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Surviving a Year

10/04/2021 is a birthday in Jakarta, but not many people want to celebrate it. Why? Because April 10 coincides one year since the first PSBB was implemented as a strategy to prevent the spread of Covid-19. During these 12 months, the difficulties of the residents of the capital city are not small, both in terms of health and economics. Informal traders located in the city center are one of the most affected by the PSBB, especially those who rely on regular consumers such as office employees who during the PSBB period work from home. Maybe now there are those who feel that our daily lives have returned to normal, except for wearing masks when we leave the house, when we want to go, wherever. Yesterday we stopped by RT04, Kampung Karet, to find out how the situation was with Bu RT Mia and her merchant association. "Yeah, what can I say," said Bu Mia, as usual when asked about her challenges, "Thank God, we can still get sales." Just after Friday, on the side of Komando Raya street immediately became crowded. Many people eat or buy snacks before returning to the office. For people who have just arrived, they can indeed think that this situation is like before the pandemic, but local traders can feel the difference. "It's true that they have returned to the office, but there are fewer who come down to buy here. On average, our income is still reduced by 30%. There are others who have started earning only half." In addition to losing their income, traders in RT04 are also affected by their association's operations. Prior to the pandemic, Bu Mia held a monthly social gathering forum to discuss issues that traders were facing, and raise money for frequent community service. "During this pandemic there is no social gathering forum," said Bu Mia again, "How can it happen if it is difficult for everyone to contribute? I don't like asking for money when things are this hard." Does that mean all community service is also stopped? "Not all. We are still cleaning the road, luckily we have taken mud from the drainage before this year's flood, but I just used the RT's money. In the past, we also took care of people who were sick if they couldn't trade, yes, but we can't do that anymore. I've been thinking about starting the social gathering forum again, but I'm already going to start fasting, so I guess I'll just start again in June after Idul Fitri.”

If the current conditions have started to return to normal, is Mia afraid that the fasting month will disrupt the recovery for trading in RT04? "Yup, what can I say," she replied again, "Usually the sale of the fasting month is quite smooth, thank God. We just change the items for sale. There's obviously no lunch, but we can prepare lontong, or iced drinks for takjil. Well, last year the PSBB was very strict, no one wanted to buy things at all. So our income here was zero. I know that this year we can pray Tarawih again, so we'll see how it goes this year." But it's not just changes in consumer patterns that have an impact on RT04 merchants. Prices of ingredients in the market have also started to rise due to anticipation of the fasting month. "Cooking oil, chicken and vegetables have become more expensive," said Bu Amina, one of the traders from the RT04 community, "So hopefully the prices won't go up again during the fasting month. Thank God, there is still enough money now, at least to eat and buy more selling materials, but those who want to buy only a little, even though the higher price is getting harder, isn't it." "Moreover, we are afraid that it will be crowded here," continued Mrs. Mia, "Because this is a big road, right. We are directly in front of the offices. If the police pass, it will be right here, the Satpol-PP too. That's why we are afraid of being evicted or getting a ticket. Since we were evicted from the other side of the street, we had to enter this empty unit, but the space was too narrow. People are afraid to enter, especially if there is a queue. We used to feel lucky to be on this main road, but now it is more difficult than other traders who sell deeper in the kampung behind us.” While we can almost imagine when this pandemic is over, the effects will last much longer. Changes in behavior, purchasing patterns and the economy have become challenges for the adaptive capacity of Jakarta residents, but in RT04 they are still ready to face it. "The important thing is to be healthy first," said Mrs. Mia, "so that you can keep on fighting."

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