Ahok Vows to Finish LRT With Money Earmarked for Roads

JUNE 17, 2015

Jakarta. The Jakarta city administration is planning to self-finance construction for the capital’s first Light Rail Transit system if necessary, the governor says, adding that next year Rp 3 trillion ($225 million) will be shelved for project that was actually meant for road construction.

The Jakarta City Council (DPRD) has already rejected the government’s plan to include the project in this year’s budget, saying it wants the government to properly present its plans on the LRT project first. But Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama decided to go ahead with the project nonetheless and secured funding from the central government for the first stage of construction, which is set to begin on Aug. 17.

The governor earlier wanted the private sector to finance the project, but ultimately decided that the city is capable of financing the project on its own. One way is to redirect money earmarked to build roads and use it to complete the LRT project, which is estimated to be completed in 2019 and will cost some $2.6 billion.

“There is no more space in Jakarta to build more roads, everything has to be elevated. But the elevated infrastructure is not for cars but rail-based transportation,” Basuki said.

The capital’s chief asset and financial manager, Heru Budi Hartono, said the government is formulating strategies to get council members on board and approve the government’s plan to allocate Rp 3 trillion for the project next year.

Tuty Kusumawati, the head of the Jakarta development planning agency, said she was confident that the DPRD would support the program.

“The LRT project has been included in the National Mid-Term Development Plan and the Provincial Mid-Term Development Plan for 2012 to 2017," she said. "So everyone must commit to see this mode of transportation become a reality.”

The Jakarta administration plans to build seven LRT corridors in the city at a total cost of Rp 35 trillion.

The project has already seen more than its fair share of false dawns, and obstacles remain before work on the first corridor — a 21.6-kilometer line connecting Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta to Kebayoran Lama in the city’s south — can be started.

President Joko Widodo — who was governor of Jakarta before assuming the presidency — has made it clear he regards infrastructure as one of his administration's top priorities.

Indonesia has spent less than its regional peers for more than a decade when it comes to building roads, ports and upgrading the electricity grid. The result has been sky-high logistics costs and miserable commutes for all in the capital.

A rail link in the capital is seen as a particularly important indicator of whether Indonesia can realize all of its infrastructure goals by 2019. Bangkok and Singapore built intracity rail lines decades ago while Indonesia failed to do the same in Jakarta because of protectionist policies and project-financing problems.