Friday, May 24

Jokowi scouts sites in Kalimantan for new capital

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Jokowi (right) looks through plans at a possible site for the new capital in East Kalimantan. — Photo from Jokowi’s Facebook page

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo was in Kalimantan this week to survey possible locations for a new capital, fast-tracking a plan to move the administrative headquarters out of overcrowded and congested Jakarta.

Jokowi arrived at Balikpapan city in East Kalimantan on Tuesday and visited Bukit Soeharto, one of the locations being considered for the capital, his office said in a statement.

The president also visited Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan province and reviewed another possible site for the capital on Wednesday.

Jokowi last week revived the decades-old plan to set up a new capital as the population in Jakarta and its suburbs continues to swell, having hit about 30 million people.

Already one of the world’s most congested cities, the coastal metropolis is also sinking by as much as six inches every year and is hit by frequent flooding.

While the selection of the site for a new administrative capital may be several months away, town planners and political analysts have been pointing to Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan.

The city of about 260,000, which is relatively free from natural disasters and located near the centre of the vast archipelago, has been mooted as an option for a new capital since the 1960s.

Jokowi alights from a helicopter at a possible location for the new capital in Palangkaraya. — Photo from Jokowi’s Facebook page

In a meeting with heads of state agencies on Monday, Jokowi said the government was serious about moving the capital by zeroing in on three alternatives.

The area of the shortlisted sites ranged from 80,000 ha to 300,000 ha, he said.

Bukit Soeharto was among the locations under government’s consideration for the past year and a half, Jokowi said, adding its proximity to airports in Balikpapan and Samarinda and toll roads will be supportive.

“The most important thing is Indonesia as a big country wants to have an administrative centre that is separated from economic, business, trading and services centre,” Jokowi said.

“We want to move ahead as an advanced country.”

Building a new capital may take between five to 10 years and cost as much as US$33 billion, according to Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro.

With the capital moving out of Java island, Jokowi expects to ensure economic development of its far-flung regions.

The government estimates the greater Jakarta area loses US$7 billion a year in productivity because of its endemic traffic congestion.

The government will devise a special arrangement to finance the setting up of the new capital to avoid any strain on the state budget, Jokowi said.

Availability of clean drinking water will be a major consideration in picking the new site, the president said. – Bloomberg