Asia Minute: Shopping for a New Indonesian Capital

May 8, 2019

Jakarta | 2014
Credit The Diary of a Hotel Addict / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr

The president of Indonesia is on a shopping trip this week. He recently won re-election to a second term, and at the top of his wish list is a new capital.

This week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo is looking at several candidates for his country’s new capital city. Today he’s on one of the largest islands in the world — Borneo.

Once famous in certain quarters for headhunters and jungle intrigue, Borneo is now shared among three countries. Indonesia makes up about three quarters of it, and the rest is comprised of two Malaysian provinces and Brunei.

There are a couple of possible capital locations on Borneo, including one in central Kalimantan province — well away from coastal waters and far from any volcanoes or other potential natural threats.

Environmental vulnerability is a big reason the Indonesian government is looking beyond the current capital of Jakarta.

With a rich history stretching back thousands of years, Jakarta was at various times the center of a Hindu Kingdom, a Muslim sultanate, and for hundreds of years, the Dutch colonial outpost known as Batavia.

But these days Jakarta is overcrowded, polluted, and it floods. Plus, it’s sinking as much as six inches a year according to the government.

Last week, Indonesia’s government announced it would be moving the capital. 

The government’s planning minister says even after a location is picked, the move could take a decade to complete at a cost of some 33 billion U.S. dollars.