Thursday, November 20, 2008

New look for old markets: Clean, shiny -- and empty

Suryat had been waiting for customers at his tempe (soybean cake) stall at Cipete market in South Jakarta since 6:00 a.m.

"Only a few customers have come to buy my tempe today, I wonder where the others are," he said over the weekend.

Weekends are normally peak times for market vendors, but not for those at Cipete. Suryat said the market had seen fewer buyers since it was renovated three years ago.

"Of course, many people still come here, but the number is getting smaller day by day. Perhaps they prefer to go to the supermarkets near here," he said.

The middle-aged man has spent almost his entire life as a tempe seller at Cipete. He says he cannot imagine doing anything else.

"I've been here since the market was still small and dirty before the government decided to temporarily close it down for renovation. Now we have a proper clean market to work in," he added.

Cipete market has tile floors and every seller is allocated a table on which to display their merchandise.

However, much to the puzzlement of the traders there, the renovation has not lured more customers, rather the opposite.

"We are now surrounded by two supermarkets," Suryat sighed. "I don't know. Perhaps that's why."

He said he had heard rumors the government would repair the market again, this time to a higher standard. However, he said the rumor was likely false, as the lack of customers would dispel any government incentive to spend more money.

"This market is empty. It is only bustling around the times of big holidays, like the fasting month and Idul Fitri," he said.

Mede market, also in South Jakarta, faces a similar situation. Mede was renovated by city-owned market operator PD Pasar Jaya several years ago.

The market is now clean and comfortable. It has an efficient drainage system and its floors too are tiled.

Even the meat and fish section appears tidy and hygienic.

"Before it was renovated, many people came here. I don't know why only a small number of people come now," Syahro, a meat seller at the market, told the Post.

It has two floors, including a basement, which is home to the vegetable, meat and fish stands.

Most people visit the basement because it is easier to access.

"Many shops on the first and second floors have closed because only a few people come to shop there," said Abdurrahim, a parking attendant.

He believes the city's more modern, cleaner and air-conditioned markets in the area have stolen Mede's customer base.

"You can find modern markets that offer not only fruit and vegetables, but also rice, no more than 50 meters from here," Abdurrahim added.

Although the evidence points to a growing prevalence for modern markets over traditional markets in the city, Pasar is optimistic the traditional market will survive.

"People of the middle to lower-income brackets who cannot afford to go to supermarkets need the traditional markets. Here, if you have no money, you can still get stuff on credit," said Nur Hafid, Pasar's public relations officer.

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