More roads, more dams, more power plants for Indonesia

Jokowi set to continue infrastructure push to drive economy in his second term as president

Around 964km of the Trans-Java highway has been completed as of April, helping Indonesians make smoother journeys as they returned to their hometowns for Hari Raya last week. PHOTO: AFP

The Trans-Java and Trans-Sumatra highways are expected to be completed during the second term of President Joko Widodo, shortening travelling times and opening up new job opportunities on Indonesia's two main islands.

Officials say that the roads are part of the President's buffet of upcoming projects, and just like in his first term, the President will firmly focus on infrastructure works, including more new seaports, airports, dams and power plants to keep the economy humming over the next five years.

The 1,150km Trans-Java toll highway will link Merak in the westernmost part of Java to Probolinggo and Banyuwangi in East Java by next year, said Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono.

A typical trip from Merak to Banyuwangi today takes some 20 hours, but it would be cut to around 15 hours with the highway.

Around 964km of the Trans-Java highway has been completed as of April, helping Indonesians make smoother journeys as they returned to their hometowns for Hari Raya last week.

With more than half of Indonesia's 260 million people living on Java island, the highway could create opportunities for many rural communities with an expected rise in land values, and encourage the business-minded to open roadside stalls, car repair shops and motels.

In neighbouring Sumatra, the island's first highway linking northern Aceh province and Lampung in the south will be 2,000km long. Some 300km of the Trans-Sumatra highway is ready.

Once completed, a typical trip between the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh and Bakauheni, a beach town in Lampung, will take less than a day, shaving off many hours from the time taken using normal roads.

"The President has given us a target to finish (the Trans-Sumatra toll roads) by 2024," Mr Basuki told The Sunday Times.

In his first five-year term from 2014, Mr Joko, a former furniture exporter, developed 3,432km of roads, 947km of toll roads, 10 new airports and 19 new seaports in South-east Asia's largest economy, according to data from the Office of the Presidential Staff.

Some 4,700 trillion rupiah (S$450 billion) was sunk into these projects, which included the country's first MRT line in Jakarta, and the first LRT line in Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province.

National development agency chief Bambang Brodjonegoro said in a recent interview with Bloomberg that there is a list of proposed projects worth 5,957 trillion rupiah for the 2020 to 2024 period, to be approved by the President, who will be sworn in for a second term this October.

Mr Basuki said other new toll roads will also be built to support emerging economic centres, such as one from Balikpapan to Bontang towns in East Kalimantan province.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said the high-speed rail line linking Jakarta to neighbouring Bandung is expected to be completed in 2021.

"The Jakarta-Bandung railway project is under way. Land acquisition is carried out little by little," he said.

The rail line will cut travel time to 40 minutes, from around three hours by road at present.

Another rail line project, which seeks to link the capital and Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya, is expected to kick off next year, Mr Budi said.

"The priority is to maximise projects that can drive the regional economy. The question is whether new economic centres or industrial hubs emerge after the infrastructure is set up," said Dr Muhammad Faisal, executive director of Centre of Reform on Economics Indonesia.

"For instance, can toll roads across Surabaya foster industrial estates and tourism in regencies passed by motorists?"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 09, 2019, with the headline More roads, more dams, more power plants for Indonesia. Subscribe