Indonesia in Focus
Kemang - Modern Kampong: Jakarta, Indonesia
No other area in Jakarta is as unique as Kemang with its touches of international lifestyle. It is an area that is most popular among the expatriate community.
Take a walk in the area and you will spot fair skinned men and women with blond or brown hair dining out in a restaurant or browsing in one of the many art galleries or boutiques found there.
Most of the Kemang area is located in the Bangka subdistrict, Mampang Prapatan district, South Jakarta, covering more than 332 hectares of land that includes Jl. Kemang Raya, Jl. Kemang Utara and Jl. Kemang Selatan and Jl. Kemang Timur.
It is home to some 18,000 Indonesians and more than 1,600 foreigners, mostly Australian, Korean, Japanese and European. Among them are 28 permanent residence cardholders.
Before the economic crisis hit the country in 1997, some 4,800 foreigners lived in the subdistrict but the number sharply dropped due to the crisis and the riots that rocked Jakarta and several other cities in the country. The economic wheel has since started to turn slowly but the number of expatriates living in Kemang is still low.
“It happened mainly due to security reasons,” A. Sodikin, secretary of Bangka subdistrict office, said. “Many foreigners who live here have not brought their families with them.”
According to official data, some 36,000 foreigners lived in Jakarta in 2004. Many of them lived in South Jakarta. Before the economic crisis, Kemang had the highest number of expatriates in the mayoralty, but today more expatriates live in Pondok Indah.
The past few months, however, saw a slight increase in the number of expatriates. In January, for example, the subdistrict registered 155 newcomers, in February 141 and in March 81. Sodikin estimates that about 200 expatriates left the subdistrict in the same period.
Even though many expatriates have not returned to the area, business is running well.
Amigos restaurant, for example, continues to attract many diners. The difference is that before the economic crisis, between 80 and 90 percent of its patrons were foreigners, whereas now the number of foreigners is around 60 percent.
Overall, Kemang is doing great as seen from the increasing number of commercial buildings. The Bangka subdistrict in 1997 registered 180 business outlets. The number increased to 240 in 1999, and now is about 280. Recent data shows that among the commercial facilities are four hotels, 10 apartments and townhouse complexes, six international schools and playgroups, two gas stations, four supermarkets and minimarkets, nine mini-shopping malls, seven office buildings, 10 banks and 62 cafes and restaurants. The number of cafes and restaurants does not include those located in hotels, malls and office buildings.
The growing business has created jobs for about 4,000 people and contributes more Rp 1 billion in outdoor billboard taxes annually. The subdistrict also collects about Rp 14 billion in annual land and building taxes. Along with the rising prices of land and property, rental fees have also increased. The monthly rental fee of a house in Kemang now hovers at between US$1,000 and $3,000.
Living costs in Kemang are also a bit higher than in other places. Even maids’ salaries in the area, especially those working for expatriates, are higher than in many other parts of the city. Vegetable vendors might also ask for higher prices for their merchandise and at the supermarkets many products are quite expensive as they are imported.
But Kemang has its own trademark and somehow people do not mind spend a more money for good food, quality products and a nice atmosphere. Business is thriving; new cafes and restaurants as well as shops and boutiques are opening.
All of this has been made possible by the decision of Governor Sutiyoso in 1998 to transform Kemang from a residential area as stated in the 1985-2005 city master plan into a commercial area. In the following year, he strengthened the decision with the issuance of a decree declaring Kemang as a modern kampong.
In the 1970s, Kemang was a still a quiet place with lots of big trees and fields. Its serenity and fresh air attracted more and more people, including expatriates. It started to grow and keeps growing until this day. The roads are busy and the bustling area has become a favorite place to live and to hang out for both foreigners and locals from various corners of the city.
In Kemang, expatriates live in harmony with locals, 50 percent of whom are Betawi. Like in many parts of the metropolis, some poor people can be found living in small alleys behind the luxury houses and buildings in Kemang.
“There is a British family who runs a playgroup near Jl. Kemang Timur for about 20 needy children in the neighborhood,” said Sodikin.
He added that in another neighborhood, another expatriate family donated money to build a public bathroom for the poor. The dark side of Kemang is invisible, overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of business activities during the day and night. It was, however, apparent during the Kemang Festival last Saturday and Sunday when many local residents took advantage of the event by posing as parking attendants. They charged motorists Rp 10,000 for each car parked on the street, while the official parking fee in the city is Rp 2,000 per hour.
Kemang Festival, an annual street fair that was held for the first time in 2001, attracted a huge crowd and created traffic jams in the area. Some 4,000 visitors came every day during the event that featured more than 300 stands offering mostly clothes, accessories and food.
The festival is over but business in Kemang continues to thrive and draw visitors, both locals and expatriates who drop by to enjoy the nice atmosphere, shopping, dining or to just hang out with friends and family.
T. Sima Gunawan
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