Moving the Capital City to Kalimantan: Benefits and Drawbacks

By Nabilah Amri Badzlina & Rintan Tiffani Angela

Last year, the Indonesian President echoed his plea for the capital city of Jakarta to be relocated to Kalimantan where the development process is being carried out in stages. Despite the fact that progress has been made, the community continues to reap the benefits and drawbacks of this decision. How exactly is the prediction of impact of this relocation?

Capital city plan ideas and design criteria

The Positive Sides

Inevitably, the very first aspect that can be imagined is that while the capital relocation succeeds, Jakarta’s population might look slightly loosening. Most of them will migrate to the new capital city, since the central government activities no longer operate in Jakarta. The population density figure is projected to decrease. If that happened the threat of traffic congestions would be reduced as well.

Indeed, this could be a good sign, considering the report by Bappenas that congestion in Jakarta is affecting the Indonesian economy. Reportedly, there was a total of 5 billion dollars in losses that were only caused by traffic jams in Jakarta because it hindered the very slow mobility process.

Furthermore, Jakarta will be free of political turmoil and will continue to develop as a business hub. Jakarta, as Batavia, had already established itself as a centre of international trade before becoming a Dutch colony.

Along with many surrounding provinces such as Banten and West Java, Jakarta has emerged as Indonesia’s manufacturing powerhouse. As a result, relocating the capital city might be a positive and efficient way to organise Jakarta and its surroundings.

A further advantage, some of anti-government protests or riots might be avoided, considering the central government has shifted outside of Java, making it difficult to access due to high transportation costs. Indeed, it is quite advantageous, since Jakarta would not be congested by government protesters, enabling the city’s economy to function normally without much disturbances.

Equitable growth and economic development will occur with the relocation of the capital to Kalimantan. The economy of Indonesia will gradually shift away from Java; the change from a Java-centric to an Indonesia-centric mindset. Hence, Borneo, the most profitable island in Indonesia, will undergo rapid economic growth.

Borneo is geographically in the centralised spot of Indonesia.  Compared to other capital cities, Jakarta is only close to Australia and Oceania, but the new capital city seems to be more strategic, as it is closer to more countries such as Papua New Guinea and most Asian countries. A neat and strategic location offers many benefits, including shortened traffic flow from the central government to other regions and reduced central government transportation expenses from state or regional budgets.

As a developing country, having the new capital is like a new start for Indonesia. Starting from scratch, it will be easier and very possible for the government to develop and plan smart and modern cities. The design might be adjusted to meet the needs of the government in terms of comfort, protection and quality.

The Drawbacks

From the positive side that can be seen related to the relocation of the nation’s capital outside the island of Java, the main reason that became the basis for this decision was for economic equality. This was as stated by the Minister of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia, Bambang Brodjonegoro, at the closed meeting regarding the plan to relocate the capital city, at the Presidential Palace on 29 April 2019.

“Firstly, Java island supports almost 50 percent of the Indonesian economy. Secondly, encouraging economic equality to eastern Indonesia. “

On the other hand, there are several risks that can be predicted from the relocation of a nation’s capital outside the island of Java. Among them, the estimated fees for relocating the nation’s capital is considered “a waste of money”. This is due to the inadequate infrastructure and facilities in the selected districts. Hence, there will be a lot of massive development which require a lot of money and a long period of time to complete. The budget for the relocation of the new capital city is approximately IDR 466 trillion.

The development of the country’s capital city in East Borneo, precisely not far from the Mahakam river, will be at risk of forest fires due to the impact of land expansion for agriculture due to the increasing demand for food from the migrating people.

At least every year, East Borneo has experienced extensive forest and land fires. The data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry which recorded forest and land fires in hectares in 2015 – 2020 are as follows: 69,352.96 hectares in 2015; 43,136.78 in 2016; 676.38 in 2017; 27,893.20 in 2018; 68,524 in in 2019; and 3,375 in 2020.

Apart from that, in relation to President Jokowi’s reasons that have been stated on 26 August 2019 regarding why East Borneo is chosen, which it is considered with less of the risk of natural disasters such as floods, this cannot be distorted. In fact, in January this year, East Kalimantan, to be precise, the city of Samarinda, was reported to have more than 30 flood spots after heavy rains with a water level of 80 cm. This disaster became public concern that relocating the capital city to East Borneo would not avoid the flood disaster that always happened in Jakarta.

Moving a large number of the population in Jakarta to East Borneo also does not save Jakarta’s existing problems related to land subsidence due to excessive underground water extraction. Thus, the relocation is considered futile if the government does not stop Jakarta from sinking, because it will result in damage to the existing infrastructure, and will in fact have an impact on the economy that was originally planned to be centred in Jakarta with the relocation of the new capital.

Another risk that will be encountered is the difficulty in providing logistics for foodstuffs and human resources for development, considering that Indonesia is a maritime country and East Borneo has been known for its lute soil. This will also result in higher transportation costs as access to the place will be by plane or ship.

Jakarta would remain as the business centre while the function as the government and state administration will be moved to the new capital city. Administratively, it has moved, but economically, Jakarta will remain the capital city. Maybe if it does move later, Jakarta will be better because of the reduced population of the workers or employees following the relocation of the administrative capital city.

On the other hand, we will see a truly developed and modern Jakarta as the economic centre of Indonesia. Jakarta will be a special region for economy, industry and tourism. But this does not mean the wheels of the economy just stop in this city. The ongoing development will continue and Jakarta will only be the centre of economic and nation development.***

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

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