«Contesting the streets Volume 18, number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»
A number of Jakarta vendors additionally remarked on policy inconsistency and shifts after regime changes. Within Jogyakarta’s Pasar Pakuncen, inconsistent enforcement of stall rules, in part because of corruption, resulted in vendor gentrification and displacement, with newcomers upgrading spaces, increasing their own stock and display areas, and outcompeting original stall occupants to whom the markets were designated. One vendor talked about the unfair competition— Before, the stalls were low, but people kept building them higher and higher, and so they were competing with people who invested more. They couldn’t survive or compete with it; the others felt terrorized (by the building of the cage); this wasn’t the original one (70 centimeters high, with a bunker beneath). Now they can store above and below, so much stock. That’s not fair for them;
it blocks access to buyers. It’s the government’s fault; the government failed because they couldn’t regulate and protect the interest of the vendors. This changed the nature of the market. However, also the market evolved by itself, they recognized this, but the failure was to not regulate the rules of the game.
In Solo’s Panggungrejo, weak government monitoring and poor communication between government officials and vendors, along with dispersal of the traders’ association, which had mediated the relocation negotiations, similarly resulted in an inhospitable business environment, compelling many vendors to return to the streets.
Some interviewees identified government as directly causing the problem through inconsistency in applying policy and poor coordination across different government departments. The fact that the Market Department typically spearheads vendor relocation processes without engaging other departments, such as Social Welfare, Urban Planning, and Economic Empowerment, results in fragmented policies and plans. Because government departments receive funding only for projects that they develop for themselves, rarely do integrated approaches occur by themselves in the absence of oversight or leadership. Fragmentation is precisely what happened in Jakarta’s Pasar Tanah Abang Blok G, as opposed to the integrated approach seen during the first move of vendors from Banjarsari Park to Pasar Notoharjo, where Mayor Jokowi saw that all the relevant government departments attended meetings, developed viable solutions, and contributed in a coordinated manner.
As for policy and planning implications, many vendors recommended augmenting relocation processes in which government merely moves people from one place to another with provision of training and support around financial literacy, management skills, and other capacities to succeed at business in a fixed location, formalized market environment. Rizal, a trader from Jogyakarta’s Pasar Pakuncen, said about government assistance— Assistance from the government is clearly needed to make [vendors] know that there are banks in which they can access loans to improve business. Most of the vendors are afraid to borrow money from banks, just because they don’t have a clear understanding on how it works. They feel insecure about the risk.
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Speaking in more general terms, Mbah Sukir, a Solo-based trade association leader, said, “One thing that Jokowi forgot about: He uprooted the tree from the soil and replanting it in other land, but he forgot that the tree needs fertilizers. The traders need that fertilizer to make them grow in the market.” While Sukir emphasized the importance of technical assistance and training following deep participatory and collaborative processes of vendor relocation, another Jakarta-based vendor underscored the hazards of regime change, remarking, “Jokowi has abandoned us, becoming the president (after serving as Jakarta’s governor, he won the national presidency); the current government could not continue the project. There should be a followup, assistances to empower the traders.” Reflecting on the potential of self-organization and more sustained engagement by civil society organizations, Aa, a community-based organizer, said, “After relocation, the government should empower the vendor association to protect themselves legally, run soft saving and loan programs, get better leverage, and run mutual help associations to counter adversity.” In the case of Solo’s Pasar Notoharjo, such organizations played an instrumental role in enabling the vendors to address common issues as they arose and responded to the mayor in a coordinated manner, while the city alternatively exploited differences among vendors in Pasar Panggungrejo to weaken their bargaining position.
Policy and Planning Implications Our study took a more indepth and extended look at “best practices” of street vendor relocation to investigate the potential factors and conditions underlying the vendors’ return to the streets and to distill lessons for improving related local policies and programs. Building on the three sets of findings presented in the previous section, the following discusses implications for policy and planning. Each implication reflects a transition from the prevailing current approach to vendor relocation to a new, more inclusive and context-specific approach.
From Aesthetic Approaches to Pro-Poor and Inclusive Spatial Interventions Even when government relocation efforts place vendors near the public spaces where they formerly operated, spatial interventions often lack integration with the surrounding urban fabric and major circulation corridors. They may also neglect locational arrangements within markets and other interior features of facilities as to limit public access and patronage and disregard the need for immediate returns and flexibility of movement among the poorest vendors who operate on a survival basis. In simple terms, present vendor relocation policies appear to focus on reclaiming public space from low-income street vendors and placing them in aesthetically pleasing new markets rather than improving their economic prospects and addressing the socioeconomic, political, and spatial disparities underlying urban poverty and informality. By following up vendor relocations with effective site designs and plans, including commerce-enhancing infrastructural elements (for example, marketing campaigns, integrating market sites with major circulation routes, and enhancing pedestrian access), local governments can help upgrade vendors’ livelihoods to ensure vendors remain in the markets long term. In addition, incorporating vendors’ perspectives and preferences on stall location within the markets, in relation to external surroundings, internal circulation corridors, and other vendors offering various products and services, can promote the viability of new facilities.
84 Contesting the Streets Return to the Streets What is ultimately needed is an explicit commitment to pro-poor and inclusive spatial interventions. In Solo, vendor relocation efforts were part of a larger local campaign of economic empowerment (of the urban poor) and building a people’s economy. Pro-poor and inclusive spatial policy and planning would go far beyond convincing street vendors to abandon public spaces for designated marketplaces. It would require attention to vendors’ rights to the city, including their connectivity to fellow urban denizens and major transport networks along with their freedom of mobility, albeit tempered to some extent by regulatory agreements prioritizing the public interest, inclusively and progressively defined. If done well, this approach would mitigate current problems, including locational remoteness, inadequate transportation connectivity, and poor commercerelated infrastructure. It would also result in a public that viewed the site positively, which would further enhance its commercial perspective. Moreover, it could support the day-to-day subsistence needs of its low-income vendors in the interim; for instance, by extending “regulatory exceptions” such as rights to roam at designated spaces and times. Within the markets, pro-poor and inclusive processes of strategic spatial planning and management might rethink the current lottery system, which simply guarantees each street vendor a space and imparts a sense of equal treatment through random assignment. Instead space could be reapportioned based on the varying profiles and needs of the different vendors and how they might complement each other to promote the overall success of the new market.
From Market-Centric Approaches to Community-Based Wealth Generation Relocating street vendors to purpose-built markets and giving them certificates of perpetual stall ownership, while intended to advance the economic prospects of vendors, often has the opposite effect. Exposure to new and more aggressive forms of market competition within fixed spaces can make vendors even more economically vulnerable because they lose their freedom of movement to proactively seek out new customers and find spaces where the competition is manageable; in addition, they become divided among themselves in competitive struggle. Moreover, the provision of stall ownership certificates, which in turn enables access to bank loans, poses added economic risks and burdens in the absence of technical assistance and training. As a consequence, unforeseen circumstances can trigger sudden liquidation of assets, and debt-financed inventory expansion can heighten financial insecurity. Vendors clearly require more support than new facilities, even with a formal certificate, given little experience working in formal conditions and, in some cases, paying taxes and monthly rent. Being poor, they also have generally low levels of education and are often reluctant to take out loans, given the prevalence of predatory lending and disastrous—and, in some cases, violent—consequences of debt in their communities.
On occasions in which market relocation has benefited the poor, they have had regulatory protection from the government, benefited from technical and organizational support, and effectively found niches. Such approaches to market relocation require rethinking the traditional role that governments have played in street vendor management, which has mostly centered on physically relocating vendors from public spaces and streets to purpose-built markets before relinquishing involvement and responsibilities to the free market. Instead, promoting vendor organizing and social, political, and economic empowerment in partnership with civil society groups and organizations would enable vendors themselves to resolve emerging issues and engage with government
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planners as needed. When some of the trainings and technical assistance might fall outside the scope of government capacity, NGOs, trade associations, and microcredit financial institutions could step in. For example, these groups might introduce e-commerce, marketing, accounting, inventory management, and other useful knowledge and skills. They could also create flexible, cooperative credit and mutual savings institutions that help vendors manage financial risk and build shared wealth. Meanwhile, government could focus on consistently enforcing rules and regulations to ensure fair competition or improving public accessibility of markets; for instance, through subsidized bus fares or undertaking urban infrastructure improvements that improve circulation and walkability in the market vicinity. Such regulatory persistence helps ensure that the gains of regulatory exceptions remain.
From the Policy Cycle to Adaptive Governance Policy, as traditionally understood, is undertaken by government, which defines the problem, determines goals, chooses and implements courses of action, and evaluates results, which, in turn, inform future policy. Alternatively, ongoing, adaptive government engagement, complete with inclusive and participatory planning processes involving street vendors along with their associations and intermediary NGOs and CBOs, with provisions for policy learning and innovation, is critical to sustaining results beyond the relocation phase and ensuring the gains of “regulatory exceptions” remain and proliferate. As described in the previous section, poor locational decisions and site plans compromising the viability of some of the markets were more often than not issues that vendors had keenly anticipated and were aware of. Had the vendors been meaningfully consulted and involved in the site planning and design phases, or even in troubleshooting problems as they arose, the problems might have been avoided or ameliorated.
Rather than approaching vendors individually, efforts to facilitate relocation, site planning and design, or even business planning can be maximized by building on existing capacities such as social organization and collective action. These efforts could involve trusted intermediary and boundary organizations. For example, given vendor reluctance to take on loans and go into debt or risk of losing certificates of stall ownership in the face of unforeseen circumstances, collective contractual arrangements and structures of governance might ease some of the fears and risks and also tend toward better outcomes. On site, vendors are more likely to support stall reapportionments that are based on the varying profiles and the needs of the different vendors if mechanisms for shared decisionmaking and gains distribution are in place. Vendors may form a worker cooperative in which each member owns shares, contributes business revenues as a share of total profits, and takes out dividends (perhaps based on a combination of individual and group performance and also number of shares), in turn breaking cycles of day-to-day subsistence because even “regularity exceptions” run out in due time. Moreover, vendors could participate in shared decisionmaking about product and service placement within markets, improvement of common spaces, marketing campaigns to maximize client patronage and total revenues, and proactive engagement of the city to deliver urban infrastructure improvements and other public works and services that enhance the site’s connectivity to the rest of the city and resultant public patronage.