The debate on Capital City relocation

By Nabilah Amri Badzlina & Rintan Tiffani Angela

The Jokowi government’s decision to move Indonesia’s capital city to a new location outside Java has drawn public reactions considering that Jakarta and Java Province have become the central point of the country’s economic development. While some people fully support this decision, others believe it might be a disaster.

The mega project of moving the capital, which is expected to take up quite a fantastic budget, has generated controversy in the community and in government ranks. Even so, there is still support coming from several parties

Tsamara Amany, a millennial politician from the Indonesian solidarity party, was quoted in one of the Lawyer Club’s event (27 August 2019) as expressing her opinion why moving this capital should take place.

According to Tsamara, this decision by the government can realise the concept of Indonesia-centric, which was previously known that the economic and social development of Indonesia is only centred in Java.

She argued, “If we were to analyse according to geopolitical perspective, Kalimantan is exactly in the middle of the Republic of Indonesia, which means that it is in the centre of Indonesia. This will remove the stigma of the West and the East which is a very important idea on development centric.”

Tsamara also claimed it could strengthen the concept of a maritime state that was proposed by the president earlier. This seems achievable because the second Indonesian archipelagic sea lane crosses through Kalimantan, whereas the first Indonesian archipelagic sea lane lies in the Malacca Straits, facilitating Pak Jokowi’s maritime development vision to be realised.

Taking the example of New Zealand’s success, which had previously succeeded in moving the capital from Auckland to Wellington, Tsamara advised, “We don’t need to be afraid that if the capital is moved to Kalimantan, Jakarta will remain the centre for economic activities.”

She emphasised, “We need to give an understanding to the public that in moving the capital it is not moving Jakarta to a new city. But moving the seat of government from Jakarta to Kalimantan.”

Another support for moving the capital was also received from a neighbouring country, Malaysia. The then Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia, Datuk Zainal Abidin Bakar said that Malaysia fully supports the idea and is even ready to find investors from Malaysia to take part in the construction of the new capital city.

Zainal Abidin Bakar said, “We can encourage Malaysian investors and Malaysian companies to invest in the construction of the new capital.”

He also said Malaysians were ready to share their experiences in this regard considering that Malaysia had taken similar step to move its seat of government to another location.

“We welcome that so we are open to any idea of Malaysian participation to share our experience in moving the capital to a new location as we did for Putrajaya,” he added.

President Joko Widodo’s announcement on 26 August 2019 to relocate the capital city to East Kalimantan had sparked debates among Members of Parliament who questioned the necessity of the capital city’s relocation despite the country’s poor economic performance.

Following the meeting with Jokowi regarding the follow-up plan on the relocation of the capital city, Deputy Chairman of Commission XI of the People’s Representative Council, Achmad Hafidz Tohir, questioned, “If our country and people are still struggling, why should we move the capital city?”

Achmad Hafidz Tohir believed that the poverty rate in Indonesia is still very high. He urged the government to seek an urgent solution to priority areas rather than to attend to the idea of relocation.

Deputy Chairperson of House of Representatives, Republic of Indonesia, Fadli Zon, also thought that this plan was unreasonable because it would take up a very large budget. He noted that the government has made a capital transfer budget of approximately Rp 466 billion.

“The idea of ​​relocating the capital city is very unreasonable considering that the state’s finances are currently in difficult situation. The achievement of state funds does not make sense, unless there is an excess of budget funds that are indeed prepared.”

Meanwhile, the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) had called for a review of the plan to relocate the capital city of Jakarta to East Kalimantan by opening up public space for academic studies on the plan.

This request was submitted by its executive director, Tauhid Ahmad, after a discussion on 3 September 2019 at Indonesia’s House of the Representatives.

According to Tauhid, the relocation of the capital city to East Kalimantan will greatly impact the occupancy rate of hotels in Jakarta as its surroundings are commonly used for meetings and seminars by various government agencies. “This which would result in the occupancy rates decreasing drastically.”

He added, “In developing countries like Indonesia, business and economic opportunities are mostly driven by government spending, automatically where the level of spending grows, that’s where the economy develops.”

During the discussion, Irman Putra Sidin, an expert in constitutional law, explained that the 1945 Constitution stated that the capital city is where all the Indonesian people make the highest decisions.

Irman quoted the law issued in 1946 which stated Jakarta as a Special Region for the capital city (DKI Jakarta; Jakarta Capital Special Region).

He said, “The reason why Jakarta was decided as the capital city of Indonesia, according to President Soekarno, was that Jakarta was the site of the proclamation of Indonesia’s Independence on August 17, 1945.”

“Moving the capital city is the same as annulling Jakarta as the site of the proclamation of Independence. So, when the capital is tampered with, it means that it is the beginning of tweaking the foundation of the country,” Irman added.

The project on relocating the capital city from Jakarta has been planned since the previous president before Jokowi announced it to the public. The decision was made after due considerations and research undertaken on how it will impact the whole nation.

However, the government should take into account the public opinions, both pros or cons, as this huge project could bring great outcome to the people and the country. This is where the government needs to carefully develop and enact appropriate legislations to achieve its goals.***

(This is the final part of the three-segment special report series written as pair assignment for Feature Writing class)

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