Fri, 30 Nov 2001

Street vendors willing to be managed, taxed

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Street vendors, who have long been accused of being a major source of traffic jams, said they were willing to be managed and regulated by the city administration.

They said they would obey the regulations and would not object to paying fees to the administration, so long as they were not evicted.

"We don't mind if the administration wants to relocate us, and we are ready to pay the fees. We only ask that the new location should not be too quiet," said Simorangkir, a street vendor in the Cawang area, East Jakarta. "But if we are evicted, we would fight."

The former employee of a state-owned transportation company explained that street vendors could only make a profit if people bought their goods. Consequently, they always occupied land at busy public places, which often caused traffic jams.

Just like Simorangkir, some vendors in Jatinegara, East Jakarta and at Blok M, South Jakarta, have enthusiastically responded to the idea of being regulated.

The idea was first mooted by City Cooperatives and Small Enterprises Agency informal sector division head Sukma Jaya. He said that the administration planned to legalize some 600,000 street vendors in the city, and tax them Rp 800 to Rp 1,000 each per day.

But Governor Sutiyoso then played it down, saying that it was only an idea, while the statistics bureau recorded that fewer than 200,000 street vendors were here.

Meanwhile leader of the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta) Azas Tigor Nainggolan urged the administration to manage the vendors properly in view of their significant contribution to the city.

Based on Fakta's investigations earlier this year, the hoodlums on Jl. Jatinegara were able to collect Rp 3 million per day from about 500 vendors.

"You can imagine how much revenue the administration would gain if it succeeded in managing the vendors here," he said, adding that the number of street vendors had increased after the economic crisis hit the country in 1997.

Tigor also asserted that street vendors were an important element of the social safety net during the crisis as their activities could absorb many unemployed people.

"The administration should manage them properly, as well as ban the hoodlums and deal with the corrupt officers who collude with them," he remarked.

Vendors here claimed that they had to pay certain officers or hoodlums Rp 100,000 to Rp 600,000 per year for the rent of an off-street plot of land, or even for an on-street one.

They also have to pay an additional fee every day, of Rp 1,000 to Rp 5,000 for security or waste disposal services, according to Amrius, a street vendor on Jl. Jatinegara, East Jakarta.

Various groups of hoodlums or officers visit the vendors in turn to collect the illegal levies from them. Their available capital is about Rp 1 million at most.

"I couldn't afford the levies, but they threatened to sell the lot to another person if I didn't pay," Amrius said.