Living Under “Trade City” Name: How Surabaya Could Maintain It?


By Kholifatus Saadah

Surabaya is the second-largest city after Jakarta in Indonesia. Not only the biggest in terms of area but also activities, Surabaya is known as a fairly busy city. Surabaya is located at the port hub; the condition is quite similar to that of Jakarta and its Sunda Kelapa, with their trading activities involving the port. Moreover, it added to its role as the provincial capital, making Surabaya seem like it never sleeps because of the many bustles in the city.

Since the colonial era, especially the Dutch colonial period, Surabaya has been established as one of the trade centers in the eastern region of Java Island. There was a law made by the Dutch government during the colonial period which allowed private parties to rent land and develop their business. This policy is also supported by establishing government offices for assisting the trading activities in Surabaya. These offices include Handels Masts (1824), De Javasche Bank (1828), Fraser Eaton & Co Firm (1835), Ned. Indische Escompto Mij (1857). The former offices' buildings can still be seen today in the North Surabaya area; some also functioned as private or government-owned offices.

Although the colonial period has passed for quite a long time, the trading activities in Surabaya have not disappeared over time. As a port city, Surabaya also has several areas inhabited by certain groups due to past trading activities, which are still ongoing today. Regions such as Ampel, with its Arab population and descendants. Also, Kembang Jepun, which is synonymous with Chinatown, is the result of port trading activities in Surabaya. Those two regions still have a similar atmosphere to the Arab Town and Chinatown until now.

By then, what about the dynamics of trading activities from the Surabaya City Government itself? Quoted from the Surabaya City Government's official website, the Surabaya City Government is aware of the potential that this city already has. Their policy about empowering trading activities has also been running for a long time. This can be seen in the increasingly massive development of modern shopping centers in Surabaya considering Surabaya residents' needs and as a mechanism to continue carrying out economic activities. Not only modern shopping centers but Surabaya is also known for having many very comfortable traditional markets and high involvement of MSMEs in the wheels of the Surabaya economy. Traditional markets in Surabaya are very far from being shabby and uncomfortable. They have many Instagramable spots that many people are sure to be liked. Surabaya has two mainstay programs for MSMEs: the Pahlawan Ekonomi based on the women's community and the Pejuang Muda, which target the youth community. The two programs belonging to the Surabaya City Government aim to empower communities to have their own products and markets.

From those facts, we at Centrius realize a considerable potential beyond just being called "Trade City" for Surabaya. The involvement of civil society as one of the economic drivers is the key that can be developed in the future. People are not only consumers but also producers who will continue to drive the wheels of trade in Surabaya. It remains how the next office can accommodate the ongoing developments to keep this trading activity take place.