Indonesian Parliament Passes Law to Move Capital from Java to Borneo

Dandy Koswaraputra
Indonesian Parliament Passes Law to Move Capital from Java to Borneo “Welcome to the Nation’s Capital” reads a sign at the main gate of what is slated to be Indonesia’s new capital in East Kalimantan province, Oct. 29, 2021.
[Dandy Koswaraputra/BenarNews]

Indonesia’s parliament passed a law Tuesday to move the national capital from traffic-clogged Jakarta to a forested region on Borneo Island, and that clears the way for the construction of the new city called Nusantara. 

The opposition Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) was the only party in the House of Representatives that rejected the bill, said Ahmad Doli Kurnia, chair of the parliamentary committee that deliberated the legislation.

“Approve!” lawmakers shouted in unison when House Speaker Puan Maharani asked if they approved of the bill, during a plenary session broadcast on the legislature’s YouTube channel.

“We have come to the conclusion that eight factions approved, so we can pass it,” Puan said, banging the gavel.

In August 2019, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced that the country would move its capital from crowded and partially sinking Jakarta, on Java Island, to East Kalimantan, a densely forested and thinly populated province in the Indonesian part of Borneo. 

The new law names the new capital “Nusantara,” which broadly means “archipelago.”

Suharso Monoarfa, the minister for national development planning, said on Monday that Jokowi had chosen the name.

The new capital will cover ​​256,142 hectares (632,940 acres) of land, and Suharso said the cost to build it from the ground up is estimated at 466 trillion rupiah (U.S. $32.5 billion), 53 percent of which will be covered by the country’s budget.

A ministerial-level official appointed by the president will lead the so-called Nusantara Capital Authority, according to the latest draft of the bill obtained by BenarNews. The official will be appointed no later than two months after the promulgation of the law, it said. 

Capital shift

The government has said that traffic congestion, frequent floods and land subsidence caused by uncontrolled ground water extraction in Jakarta were the main considerations for the move.

About 40 percent of the current capital is below sea level and by 2050, the entire North Jakarta area will be submerged, according to experts.

In addition, economic losses caused by the city’s traffic jams are estimated at 100 trillion rupiah (U.S. $7 billion) annually, the government said.

In a speech to the parliament on behalf of the president on Tuesday, Suharso said the new capital would create a new economic “center of gravity.”

The new capital is strategic because it lies close to busy national and international sea routes and is between two cities with developed infrastructure – Balikpapan and Samarinda, Suharso said.

“The planned relocation of the national capital is part of the strategy to realize Indonesia’s Vision 2045 for more inclusive and equitable economic growth through accelerated development of eastern Indonesia,” he said.

The National Development Planning Agency projected that by 2045, the new capital would have a population of 1.9 million – about 10 times the area’s current number. North Penajam Paser, the regency where the future seat of government will be built, is now home to about 180,000 people.

The population of East Kalimantan is expected to grow to 11 million, from 3.7 million today, according to the agency.

Mardani Ali Sera, a lawmaker from PKS, the only opposition party in the parliament, said there was no compelling reason to relocate the capital from Jakarta, especially at the expense of taxpayers.

“It will be very expensive to build [a new city] from scratch,” Mardani said.

Clearing a forest and turning it into the national capital also contradicts a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that Indonesia made at the United Nations COP26 climate summit last year, he said.

In addition, Mardani said, the future capital is relatively close to the South China Sea and is therefore vulnerable if armed conflict broke out there.

Faisal Basri, a senior economist at the University of Indonesia, said he and four others would go to the Constitutional Court to challenge the law on the new capital.

“I and PKS are not against the capital move, but we need to prepare well, involving the people.” he said in a YouTube discussion. “Maybe in 10 years, after we have managed to solve major problems.”


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