Jakarta. In his annual address to the People's Consultative Assembly on Thursday (16/08), President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo highlighted the importance of infrastructure development in uniting Indonesians.
New infrastructure is needed to promote growth in other regions than Java, to give them a chance to flourish.
During his term, Jokowi has been focused on various energy and transportation projects to spur economic growth. The projects cover regions outside Java as well, including Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua.
"Acehnese can easily connect with Papuans, Rote [East Nusa Tenggara] people can connect with our brothers in Miangas [North Sulawesi]. We can increasingly feel we are one nation, one homeland," the president said.
Under Jokowi, the government has build more than 12,700 kilometers of new roads, 11 airports, 48 new dams and an irrigation network covering 168,000 hectares of farmlands.
Since 2015, Rp 127 trillion ($8.7 billion) has been spent on infrastructure projects in villages across the country, to build roads, bridges, irrigation systems, markets, as well as drinking water and health care facilities.
Economic growth in the past two decades has been concentrated in western Indonesia, particularly Java and Sumatra, which contribute around 80 percent to the country's gross domestic product.
Indonesia has thwarted numerous separatists movement in the 73 years since it gained independence. Violent incidents, however, still occur in Papua, as some groups in the easternmost province continue to want sovereignty.
Jokowi said the government's efforts are aimed at restoring the trust of Indonesians in the regions that had felt left behind.
"Many still only see infrastructure only from the physical side. In truth, we are developing civilization, connections across cultures, and establishing infrastructure of a new culture," Jokowi said.