Sat, 18 Mar 2000

'Becak' drivers still reluctant to change jobs

JAKARTA (JP): Most becak (pedicab) drivers are reluctant to start a different career as they believe new jobs will only mean an uncertain income for the future, an official said on Friday.

"Out of 102 becak drivers who have registered with the Central Jakarta mayoralty to start over as soft drink vendors, 62 did not turn up today," head of the Central Jakarta Manpower agency H. Napitupulu said on the sidelines of a ceremony marking the handover of soft drink equipment and carts to 40 former pedicab drivers.

Central Jakarta Mayor Andi Subur Abdullah said new jobs would provide a better future for the drivers.

He said there used to be 1,507 pedicab drivers in Central Jakarta, but 652 decided to give up pedaling and 670 others returned home.

"Meanwhile, the remaining 185 drivers are still operating mainly in Tanah Abang, Johar Baru and Kemayoran districts," the mayor said.

Achmad, an official of the cooperative which was appointed to observe former pedicab drivers' progress in their new business, said he hired staff to monitor the vendors and collect a commission from every bottle of soft drink sold.

"A vendor can earn Rp 12,000 for every 24 bottles they sell," he said.

One of the soft drink vendors, Khairuddin, 37, said, he was pessimistic the new job could provide him with more income than when he was a pedicab driver.

"I brought home an average of Rp 20,000 by driving becak every day, some of which I saved for my wife in Pemalang, Central Java," he said.

He said he would like to choose a business site, perhaps in the busy Roxy market in West Jakarta.

"But I cannot do that because it's the authority of the official in the neighborhood to decide," he said.

He said as a street vendor he would also be put at risk of raids by City Public Order officials.

Khairuddin, however, said he was glad that the program would not be his permanent job.

"Like many drivers, we'll give it a try for six months and after that we'll decide whether to change jobs or return to our hometown," he said.

Another driver, Usman, 45, said he would run a food kiosk with the Rp 250,000 compensation he got from the city administration for his pedicab.

"I need more money to run the new business though," he said.

Usman demanded that the city administration provide them with loans which could be repaid on a monthly basis.

According to official data, some 6000 pedicabs operated in five mayoralties in the capital, with 1,309 in Central Jakarta, 2,486 in North Jakarta, 1,297 in West Jakarta, 184 in South Jakarta and 949 in East Jakarta.

The latest data at the city administration, however, showed there were 1,967 pedicabs remaining in the capital, of which 318 are in Central Jakarta, another 418 in West Jakarta and the remaining 1,231 in North Jakarta. South and East Jakarta have been declared free of the vehicles. (06)