Indonesia’s new capital project gets stuck amid virus crisis

Plans to relocate Indonesia’s capital from Java to Borneo have been put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic as the government’s current focus on handling the disease outbreak has sidelined the $33-billion project for the time being. A top official said it would be “evaluated” after the crisis passes.

The project announced by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo last August to build a new capital city in East Kalimantan province to flee the worsening traffic, land subsidence, flooding and a host of other problems in Jakarta, was “indeed stuck,” according to Luhut Pandjaitan, senior minister for investments and the president’s chief advisor.

“We can’t make any decision either, the president hasn’t evaluated it. Maybe after we’re done with COVID-19, we will evaluate it or something. We don’t know,” Luhut told reporters on April 14.

The government had previously planned to start the first phase of infrastructure development for the new capital, which remains unnamed, in the second half of this year with a “soft groundbreaking.” It has set a 2024 completion date for this stage of the project and by 2045, it expects the new capital to be fully functioning, spread across 200,000 hectares in eastern Borneo.

Government priorities questioned

As recently as March 24, preparations for the new capital were “still on track,” Luhut said. That prompted widespread criticism of the government’s priorities, on top of the news that, also in March, the planning ministry allocated $5.4 million to come up with the master plan for the new capital. In comparison, the government has allotted $26 billion for its pandemic response.

Activists have called on the government to focus on combating the outbreak, including by reallocating funding for more testing, treatment, personal protective equipment for health workers and financial support for marginalised communities.

“The capital relocation plan is definitely not urgent, so it’s best to be put on hold,” Nur Hidayati, the national executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, the country’s biggest green NGO, told Indonesian media, adding that “in fact, our organisation has always disagreed with the plan as it lacks solid reasons for the move.”

Plans to relocate Indonesia’s capital from Java to Borneo have been put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic as the government’s current focus on handling the disease outbreak has sidelined the $33-billion project for the time being. A top official said it would be “evaluated” after the crisis passes. The project announced by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo last August to build a new capital city in East Kalimantan province to flee the worsening traffic, land subsidence, flooding and a host of other problems in Jakarta, was “indeed stuck,” according to Luhut Pandjaitan, senior minister for investments and the president’s chief...

Plans to relocate Indonesia’s capital from Java to Borneo have been put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic as the government’s current focus on handling the disease outbreak has sidelined the $33-billion project for the time being. A top official said it would be “evaluated” after the crisis passes.

The project announced by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo last August to build a new capital city in East Kalimantan province to flee the worsening traffic, land subsidence, flooding and a host of other problems in Jakarta, was “indeed stuck,” according to Luhut Pandjaitan, senior minister for investments and the president’s chief advisor.

“We can’t make any decision either, the president hasn’t evaluated it. Maybe after we’re done with COVID-19, we will evaluate it or something. We don’t know,” Luhut told reporters on April 14.

The government had previously planned to start the first phase of infrastructure development for the new capital, which remains unnamed, in the second half of this year with a “soft groundbreaking.” It has set a 2024 completion date for this stage of the project and by 2045, it expects the new capital to be fully functioning, spread across 200,000 hectares in eastern Borneo.

Government priorities questioned

As recently as March 24, preparations for the new capital were “still on track,” Luhut said. That prompted widespread criticism of the government’s priorities, on top of the news that, also in March, the planning ministry allocated $5.4 million to come up with the master plan for the new capital. In comparison, the government has allotted $26 billion for its pandemic response.

Activists have called on the government to focus on combating the outbreak, including by reallocating funding for more testing, treatment, personal protective equipment for health workers and financial support for marginalised communities.

“The capital relocation plan is definitely not urgent, so it’s best to be put on hold,” Nur Hidayati, the national executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, the country’s biggest green NGO, told Indonesian media, adding that “in fact, our organisation has always disagreed with the plan as it lacks solid reasons for the move.”

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