In April, 2019, Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s planning minister, announced President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s plans to move the capital of Indonesia out of Jakarta. A new capital has not yet been announced, though Palangkaraya has been mentioned as a possible candidate. What we do know is that President Widodo is seeking to not only move the capital out of Jakarta, but off the island of Java as well.
Why Move out of Jakarta?
At face value, Jakarta might seem like a fitting capital for Indonesia. It is a large economic, political, and cultural center, and it is located on Java, the world’s most populous island. With a population of over 10 million people, Jakarta is sometimes nicknamed the “Big Durian”, seen by some as the Indonesian equivalent to New York (the “Big Apple”).
But as a result of Jakarta’s extremely rapid growth (outpacing Kuala Lumpur and Beijing), the city suffers from overpopulation and an inequitable distribution of development across Indonesia. Part of President Widodo’s decision is motivated by this, as he seeks to speed up eastern Indonesia’s development.
On the logistics side, Jakarta’s size faces many issues as well. The city is among the worst for traffic worldwide. It’s been estimated that traffic jams alone cost the city upwards of 6.8 billion USD per year.
And that’s not all; Jakarta has also been sinking for years. So much so that it could end up entirely underwater in the foreseeable future.
Jakarta is located on swampy coast land, and is criss-crossed by 13 rivers. Climate change, which has led to rises in the Java Sea, coupled with the extraction of groundwater, which is used for drinking and bathing, has contributed to the city’s rapid sinking. It’s been estimated Jakarta sinks up to 17 cm (6.7 inches) per year. Some researchers suggest large parts of the city could be entirely submerged by 2050. As it stands, almost 40% of Jakarta lies below sea level.
Why Move out of Java?
President Widodo has expressed his desire to move the capital city not just out of Jakarta, but off the island of Java as well.
By moving out of Java, the president would be sending a powerful political message. Eastern Indonesia has often felt neglected by past administrations. Despite being an incredibly diverse country, national identity and political power has historically been dominated by those from Java. Indonesia has never had a non-Javanese president, and it is where most of the country’s wealth is located.
Moving the capital of Indonesia to a city like Palangkaraya, which is located on Borneo, would send the people a different message. It’s President Widodo’s way of communicating a dedication to the rest of Indonesia. This comes at a time where he has also expressed interest in developing eastern Indonesia, and not just Java.
The Capital of Indonesia
While there are still many logistical considerations to work out, President Widodo’s administration is going forward with this plan to move the capital out of Jakarta. While Jakarta will likely remain Indonesia’s economic center, the country’s political branches will all be centralized in the new capital, wherever that might be.
According to Bambang Brodjonegoro, this process will likely take upwards of 10 years.
Sporcle will continue to monitor this story and will update this article as new information comes to light.