Indonesia Passes Law Approving the Relocation of Its Capital to Borneo

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Indonesia’s new capital will be called ‘Nusantara’ — a Javanese name for the Indonesian archipelago chosen by President Joko Widodo.

Indonesia’s parliament has approved a bill to relocate the nation’s capital from Jakarta to a jungled area of Kalimantan in Borneo island. The country’s planning minister announced today that the new state capital law, which provides a legal framework for President Joko Widodo’s ambitious US$32 billion mega-project, will stipulate how development of the capital will be funded and governed.

“The new capital has a central function and is a symbol of the identity of the nation, as well as a new centre of economic gravity,” said planning minister, Suharso Monoarfa, at parliament today.

File photo shows Indonesia Presidents Joko Widodo walking next to a national flag during his visit at a military base in Natuna January 8, 2020. Indonesia’s parliament has approved a bill to relocate the nation’s capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan on Borneo. — Indonesian Presidential Palace handout via Reuters
President Joko Widodo at a military base in Natuna | Image Credit: Reuters / Malay Mail

Monoarfa also announced that President Joko Widodo’s chosen name for the new capital will be ‘Nusantara,’ a Javanese name for the Indonesian archipelago.

The bustling megacity of Jakarta that holds at least 10 million people (though balloons to far higher numbers with the daily influx of workers) has been facing severe environmental problems due to the chronic congestion from unsustainable urban planning that also caused floods and thick air pollution. Many presidents before Widodo have floated the idea of moving the the capital, but none have succeeded until now.

Widodo pushed for relocation back in 2019 when it was longer a secret that Jakarta was under threat of actually sinking due to the effects of climate change and an increasing urban population.

“As a large nation that has been independent for 74 years, Indonesia has never chosen its own capital,” Widodo said in a televised speech. “The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the center of governance, business, finance, trade and services.”

Jakarta foots US$5b annual bill for traffic jams: Minister - Business - The  Jakarta Post
Jakarta’s infamous traffic jams go on for kilometres| Image Credit: The Jakarta Post

Reuters reported that as Southeast Asia’s largest economy, plans for the new capital envision a low-carbon “super hub” that will support pharmaceutical, health and technology sectors and promote sustainable growth beyond Java island.

However, critics have discredited the new law saying that the bill was rushed through without extensive public consultation and environmental consideration.

Following countries like Brazil and more recently, Myanmar, Indonesia’s decision to create a new capital will be under the chief authority who is also hold the deputy chair of the bill’s special committee. Among those being considered for the position, according to local media reports, are former research and technology minister, Bambang Brodjonegoro, and Jakarta’s former governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as or Ahok.

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