Capitalism rules on Jalan Sabang (duty free)

Jalan Sabang is one of the most famous shopping streets in central Jakarta.

It’s crowded, of course, and in a state of almost perpetual gridlock as cars, motorcycles and the polluting bajaj battle for every available inch of space. But the smoke doesn’t only come from the bajajs. Plenty of it also comes from the Satay vendors who set up camp on the sidewalks. So this is what it feels like to be in Kalimantan as they clear the land by setting fire to it…

Even so, I like Jalan Sabang. And it’s a great place to see modern capitalist principles working well.

I go into the well-stocked Duta Suara CD store, make a note of the latest releases, step outside again, and before you can say “Pie-racy”, there’s a guy with a simple stall selling much less expensive versions of the very things that just a few moments before I was looking at in the air conditioned comfort of the CD store.

The Clash’s “The Magnificent Seven”, a U2 compilation and 6 other albums are immediately added to my music collection - and for a very inconsiderable sum indeed. In fact, virtually nothing. Capitalism ain’t always as bad as some people make out, is it?

But even the pie-rates have moral principals. I ask the seller why he has no cheap DVDs of Indonesian films to sell (I’m looking for one of “Jakarta Undercover” – starring Luna Maya) and the guy says the counterfeeters are too scared to make ‘em.

Anyway, just a few shops away, I come across a real gem:

“Cipta Niaga Mas Jaya Duty Free Store”

WTF! All the windows are blacked out and the security guard is sitting outside the store! It’s like a bloody por n shop or something. I go right in.

Four female shop assistants show me around (all at the same time) – and I’m impressed. Very impressed. Bottles of quality gin for just US$9, Aussie wine for US$5. The prices about a third of Carrefour’s. I ain’t a drunkard myself, but I’ve just bought a small drinks cabinet and I need to get it filled.

But is there a catch? I ask one of the shop assistants – and she tells me that all I need to bring is my passport. No plane ticket out of the country, KITAS or anything like that.

It all looks very dodgy to me though. I mean Indonesia is a very “leaky” sort of country and what is to stop this stuff being sold off to hotels and clubs and other places that should actually have to pay duty? Basically, why is it allowed? And of course who owns the store?

So out of curiosity, I type “Cipta Niaga Mas Jaya” into Google.

And would ya believe it? There’s a link to the Indonesian customs office.

I click on
the link and what comes up on the page?



Postscript: I’ve got me passport ready and am heading to Cipta Niaga Mas Jaya tonight for a little spending spree. I would advise you to do the same while the shop is still open.


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