Tue, 18 Mar 2003

Poor relocation plan drives vendors to misery

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Unlike in the bustling street nearby, the business of Junedi, 40, not his real name, is stagnant at Rawa Buaya market in Cengkareng, West Jakarta, a new location provided by the city administration for street vendors who formerly occupied the nearby roadsides.

Ever since being relocated to the market from the sides of the West Outer Ringroad, he and other fellow vendors have not only been unable to make a profit, but have to face the prospect of bankruptcy as fewer and fewer buyers turn up.

"There hasn't been a single buyer in the last 20 days," Junedi, a vendor selling motorcycle used spare parts, said last weekend.

He said that the last time he made a transaction, he had to sell an engine part at less than market value merely to generate some cash.

"I'm staying here simply to sell my remaining stock; once it's been sold I can start a whole new business somewhere else," said Junedi, adding that most of the vendors there had closed their stalls and were running other businesses elsewhere.

The new market for street vendors, only about 500 meters away from the West Outer Ringroad, was opened in June 2002. The market can host over 600 vendors, but now only 50 remain, mostly selling used goods.

The city administration reportedly planned to widen the road formerly used by the vendors. But more than eight months after their eviction, there are no signs of construction activity.

Gani, 35, also not his real name, told The Jakarta Post that, although the current location was not very far from the previous one, it was isolated from the bustling area: So isolated that Cengkareng residents themselves did not know where it was.

"There is only one bridge connecting the market with the bustling street nearby," he said, adding that vehicles were barred from crossing it as it was designed only for pedestrians.

It would be better, Gani suggested, if motorcycles and public minivans were provided with access to the market so that all their passengers could reach the vendors easily.

"There seems to be an unwillingness on the part of the city administration to boost trading activities here. It apparently did not have any plans in the first place. It simply evicted us, dumped us here and did not care afterwards," moaned Gani.

Most of the vendors there also resented the fact that in spite of the lack of customers, officials were around, with authorization from the city administration, to charge visitors to park there.

"To attract buyers the city administration should exempt visitors from paying any unnecessary charges, as it has done at other shopping complexes in this area," Gani said.

Gani added that at first the new location looked promising, but it turned out to be a wasteland for doing any lucrative business.

"I've lost around Rp 30 million (US$3300) since I started doing business here, and I'm ready to close my shop in the near future," he said.

He added that because of the constant losses vendors had to suffer, some married couples had split up.

"Some of our children have also had to quit school, because we cannot pay their school fees anymore," Gani said.

The city administration, however, denied vendors' allegations that it had relocated them to an inappropriate location.

City spokesman Muhayat said that the administration had relocated the vendors to a strategic location, which was still in the same business district.

"We haven't moved them to an area isolated from visitors," he remarked, adding that the administration had every intention to enable them to flourish at the new market.

He said that the relocation was aimed at building healthy business conditions, so that there would no longer be vendors selling their goods on the road.