Poverty and Power

Poverty, tenacity, inventiveness and ingenuity make an interesting combination and provides a number of people their meagre day to day living. In two days of staying at Surabaya, I have seen the various ways of making a living especially for those in the wrong end of the society's spectrum.

It started to rain yesterday when we were waiting for our car, other people started gathering at the foyer unable to get to their cars. And not a moment sooner, a bunch of kids turned up with umbrellas offering their umbrella services for whoever who wanted to use them for a small token fee. The rain was a bit sudden and surprisingly these kids have been ready for quite a while, otherwise they would not have turned up like ants when you unknowingly drop something sweet on the floor. Other ways of making money include the obvious selling newspapers and other what nots to drivers when their cars are stuck at the traffic lights; and helping to look after your cars when parked - a protection service.

Another interesting way was the singing with guitars at drivers. I thought this was fairly useless as most cars have got their windows wound up and can barely hear the singing. And besides you are only at the traffic light for a couple of minutes at most and even if you do request for a song, which I am sure those kids would not know, you would have move on. My officer's husband remarked that the fee they wanted to collect is to make them go away - a go-away fee! The kids figure if they annoy someone long enough, they might get a few cents. Do this the whole day, it might make a living for them. According to our driver, these people can make around Rp40,000 ($8) on a bad day. Mind you when graduates earn around Rp3,000,000 ($600) a month, $8 a bad is not too bad.

The one I have not yet seen is the help to carry your bags service. I saw this in Islamabad when kids and even adult men offer to carry your shopping for you for a very small fee. I have not been here long enough, I might see that.

I find it sad that a large powerful country like Indonesia are seen as a poor country. It is not easy looking after 200 million people with a large gap between the haves and the have-nots. In our region, we may need someone who can stand up for us. A country that we can depend on should things go wrong. It is a pity that Indonesia cannot play that role yet. Maybe one day I hope it will.


Anonymous said…
Ecomomics 101: A large gap between the rich and poor is the sign of a very bad economy.

My cousin goes fishing up near Sumatra every now and again, and once they were held up by pirates. After negotiating a good 'safety' fee, the pirates put down their guns and everyone had lunch together.

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