Indonesia/Abu Dhabi (14/1). President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has asked Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed to join the steering committee of Indonesia’s planned new capital city.
The President made the request at a bilateral meeting during his working trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday night.
“[The crown prince’s] position has not been determined yet, but he will act as part of the steering committee along with a number of other names,” Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who accompanied Jokowi on the trip, said on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.
“The President emphasized that in the construction of the new capital, the construction of government building and facilities would be funded entirely by the state budget, while other construction will be funded by private sector funds and investment,” he continued.
Previously, Luhut had said that the UAE government had prepared US$22.8 billion to invest in Indonesia through a sovereign wealth fund together with Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and the United States International Development Finance Corporation.
“During the tete-a-tete the President talked about the sovereign wealth fund and the crown prince repeatedly said that Indonesia is a close friend [of the UAE] and that Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population [in the world],” Luhut said on Sunday as quoted by the official Cabinet secretary website. “So, [the UAE] wants to contribute to Indonesia.”
He said that the UAE would also invest in the construction of the new capital city in Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, through the sovereign wealth fund.
Luhut added that the crown prince expressed an interest in investing in development in Aceh.
“They really want to [invest] in property in Aceh. So next week we will speak with the Aceh governor and other officials there because there are several requirements for [the UAE] to [invest],” he said.
Jokowi first announced the location of the new capital in August, and then-national development planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the relocation would be complete by 2024, at an estimated cost of Rp 466 trillion ($32.7 billion).
The euphoria over Jokowi has long waned. Many long time Indonesian insiders are suspect of his mega plans for the new capital. Whereas physically the building of a city has been proven. After all it is brick and concrete but the Indonesian landscape is not without challenges for anyone who invests in high risk countries.
The land ownership and parties involved in the project are not fully understand. The sinking land narrative used in the argument for moving the capital Jakarta is an old environmentalist tale of fiction now in the employ of the presidents justification to move the capital. The screaming and hollering from the greenies effectively is responsible for large sways of jungle going to make way to the presidential aspiration.
In good orderly fashion if you cannot fix the problem in Jakarta move the problem and leave the mess to sort out for someone else. ‘To make a new world, a greener and ‘happier’ place sounds the like another El Dorado of the promised land with an uncertain outcome’, said an long term resident.
Many Indonesians feel if the administration cannot manage the existing problem in the capital it is questionable if this exercise of better, further capital move fares any better.
Complex land issues, land ownership of the conglomerates, infrastructure in a country which has notorious shortages of the national power supply and flooding, powerful interests of the conglomerates and political allies of the president are reported by the domestic Indonesian press. Overlooked are the cultural disconnect between the new capital and the old and the potential for weakening national unity.
The arguments by the administration that the move from Jakarta and to Kalimantan is like Washington and the financial center New York is flawed. The historical, cultural and commerce were links developed over decades.
They are disconnected but reachable with ease. The move by the Indonesians is comparable to moving Washington, D.C. to Hawaii.
Although many argue, Hawaii has better beaches than Washington, D.C. the disconnect and authority by the administration will increase proportionally to the distance. The argument was made that Jakarta will be the economic and financial center and Kalimantan a purist political capital is somewhat another bizarre experiment of the Jokowi administration.
‘We’ll see’, said a diplomat in Jakarta, ‘like everything else in Indonesia the anti-colonial narrative to break free from the history the president is on a populist trip to cast his name in the annals of Indonesia and leave a legacy behind. What this legacy will be is to be seen.’