JAKARTA: The Indonesian government is moving ahead with its plan to relocate the seat of government from flood-prone, traffic-choked Jakarta to an undisclosed location in Kalimantan island.
In his state of the nation speech before the parliament on Friday, delivered a day before the country’s 74th Independence Day anniversary on Aug. 17, President Joko Widodo formally proposed the plan.
“I hereby ask for permission and support from members of the parliament and the Indonesian people to move our country’s capital to the island of Kalimantan,” Joko said.
Indonesia shares the island, also known as Borneo, with Malaysia and Brunei.
Joko, who was re-elected in the April presidential election and is set to be sworn in as president for the second term in October, did not specify a time plan to move the capital.
“The new capital is being designed, not just as the symbol of a nation’s identity, but also a representation of its progress, based on a modern, smart and green city concept that uses new and renewable energy and is not dependent on fossil energy,” Joko said in a separate speech to propose next year’s state budget delivered later on Friday.
He also said that the government would minimize the use of state funds to finance the estimated 466 trillion rupiah plan, and instead would encourage participation from the private sector, state-owned enterprises and public-private partnership.
In a nod to the capital move plan, Regional Representatives Council Speaker Oesman Sapta Odang said in his speech that the council endorses a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Bengkayang, a district in West Kalimantan, to reduce the use of fossil energy.
Oesman added that based on recent research, 87 percent of Bengkayang people support the plan to have a nuclear power plant in their area to support industrialization and economic growth.
Moving the capital to Kalimantan island, where about 6 percent of Indonesia’s population lives, is expected to narrow the development and economic growth gap between Java, the country’s most populated island where Jakarta is located, and other areas in Indonesia.
According to data from the National Development Planning Agency, Java contributed 58.5 percent, and the Greater Jakarta area contributed 20.6 percent, in economic activities to the national GDP.
“If we let this situation continue to happen without a serious effort (to address it), the disparity would only worsen. The plan to move the capital to Kalimantan island is within this context so that it would drive new economic growth, and to stimulate economic equality and justice outside Java,” Joko said.
Another consideration for choosing Kalimantan, with its three provinces Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, and East Kalimantan as the candidates, is because the island is not part of the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire that makes Java prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Java is also facing a shortage of freshwater, and Jakarta could completely run out by 2040.
However, Kalimantan is prone to forest fires, which generate a choking haze and cause residents to suffer from respiratory diseases.
As the dry season reaches its peak and is estimated to last until October, hot spots have emerged on the island with Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan among the worst affected by the forest fires.
Joko first proposed the on-and-off idea to move the capital in mid-2017 and made another announcement about the plan in late April, around the same time that Vice President Jusuf Kalla returns from the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.