Perhaps inadvertently, Jakarta – like many other cities in the world – has been swept away by the force of the market and neoliberalism, which has consequently transformed the way the city administration works.
In his 1989 paper “From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism: The Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism” in the journal Geografiska Annaler, Human Geography Professor David Harvey argues that urban governance has “increasingly become preoccupied with the exploration of new ways in which to foster and encourage local development and employment growth”.
Harvey says such a stance is in contrast with the managerial role urban governance used to perform in the decades before the 1980s, which primarily focused on the local provision of services, facilities and benefits for the urban population.
Harvey based his argument on his observation on developed cities in Western Europe and North America in the 1980s. Yet two decades later and a thousand kilometers away, I find his analysis is applicable to contemporary Jakarta, which is increasingly pro-market. One of the consequences of the shift is the deterioration of public services as the administration has been busy ensuring a climate conducive to investment, and developing poor areas by evicting and gentrifying, among others.
One proof of the entrepreneurial Jakarta is the way the administration leases its property assets to the private sector, including for trade centers (such as ITC Mangga Dua), rather than build social housing for the poor or those in the lower-middle income bracket.
In the absence of managerial administration, community-based urban initiatives arise. What I would like to discuss in appreciation here are the kinds of initiatives trying to fill the gap left by the entrepreneurial administration, mostly driven by educated, taxpaying middle-class society.
This year welcomed a new one, Ruang Jakarta or Rujak, which is mostly Internet-based, using the address rujak.org. Initiated by, among others, an architect with a passion for environment and social issues, Marco Kusumawijaya, Rujak wants to create a network of residents of Greater Jakarta who want to do something for a better city. Within its young life, Rujak has drawn its readers’ attention to a broad range of urban issues, from earthquakes to floods, culture to local cuisine, and public space to waste management.
In a nutshell, everything that could help Jakarta become a sustainable metropolis. One could find a more visionary stance about Jakarta than one can find in any city agency in the administration. They say evaluate the malls, while the administration says they are open to new mall investments as long as the market allows.
Rujak is an addition to a list of initiatives that while criticizing the administration’s performance, also try to do something positive for Jakarta, a city that many people hate.
Recently, Governor Fauzi Bowo complained about the habit of littering, but as the leader of the city, he said he would not enforce the existing bylaw prohibiting littering, saying that it would be a hard feat as most of the perpetrators are poor people. Besides complaining, he has done nothing more.
But the Group Concerned About Waste, or Gropesh, stepped in years ago. They do campaigns, clean up garbage from public space on their own. And they say Fauzi lacks the political will and is only using poor people as an excuse not to do anything. Many prosperous residents litter too, Gropesh says.
Also in the social environment realm, there is the Jakarta Green Map, which regularly organizes gatherings to map the city. They have produced a map tracing city potentials along the Transjakarta corridors. They also have mapped lakes in Greater Jakarta. Recently, in cooperation with the Bike-to-Work Community (B2W), Green Map traced bicycle routes from Senayan in Central Jakarta to Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta.
Everybody fends for themselves in pro-market Jakarta, the urban poor too, though they are less publicized and most do not have organizations. Researcher AbdouMaliq Simone from London presented his report last year and among his findings in North Jakarta communities was that many of the residents got jobs not from the local administration, but from local gangs.
Simone said this was the result of a dysfunctional administration. He went on that in the long run, such informal authority could not work as it did not make people any better off. While communities like Rujak, Green Map, B2W, Gropesh and many others deserve heartfelt appreciation, I argue that the groups, or at least some of the job descriptions the group has assumed, are also the result of a dysfunctional or in Harvey’s word, entrepreneurial, administration.
For instance, if the administration carries out public services well, then communities like Green Map could focus more on mapping smaller-scale neighborhoods, their own, not mapping the Greater Jakarta lakes, which the administration should have done.
Essential to such entrepreneurial governance is the term public-private-partnership, Harvey says. In Jakarta’s case, oftentimes the administration claims the work of the communities by using this public-private-partnership scheme. It exerts minimum effort — the deployment of few agency officials and a small budget – while claiming a bonus: Increased public participation.
Lately, Jakarta has also seen an appropriation of community work for corporate interests. Green Map Indonesia has published an official statement to the effect that it refuses to join the Green Festival in Jakarta because the festival is sponsored by the Sinar Mas Group, a conglomerate currently in the spotlight for alleged massive logging that deforests Indonesia’s rainforests.
One could expect that the participation of Green Map Jakarta in the festival this year would be their last. It is important for the communities to be aware that the entrepreneurial administration and the market forces it supports so dearly have a great interest in the good and sincere work the communities do. While cooperation is generally good, communities should realize that one side could gain more than the other.
In the interests of these communities, I say strike a stronger bargain or even say no if necessary. My heart, and I’m sure the hearts of many, goes to you.
The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.