Thu, 30 Mar 2000

Autonomy vital 'to avoid an influx of migrants'

JAKARTA (JP): A city official stressed on Wednesday the importance of regional autonomy as a means to curb the influx of migrants into the capital and the accompanying social problems.

The head of the city's street vendors and small-scale business section, Djaya Sukma, told The Jakarta Post that provincial governments would have greater authority to develop their regions once the ruling on autonomy comes into effect.

"Development tailored to the needs of the region could create jobs that could be filled by local human resources so that they would not seek employment in the capital," Djaya said.

He said many rural jobless people came to the capital in expectation of improving their welfare. Blinded by their dreams of a better life, they often failed to realize the harsh realities of living in the city, he added.

Ill-equipped for job competition and other demands, most of the people could barely subsist, forced into working as street vendors or beggars.

He said the people could find better job opportunities in their home provinces, helping generate income and boosting the regional economy.

Discussing the number of street vendors in the capital, he said there were about 12,000 registered vendors operating in 302 locations in Jakarta's five mayoralties. His figure is a fraction of the estimation by the daily Kompas last November.

Kompas said there were around 120,000 vendors in Jakarta, of which an estimated 49 percent were Jakartans.

The discrepancy probably lies in the fact that most vendors are not registered.

Djaya said a survey jointly conducted by his office and the Central Bureau of Statistics last year showed there were more than 5,600 street vendors in the Tanah Abang area, but only 200 of them were registered.

He said the influx of migrants to the capital created social problems and disrupted public order.

"Because the newcomers are desperate and have no place to run their business, they simply occupy public areas such as streets, sidewalks and the city's parks," he said.

"They disturb public order."

He noted residents' complaints about vendor activities in Taman Puring II, Tanah Abang and Senen districts. The vendors have been accused of causing traffic jams, littering and contributing to rising crime.

Djaya argued that his office could not be held responsible for the operation of unregistered street vendors. He said the complexities arising from the presence of street vendors needed to be handled by a special body involving many agencies, such as city public order and social affairs.

The agency is expected to map out a new strategy and procedures that could be well implemented at all governmental levels, including in subdistricts.

Many of the city's agencies, he said, used their own strategies, while at the subdistrict level they used different approaches. "All were done without good coordination," he added.

He said his office would hold a seminar on social problems created by street vendors. "The seminar will involve sociologists and small-scale economic experts from the University of Indonesia and the Bogor Agricultural Institute.

"Academic discussions are needed to find a comprehensive solution to the problem."

He said his office also planned to provide new locations for vendors, with priority for those who hailed from Jakarta.

The vendors would be exempted from paying rent. "They only have to pay for security and garbage fees daily, as well as the fee for the organizers in their respective locations." (06)