Blaming Newcomers to Jakarta Is Not the Solution
The Idul Fitri holiday is the only time when Jakarta residents can genuinely enjoy their beloved city. With its usually-congested main roads now empty, Jakartans can breathe a sigh of relief — even only for a week or two.
The capital has returned to its normalcy just days after the Idul Fitri. As if this is not disappointing enough, those who went back to their hometown returned to the capital bringing family members, friends or relatives. The Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhaimin Iskandar estimated that this year’s newcomers to the capital would number around one million.
Undoubtedly, Jakarta residents were getting annoyed by the newcomers. Stop making my already-packed city more crowded, they would say. But should they put the blame on these newcomers? Once upon a time, your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were also newcomers.
Native Jakarta people, called Betawi, only represented around 27 percent of the city’s population in 2000. This means 73 percent of those who reside in Jakarta belong to ethnic groups not considered native to the city.
In other words, most of the residents who complain about the newcomers are either past settlers or descendants of settlers. They just got to Jakarta earlier. No, this doesn’t give them right to complain about the arrival of others.
I’m not saying that right is reserved for the Betawi. Betawi people themselves are a mixture of various ethnic groups that first came to Batavia, the colonial name of Jakarta, in the 17th century. This basically means they were also settlers who got here earlier.
Before we go on, understand the reason why they moved to Jakarta in the first place.
Unlike the United States where jobs are fulfilled in each of its own state, Indonesia has its political and economics centered in Jakarta. Major decisions that affect the lives of many Indonesians sprawled across the archipelago are made in the capital. Economic activities in Jakarta alone makes up one-fifth of the country’s economy.
Jakarta’s top position in the economic ladder results in better economic conditions for its residents. The average worker in Jakarta earns on average Rp 2 million monthly. The average worker in Banten province earns on average Rp. 1.7 million each month; Rp 1.5 in West Java; and Rp 1.2 in Central Java.
No wonder why a university graduate from West Java aspires to work in Jakarta after graduation. The capital also scores better in dealing with poverty. Only about 3.7 percent of the city’s residents lived below the poverty line in 2012. Compare this with the poverty rate in other provinces in Java: 5.7 percent in Banten; 9.9 percent in West Java; and a staggering 15 percent in Central Java. It should be no surprise that people flock to Jakarta in search for better economic fortune.
Bad economic conditions in other provinces are most likely due to provincial governments’ incompetence. So, if you really have to blame someone for crowding your beloved city, blame the provincial governments. Don’t blame the newcomers.