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  • Indonesian residents hold to an iron railing as they wade through flood water in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Indonesian residents hold to an iron railing as they wade through flood water in Jakarta, Indonesia. | Photo: EFE

Published 1 May 2019
Opinion

Hendro Sangkoyo also argues that the move has less to do with constructing a move operative capital, and more to do with facilitating business ventures for Indonesia's oligarchy.

Several factors such as overpopulation, air pollution, and climate change are pushing for Indonesia's President Joko Widodo to re-introduce a common proposal since the 1950s - to move the country's capital from Jakarta elsewhere. 

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The northern belt of the capital is particularly vulnerable due to rising sea levels and tides that consistently pour over the seawall - the only barrier protecting four million people who currently live four meters below sea level.

While a popular notion, those living in Jakarta do not appear to be convinced that the plan will be executed. According to the director of the Rujak Centre for Urban Studies, Elisa Sutanudjaja, "people have heard this before but it is just getting more frequent now. It's now every two to five years."

Indonesia's planning minister, Bambang Brodjonegoro, announced that Widodo is ready to allocate $33 billion to move the capital after a meeting on Monday following the torrential rains that had triggered flooding and landslides in the country. Aside from the announcement, little detail as to how the plan will be administered has been provided, angering Jakarta residents. 

Sutanudjaja does not believe simply moving the capital will solve any problems. She compares Jakarta to "Tokyo in the 1960s, with its land subsidence, flooding, natural disasters, and overcrowding." She added that "if you really want to solve the problem then they should tackle it, not just move it."

President Widodo challenged the notion on his Instagram, asking why Indonesia should not follow in the footsteps of other countries that have moved their capitals, such as Malaysia, Brazil, South Korea, and Kazakhstan.

While no official city has been named as the location for the new capital, Palangkaraya in Kalimantan has been suggested, but with little support. The industrial development that would need to take place in Kalimantan, which lies in the Indonesian sector of the island of Borneo, would only add to the negative effects it has already experienced as a result of the gold, coal, oil, gas, logging, and palm oil industries.

“The whole idea to put the most important political processes in an area that is already in a center of ecological crisis is absurd,” said the co-founder of the School of Democratic Economics, Hendro Sangkoyo.

Sangkoyo also argues that the move has less to do with constructing a move operative capital, and more to do with facilitating business ventures for Indonesia's oligarchy. He adds that a public referendum should be held before taking any action.

Other ulterior motives have also been questioned, as analysts take into account the recent presidential election in which both candidates, the incumbent Joko Widodo and ex-general Prabowo Subianto, claimed victory. 

Director of the Southeast Asia project at the Lowy Institute in Australia, Ben Bland, suggests that perhaps  Widodo's move is "an attempt by the president to reassert his authority after the election and amid this ongoing contestation by the Prabowo camp."

Bland adds that in order to convince the Indonesian people to relocate their capital, "they would need to see concrete plans on where the new capital would be and how [the government is] going to go about implementing this, given the difficulty of pulling off any huge infrastructure project anywhere in the world."

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