, the expat is back in management. Staring into the eyes of utter defeat and humiliation in Jakarta, the company is once again looking to qualified foreigners to reverse their fortunes.





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