A motorcycle taxi driver from Merauke takes goods over the border to Papua New Guinea. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Jokowi Vows to Finish 4,000-km Trans-Papua Highway


MAY 11, 2015

Manokwari, West Papua. President Joko Widodo promised on Sunday to finish construction of the planned 3,985-kilometer-long Trans-Papua Highway, setting a new time frame for the project meant to boost development of the country's easternmost provinces.On a four-day trip to Papua and West Papua, the president said he wanted construction of the highway, which has been postponed due to various reasons since its start in 2013 under the administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to finish before 2019 — two years later than originally planned.

"The differences between the western, middle and eastern parts of Indonesia are still visible," the president said. "When the infrastructure is done, I'm sure the commodities prices in Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua will be more equal. The gap will no longer be as big as we see right now."

Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono confirmed that everything will be finished by 2019, when Joko's term ends.

"Some of the problems we're facing are about  land," the minister said. "We are now trying with local governors and mayors to solve problems with a 30-kilometer stretch of road between Manokwari and Kibar that we haven't touched for five years," he said, noting that the president himself would get involved.


The government also announced that it set aside more than Rp 4 trillion ($300 million) to build roads, bridges and homes in West Papua.

Ellen Tangkudung, a transportation expert from the University of Indonesia (UI), said the Trans-Papua Highway is indeed important for local development in West Papua and Papua.

"The problem in Papua is that developing infrastructure there is challenging  because it is a mountainous region," Ellen said. "But the region desperately needs connectivity to ease commodity price disparity."

Ellen said the government must focus on connecting ports and airports in Papua with roads because that remains the most efficient way to boost development in the region.