Friday, April 29, 2011

Always something for sale

Drive along the roads leading up to the highways and thoroughfares of Jakarta, and you'll see plenty of people sticking their thumbs out. They're bumming a ride. Well, sorta.

In fact, they're offering themselves as 'jockeys' to cars who want to take advantage of the express lane on roads reserved for cars with three or more occupants. Paying for an extra rider (or two, in the case of a mother-and-child combo) might cost a bit, but it will get you out of the bumper-to-bumper traffic that fills the main roads during peak hour.

The extra-passenger jockeys are perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the fact that people in Jakarta are entrepreneurial, forever seeking out opportunities to make a few thousand rupiah.

In large part the entrepreneurial spirit is driven out of necessity - there's no decent welfare system in Indonesia, so those who can't fend for themselves or fall back on family will soon find themselves destitute. The threat of going hungry at night does tend to make entrepreneurs out of most people.

But Indonesians - well, Jakartans at least - are rather canny at finding business opportunities. You see it when travelling on the bustling trains, where every conceivable product is presented for sale by merchants that wander up and down the aisle. A cold drink? Cigarette lighter? Children's picture book? They've got it.

Such trinkets are available for sale from wandering sellers up and down every major street. With prices of just a few thousand rupiah for most items and a decent meal costing several multiples of that, it's tough to see how the sellers earn enough to survive. Some probably don't.

It makes you wander just how much more rapidly Indonesia might develop if these enterprising minds and extra pairs of hands were put to more productive use. There are no shortage of major infrastructure projects that would lift the quality of live in Indonesia; there is an abundance of natural resources that could be harnessed (exploited?); and there is cheap enough labour costs for Indonesia to be a major manufacturing base.

Surely these plus-one jockeys and trinket sellers would be ready and willing to take a decently paid job in one of those more productive areas if one was available to them?

Before long they would be better off, and so would the country.

Even if it would leave motorists stuck in traffic and train travellers' thirst unquenched for a little while.

2 comments:

Fishy said...

How much is a rupiah worth to an Aussie?

-A. said...

Regarding exhange rates, 10,000 rupiah is worth about $A1.07 and $US1.17.

So earning a couple of thousand rupiah would be less than 40 cents in either currency.