08/26/2019, 13.14
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Indonesia’s new capital to be built in East Kalimantan

by Mathias Hariyadi

Low risks of natural disasters and strategic position are the factors behind the choice. The new city will cost around US$ 32.8 billion. For President Widodo, Jakarta has become completely overwhelmed as the centre of the country’s administration.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (pictured) today announced that the new Indonesian capital will be built somewhere between North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara regencies, in East Kalimantan, one of five provinces of the Indonesian side of Borneo Island.

Government plans will see the capital move some 1,400 kilometres from Jakarta, spreading economic activity outside the Java, the country’s most populous island.

President Widodo said the operation will cost up to 466 trillion rupiah (US$ 32.8 billion), 19 per cent paid by public funds, whilst the rest will come from private sector investments and private-public partnerships.

The President made the announcement at a press conference at the State Palace alongside Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Housing and Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, and other senior government officials.

“East Kalimantan has a low risk of natural disasters, be it forest fire or earthquake, and the location is also strategic as it is in the centre of Indonesia, and close to developed cities,” Widodo said.

For the President, Jakarta had become completely overwhelmed as the centre of the country’s administration, services, trade, and finance.

Jakarta’s greater urban area is home to around 30 million people and pollution has reached dangerous levels. Gridlocks and public transport woes cost the city about 100 trillion rupiah (US billion) a year in economic losses, according to official estimates.

With more than 15,000 people per square kilometre – twice the density of Singapore – there is little room to build more in Jakarta without rehousing thousands of families. To make matters worse, two-fifths of the city are below sea level and parts of it are sinking by 20 centimetres a year.

Indonesia is not the first Asian nation to move its capital. Two of the best-known examples are Kazakhstan and Myanmar.

In 1997, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to transfer the capital from Almaty in favour of a dusty provincial town, about some 1,200 km to its north.

One of the first things he did was change the name from Akmola (white grave) to Astana (literally capital city). In Soviet times, the settlement was close to a gulag.

Nazarbayev hired architects from around the world to build his capital from scratch. All this was made possible by the country’s booming oil sector.

Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw (Naypyidaw), was created in 2005 by the military junta and its name means "abode of the king".

The reasons for moving the capital some 370 km inland from Yangon have never been entirely clear. At the time, the Information Minister had stated that it was a more strategic position, but observers were skeptical.

For some, the military feared a foreign invasion or wanted more control over ethnic minorities in border regions. Others claimed that the generals were simply following the habits of Burmese kings in the pre-colonial era, who built new cities and palaces on the advice of fortune tellers.

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