A Joko Too Far? Street Dining is Jakarta’s Essence
As a genuine fan of Jakarta’s new Governor Joko Widodo, I have applauded him repeatedly, not just for his energy and the war on sloth among city employees, but for his general style, a modern man after the lack-lustre series of predecessors.
But his latest plan turns me off.
The Jakarta administration is embarking on a plan to relocate all streetside food vendors scattered across the city to 23 centralized locations, as part of measures to both ease traffic flow in the capital and bring some order to the informal sector.
Heck, Jokowi, if we wanted Singapore, we’d move there!
I posted once on the Taman Fatahillah area, the shocking prices at Cafe Batavia, two cups of coffee near enough Rp.100,000, and how nice it was to be able to walk across the square to where a cheerful soul sold me a perfectly good kopi jawa for Rp.3000.
There are thousands of these little entrepreneurs all over town, and they serve a useful purpose at very reasonable prices.
Folk come out of their shops, offices and factories and right there in front of them is a range of sources of sustenance.
Herding them all (and it wouldn’t be all, as they wouldn’t all fit) into Jokowi’s enclosures would make the streets, or at least the pavements, more fast-flowing, perhaps, but it would strip the city of something that is part of its essential chaotic charm.
And what about all those who won’t fit? They scratch a living from their little carts selling nasi goreng, bakso, ketoprak, etc. They have wives and kids at home to look after.
‘Progress’ is in the eyes of the beholder.