Indonesia suspends infrastructure projects after string of accidents

A worker standing near a collapsed girder pole on the construction site of the Bekasi-Cawang toll overpass in Jakarta on Feb 20, 2018.
A worker standing near a collapsed girder pole on the construction site of the Bekasi-Cawang toll overpass in Jakarta on Feb 20, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS/ANTARA FOTO

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia suspended on Tuesday (Feb 20) the construction of elevated infrastructure projects, including rail and roads, after a series of accidents raised questions about the safety of a government drive to upgrade transport networks.

Minister of Public Works and Housing Basuki Hadimuljono, who is in charge of infrastructure construction, said the government would suspend all construction of elevated infrastructure.

"Design, equipments and standard operating procedures will be evaluated. Everything will be evaluated," he said, adding that President Joko Widodo had requested the action.

When Mr Joko came to power in 2014, he outlined a need for US$450 billion worth of investment in infrastructure by 2019 to help cut high logistics costs holding back South-east Asia's biggest economy.

Under the drive, a series of projects ranging from a subway in traffic-clogged Jakarta to seven new airports and thousands of kilometres of roads are being built, often by state-owned enterprises.

"We hope with such supervision, any negligence, errors in erecting such components that support the constructions are fully supervised one by one," Mr Joko said on Tuesday.

There have been 14 accidents in the past six months, Mr Basuki said.

In the latest, a girder collapsed at a toll-road construction site in Jakarta on Tuesday, injuring seven workers, media reported.

This month, a crane collapsed at an elevated railway project in another part of Jakarta, killing four people and injuring five.

Mr Arie Setiadi Moerwanto, a director-general at the ministry, said "a lot" of infrastructure would be suspended although he said it should not disrupt government infrastructure development targets.

He said the length of suspensions would depend on the result of evaluations, but it could range up to a month.

The opposition Gerindra party criticised Mr Joko's infrastructure push, likening it to forced-labour in colonial times.

"People's lives are not being respected because what is most important is that the project must be completed on time. If in colonial times, workers were slow, they were whipped. In today's era, slow workers are fired," Gerindra said on Twitter.

"Gerindra urges workers working on these projects to be careful so they don't become the next victims. And the public using these infrastructure projects should also be careful."