National

Japan offers Indonesia help with building its new forest capital

by Christine T. Tjandraningsih

Kyodo

Japan has offered to assist Indonesia in accomplishing its ambitious plan of relocating the national capital to the forests of Borneo.

The offer was made during a closed-door meeting between Hiroto Izumi, special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on Tuesday evening, a source with knowledge of the meeting said Wednesday.

Along with some Japanese businessmen, Izumi is on a three-day visit to Indonesia from Tuesday as part of a delegation led by former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

In August, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo decided to move the capital away from congested Jakarta, on Java Island, to a location in East Province, in eastern Borneo, suggesting it could happen within five years.

The new capital will be between Samarinda, the province’s capital, and Balikpapan, its largest city, located some 90 kilometers to the south. Both are situated near the east coast of the world’s third-largest island, over 1,200 km away from Jakarta.

According to the source, although Izumi thought that Indonesia’s timeline to move its capital is “too fast,” Japan is ready to contribute assistance if Indonesia asks for it.

The source quoted Izumi as saying that Japan has experience in “building a very big new artificial town,” referring to Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, a city located about 60 km northeast of Tokyo.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Izumi also told Pandjaitan that to move the capital, “it is important to design a human-centered city.” He particularly stressed that giving priority to infrastructure development without listening to the voice of the people who will be living in the new capital “would not be good.”

Michiaki Hirose, chairman of Tokyo Gas Co., who also attended the meeting with Pandjaitan, expressed his company’s wish to contribute to the development of the new capital, saying Japan is experienced in building an efficient, disaster-proof energy system, according to the source.

Jokowi has said implementing the plan may cost around 466 trillion rupiah (¥3.6 trillion; about $33 billion), to be financed partly by the state budget, using a partnership scheme between the government and private sector and by direct investment.

During the meeting, Pandjaitan also asked the Japanese businessman in the delegation to invest more in Indonesia right across the country.

China has been “aggressively” investing in Indonesia, “but we don’t want to cooperate only with China because Japan is our older brother,” the minister was quoted as saying.

After the delegation paid a courtesy call on Jokowi on Wednesday, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto told a news conference that there are 17 national projects that Japan is involved with.

Among those are the medium-speed railway project connecting Jakarta and Surabaya, and flood mitigation efforts.