Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hawkers a threat to Senen traders

Traders at Senen market in Central Jakarta have complained the illegal street vendors in the area are hampering their business, while the market authority has done little to deal with the problem.
Almost 300 vendors sell their goods out of makeshift tents along the street in front of the market, blocking the entrance.

"It is hard for people to find the way into the marketplace. It is very crowded out there, making it uncomfortable for the shoppers to come in," said S. Hutapea, who sells clothing in a kiosk she rents for Rp 7 million (US$546) a year inside the market.

She said Thursday that her income had continued to decrease since the street vendors began invading the area a few years ago.

"Last year I could earn up to Rp 9 million a month, but this year I can only make up to Rp 5 million," she said while acknowledging that the public's reduced purchasing power could also be a contributing factor.

The street vendors mostly sell imported secondhand goods like clothing, shoes, bed sheets and curtains, which are more affordable and often of better quality than the items available inside the market.

"Outside it only costs them five Rp 5,000 to 10,000 to buy a complete outfit, while a new one would cost at least 25,000 inside," she added.

Raditantri Asri Hendrarti, an operational manager assistant of city market operator PD Pasar Jaya, which is in charge of Senen market, said they had trouble organizing the street vendors in order to create a better environment for the market vendors.

"They are so aggressive that they treat us as if they were the owners of the market facilities and we were the interlopers," she added

"Dealing with them is like having someone try to push something up your nose," she said, referring to the street vendors crowded around the main entrance of the market.

We can do nothing because they operate outside the marketplace. We have no authority to take action against them," she said.

Raditantri said the street vendors started to operate in the area in 1998 in the wake of the economic crisis that hit the country a year earlier. Since then, as many as 331 of the 2,588 kiosks have closed, partly because their owners could not compete with the illegal street vendors.

She also said that 18 tenants had broken their contracts with PD Pasar Jaya because they planned to move due to what they perceived to be the poor trading climate in the market. Many others said they could not afford to pay the monthly rent of Rp 1.5 billion.

Some of the vendors rented out their kiosks to other merchants, including dealers in secondhand clothing, even though the government officially bans the import of such goods.

"We are reluctant to enforce the subletting ban in their contracts, because they are long-term tenants, and we don't want to damage our relationship with them," Raditantri said.

Meanwhile, the street vendors said they would not mind moving from the area as long as the city administration provided them with an adequate alternative space to run their business.

"They should give us another space so we can still make a living for our families and send our kids to school," said L. Silaen, a mother of three and a secondhand clothing vendor.

"Don't treat us like trash, just find us another place," said Sonar Manulang, another vendor. (02/05)

The Jakarta Post, Saturday, November 11, 2006

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