Idea of unhitching country’s administrative centre from its megacity has a long history – but experts are sceptical

 “The timing of the announcement looks a little fishy. It looks like an attempt by the president to reassert his authority after the election and amid this ongoing contestation by the Prabowo camp.”


Not only is the megacity of Jakarta besieged by a confluence of modern ills – including pollution, overpopulation and soul-destroying traffic – it is also one of the fastest-sinking capitals in the world.

So when Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, this week suggested making somewhere else the capital, it did not come as a shock. Indeed, the idea of relocating the country’s administrative centre is almost as old as the republic itself – it was floated by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, in 1957 and has been brought up again by several presidents since. ... [yet] hardly anyone in Jakarta is convinced Jokowi’s plan is serious. “People have heard this before but it is just getting more frequent now, it’s now every two to five years,” said Elisa Sutanudjaja, director of the Rujak Centre for Urban Studies, with a laugh. “It’s just really distracting.”


After reading a document released by the planning ministry, Sangkoyo said the move was more about creating business opportunities for Indonesia’s oligarchy than building a more functional capital.

“There is no change in the spatial planning, there is no change in the doctrine,” he said. “It’s basically the same, and the worst kind of developmentalism. If they really want to do it, they should hold a referendum.”

Ben Bland, director of the Southeast Asia project at the Lowy Institute in Australia, said the scepticism that greeted the president’s suggestion had been accentuated by its peculiar timing. The announcement came just weeks after a presidential election in which both candidates, the incumbent and his rival, Prabowo Subianto, have rather awkwardly1claimed victory.