President Jokowi ‘serious’ about moving capital city, surveys Kalimantan’s Balikpapan and Palangkaraya

President Joko Widodo touching down in the East Kalimantan capital of Balikpapan on May 7, 2019. Photo:
President Joko Widodo touching down in the East Kalimantan capital of Balikpapan on May 7, 2019. Photo:

President Joko Widodo seems to already be taking concrete steps towards moving Indonesia’s capital city away from Jakarta by making official visits to survey two cities in Kalimantan today.

As reported in a press release by the Cabinet Secretary Office this morning, President Jokowi, along with several ministers, touched down in the East Kalimantan capital of Balikpapan and will head to the Central Kalimantan capital of Palangkaraya in the afternoon, where the president and his party will spend the night.

The release specifically states that the president’s visit to the two cities was to survey their suitabilities as alternative capital cities to Jakarta.

“We are serious about this because we have actually discussed this internally for the past three years. And then, 1.5 years ago we asked Bappenas (The National Development Planning Agency) to carry out more detailed surveys on economic, sociopolitical and environmental [suitabilities of possible capital cities],” Jokowi said in front of heads of government institutions at the State Palace in Jakarta yesterday.

Last week, Bappenas announced that President Jokowi has set into motion plans to relocate the country’s capital, with the president himself taking to social media to look for input from citizens as to where the capital should be.

The location of the new capital has not yet been determined, but Palangkaraya is often mentioned as the frontrunner whenever a discussion about where to move the capital city has come up in recent years.

The idea to relocate the capital was first proposed by the country’s founding father, President Soekarno, who suggested that the central government’s base of operations be moved to Palangkaraya in 1957. Sixty years later in 2017, Bappenas Head Bambang Brodjonegoro said that Jokowi’s administration was serious about starting to move the capital to Palangkaraya as soon as early 2018.

While that didn’t happen, seeing Jokowi actually dedicating his time to survey possible new locations for the capital city could very well mean Jakarta may relinquish the capital city title very soon — perhaps even some time in Jokowi’s second five-year term (provided he won last month’s election, which, by all accounts, he did).

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