Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has quashed any doubts on the possibility of the Indonesian capital being moved from Jakarta by saying that the government has the determination and seriousness to execute the plan.
The plan to move the capital is not new, as it was initially put forward in 1957 by the country's first president, Sukarno, who wanted Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan as Indonesia's seat of government. Jakarta, the country's financial center, has been struggling with various problems, including traffic gridlock, poor urban planning and overcrowding.
"We are serious about this, because we have been discussing it internally for the past three years. A year-and-a-half ago, we asked Bappenas [National Development Planning Agency] to conduct more detailed studies from an economic, sociopolitical and environmental perspective," Jokowi said during iftar (Muslim fast-breaking dinner), attended by ministers and heads of state institutions at the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Monday.
The president wasted no time in proving his resolve to relocate the capital. On Tuesday morning, he departed for Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, to visit several potential locations.
He was accompanied by Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro and Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil.
The president is scheduled to spend the night in Palangkaraya before visiting more locations on Wednesday.
During Monday's iftar dinner at the State Palace, Jokowi some took time to explain to the guests what the government has done so far to carry out the plan.
Among the guests were Vice President Jusuf Kalla, People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) chairman Zulkifli Hasan, House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Bambang Soesatyo, Regional Representatives Council (DPD) Speaker Oesman Sapta Odang, Constitutional Court Chief Justice Anwar Usman and Jaja Ahmad Jayus, chairman of the Judicial Commission.
Muhammad Syarifuddin, the Supreme Court deputy chief justice for judicial affairs, House Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah, Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) deputy chairman Bahrullah Akbar and several key ministers were also present.
"We have prepared three regions where land is available to use, as alternatives. There is a region of 80,000 hectares, one with 120,000 hectares and another with 300,000 hectares that have been provided to us, even though we have not decided which we want to use," Jokowi said.
The Jakarta Special Capital Region has a total area of approximately 66,000 hectares – considerably smaller than the three proposed regions.
"What is available, is more than enough if it is only used as the center of government. So we only have to decide," Jokowi said.
Indonesia's population distribution is heavily concentrated in overpopulated Java, with about 57 percent of the country's people living on the island. In comparison, only 21 percent of the population lives on Sumatra Island, which is more than three times the size of Java.
"We will decide on the relocation of the capital city soon, but we will consult with you on these major steps, especially with the relevant institutions," Jokowi told his guests.
Jokowi assured them that, following discussions with Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and the public works minister, the government was able to provide the necessary budget to build a new capital city.
"Yesterday, the finance minister told me that there was no problem regarding the numbers," he said.
The government will come up with a scheme to finance the relocation as Jokowi insists that the plan to relocate the capital should not place a burden on the state budget.