WARY AND WEARY

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Street vendors have occupied the streets in Tanah Abang market for at least two decades. Since then they changed the overall look of the area into a slum-like, yet it remained bustling as one of the city’s retail centers. They have also severed the access to the area and the traffic flow of the proximity. As is commonly the case in developing economies, the formation of infomal sector like this swells sporadically in the densely populated spots of the city. There is no place to spare, which translates into the occupation of public places such as parks, train and bus stations, pedestrian precincts and plazas. Back in 1998, the year of financial crisis that swept the region and paralysed Indonesia for the next ten years, informal jobs like this were the only functioning social safety net that kept the country from taking a deeper dive in crisis. At the time when banks bailouts and other financial institution recovery programs strained the country’s reserves, people were left on their own. This is a serious business that have proved to be able to sustain economic balance in hard times, and thrive even more in good times. But nobody is joking now. At another end, city officials are ready to carry the instruction from DKI 1 to sterilise the streets from any business activity. Selling on the streets is the basic form of trading in the world history. Yet the governments are convinced that they would do better in a designated building.

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Another visible protest banner hung around the area says, “Tanah Abang has its culture and tradition. Do not change that.” Jakarta administration led by duo Joko Widodo-Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is at an ever-optimistic stance as they won’t budge in the face of hundreds of street vendors in Tanah Abang declined to be moved from the streets. Recent media exposure only wedges them more between the proponents of their bold moves and the opponents that had long depended their livelihoods upon the area, known as the biggest textile market in Southeast Asia. As Deputy Governor Basuki Thahaja Purnama ’s coarse manners in front of the cameras was frowned upon by many, including some house members, Joko Widodo reiterated in an calmer fashion that more hawkers have accepted the offer to be relocated inside the 4-storey building called Blok G. He made it clear that only those who have Jakarta residential IDs are eligible to get kiosks, 6-month rent-free. And if selling on the streets is a tradition as claimed, the pair cannot wait to uproot it, in the name of public interest. The media sensation aside, it is the marginalized group who lack real attention, ironically.

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