«Contesting the streets Volume 18, number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»
Lily Song University College London Abstract In recent years, several Indonesian cities have relocated street vendors through engagement and participation and with limited confrontation, in turn reducing the volume of itinerant vendors, carving out better work and business environments, and improving public spaces. Despite such celebrated successes, however, many vendors have returned to the streets over time for reasons that remain little examined and understood. Undertaking a comparative case study of three Indonesian cities hailed for recent street vendor relocation policies, this article investigates the potential factors and conditions underlying the return of informal vendors after “successful” relocation and upgrading policies and distills lessons for policy and planning improvements. It finds that vendors return to the streets because relocation efforts fail to look beyond aesthetic improvements, relocation processes fail to prepare vendors for the competitiveness of the free market, and longer-term relocation planning and management fail to consider the emerging needs of vendors. In turn, the discussion of policy and planning implications focuses on mechanisms for enhancing the sustainability of relocation programs and on economic empowerment of the urban poor and their rights to urban space, accessibility, and mobility.
Introduction Informal vendors have remained a longstanding feature of Indonesian street life, their presence tending to increase during times of economic stagnation and hardship (Dick, 2002; Peters, 2013;
Vickers, 2013). With forcible removal prevailing as the official response to the vendors’ presence, distrust, simmering tensions, and violent conflict between vendors, police, and city governments have often followed. In recent years, local governments have entered into dialogue and negotiation with vendors in efforts to transfer them off the streets and into purpose-built public markets. Many such efforts have been successful in removing vendors from the streets in a conflict-free manner through engagement and participation and with limited confrontation, in turn reducing the volume Cityscape 71 Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research • Volume 18, Number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development • Office of Policy Development and Research Taylor and Song of itinerant vendors, carving out better work and business environments, and improving public spaces. Such signs indicate that Indonesian local governments are learning to better engage with the informal sector and provide solutions to longstanding issues of public space and economic empowerment.
Despite such celebrated successes, however, many vendors have returned to the streets over time to revive public concern, controversy, and debate at the nexus of urban informality, public space, and rights to the city. While “best practices” have received considerable scholarly and popular attention, the questions of why informal vendors return to the streets and how urban policies and planning might produce more enduring impact remain less examined and little understood. Undertaking a comparative case study of three Indonesian cities hailed for recent street vendor relocation policies, this article investigates the potential factors and conditions underlying the return of informal vendors after “successful” relocation and upgrading policies. It additionally explores mechanisms for enhancing the sustainability of relocation programs and also their implications for economic empowerment of the urban poor.
We summarize our findings on why relocated vendors return to the streets as follows.
1. Relocation efforts fail to look beyond aesthetic approaches. Many street vendor-related policies represent aesthetic approaches to relocation that deliver improvements in the visible quality of public spaces, but less thought has been given to physical functionality and locational factors, key concerns of vendors. In the absence of effective site plans and designs, including infrastructural elements integrating the market with its urban surroundings, vendors are more inclined to return to the streets.
2. Relocation processes fail to prepare vendors for the competitiveness of the “free” market. The formalized free market environment of a public market and extension of property rights to street vendors can unwittingly hinder rather than advance their economic empowerment. Many vendors are unprepared and incapable of competing in fixed purpose-built facilities alongside vendors possessing more business experience, greater financial resources, or unfair locational advantages and also those vendors skirting regulation. In such cases, economic empowerment requires more interventionist policies on behalf of vendors to protect them from unfair competition and help them adapt to, and find niches within, the market.
3. Longer-term relocation planning and management fail to consider the emerging needs of vendors.
Although governments have focused on ensuring the relocation of street vendors through a process of negotiation and often make significant concessions, their role is by no means over after the vendors have been installed in the market facilities. Policy maintenance and enforcement following relocation and also provision of training and support around financial literacy, management skills, and other capacities are additionally needed for vendors to remain in the markets and thrive. That many of these requisites lie outside the standard responsibilities and repertoires of government indicates a support or mediating role for local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), financial institutions, trade or professional associations, and communitybased organizations (CBOs).
72 Contesting the Streets Return to the Streets In sum, the findings help to refocus the attention of policies that support vendors from short-term solutions aimed at managing public space toward considerations of economic empowerment of the urban poor and their rights to urban space, accessibility, and mobility. In the next section, we review an emerging literature regarding vendor relocation. In the following section, we provide an overview of the research design and methodology. Then we present a description of each case study and findings from the study before concluding with a discussion of policy and planning implications along with future research questions and data collection.
Literature Review Our work builds on an emerging literature that rejects a long-held view in writings about informality; that is, that the relationship between informality, as imbued and practiced by the urban poor, and the state should be viewed generally in principally oppositional terms. We adopt Roy’s critical policy epistemology of informality as a lens to analyze the shortcomings of street vendor relocation policies (Roy, 2015, 2014). Interrogating urban policies and planning initiatives addressing urban poverty and informality in the global south, Roy identified the emphasis on urban upgrading strategies whereby spatial designs and redevelopment overwhelm consideration of underlying social, political, and economic drivers and also upgraded livelihoods, rights, and political participation as a key problem (Roy, 2005, 2004). Roy additionally critiques market-based approaches to poverty alleviation, relying on the likes of land title and financial credit extension that unwittingly trigger conflicts over resources and pose added risks and burdens on already economically vulnerable groups. Finally, warning of formalization processes that deepen inequality by giving the upper and middle ranks of low-income communities advantages that spur gentrification and displacement at the neighborhood or urban level, she notes the potential utility of regulatory exceptions and regularity exceptions, which both expand tenure and use value claims in cities through incremental improvements. The former is exemplified by moratoria on standards and codes and the latter by forestalled payments.
Actually addressing the distinctive planning challenges and paradoxes associated with street vendor relocation, however, additionally requires imagination and creativity, albeit one grounded in practical experience and deep contextual understanding. Here, the study builds on Watson’s notion of the interface between “conflicting rationalities” between what she termed “techno-managerial” and “marketised” systems of planning and development and survival efforts on the part of the poor and marginalized as a space of open-ended and ongoing political struggles carrying unanticipated and unintended positive and negative consequences (Watson, 2009). Rejecting a single characterization of power—it is neither one directional nor totalizing, not exclusively negative or repressive—Watson highlights instances in which actors in the informal sector have begun to develop practices that interrelate more closely with formal urban planning and development apparatuses in expressions of “positive hybridity” that exercise power and deliver gains on a wider and more inclusive basis.
As many vendors nonetheless return to the streets over time, the framework’s longer term, flexible, open-ended perspective brings into clear relief the importance of attending to the extended trajectories and impacts of such policies beyond their immediate successes, particularly regarding the various stakeholders.
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Research Design and Methodology The research was designed as a comparative case study with embedded units of analysis. The three Indonesian cities of Solo, Jogyakarta, and Jakarta were chosen as focal sites because each had received wide recognition by the national popular press for having undertaken broad-based, popular, and presumably successful campaigns to remove street vendors from public spaces under previous mayors. They also stand out because the approach adopted in all three cases contrasts with more widespread practices in Indonesian cities of employing physical force and coercion.
On further examination several years later, however, the stories had evolved, with many of the vendors abandoning the public markets that they had been assigned to and returning to the streets. To better understand the potential factors and conditions underlying the return of informal vendors after “successful” relocation and upgrading policies, the study focused on one or two of the most widely recognized market relocation sites in each city—Solo’s Pasar Notoharjo and Pasar Panggungrejo, Jogyakarta’s Pasar Pakuncen, and Jakarta’s Pasar Tanah Abang Blok G and Pasar Gembrong Cipinang Besar—with varying fates regarding relocation policies. In short, the five street vendor relocation sites and processes were chosen because they were the most well-known cases across the three cities and were frequently cited by street traders during the exploratory phase of the comparative case study.
Researchers conducted indepth interviews with 60 current and former vendors, 20 from each city, between May and June 2015. These vendors included those who had been involved in the relocation processes and decided to remain in the new facilities and an equal proportion of those who had since left those facilities to return to the streets. Varying the respondent sample as such helped illuminate at the individual level how certain factors and mechanisms helped or hindered vendor relocation and resettlement. Researchers learned about the whereabouts of the street vendors from the vendors who had stayed. Vendors who left the new facilities typically returned to their original locations, but some also had moved to informal street markets, often night markets, such as Pasar Senthir in Jogyakarta.1 Interview questions were aimed at understanding the background and experiences of vendors. For example, vendors answered questions about their involvement in and perspectives on street vendor relocation policies, their reasons for and experiences of remaining in or abandoning the market facilities, and their thoughts and recommendations on how the city might better support their businesses and ensure that similar vendor relocation and upgrading policies are more successful in the future.
The research was carried out by a team of five researchers from the local Indonesian NGO Yayasan Kota Kita, whose mission is to support the empowerment and inclusion of citizens in decisionmaking and planning of their communities and cities. The interviews were conducted in the Bahasa Indonesia language and lasted about 1/2 hour each. Because of the precariousness and economic vulnerability of vendors on the streets, some respondents were reluctant to be seen giving interviews. For the most part, however, respondents were willing to respond and give insights on their relocation experiences and circumstances. Nonetheless, the research team refrained from audio- or video-recording the interviews to uphold vendor confidentiality. Following the interviews, the team of Kota Kita researchers analyzed the notes and transcriptions before distilling findings in collaboration with the authors.
This market is essentially an empty parking lot that street vendors are permitted to occupy at night.
Description of Cases This section presents an overview of our five case study sites, namely Solo’s Pasar Notoharjo and Pasar Panggungrejo, Jogyakarta’s Pasar Pakuncen, and Jakarta’s Pasar Tanah Abang Blok G and Pasar Gembrong Cipinang Besar.
Pasar Notoharjo, Solo As informal trading grew dramatically in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, many unemployed workers in Solo congregated as vendors in Banjarsari Park, a public space in the middle of the city. At its peak, the park was bursting with 1,000 vendors, leading to complaints by nearby residents about noise, trash, and general lawlessness and precipitating into the most visible public agenda issue of the city. Repeated attempts by Mayor Slamet Suryanto to force the vendors away, largely through the violent action of the police, were unsuccessful.