Editorial Notes

Put MRT above politics: Jakarta Post

Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the first-phase launching of the MRT system at Istora station in Jakarta on March 24, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The launch of the country's maiden MRT system in Jakarta has regrettably descended into political bickering, with the elections right around the corner, between allies turned-rivals President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, particularly on the issue of fares.

Their supporters also jumped into the ring, with Jakarta Council speaker Prasetio Edi Marsudi from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Gerindra Party politician M. Taufik each proposing low fares.

They eventually reached a compromise, setting the fares between Rp 3,000 (S$0.29) and Rp 14,000, depending on the distance of the trip.

Jokowi, who is seeking reelection, has also claimed credit for the MRT, saying the modern transportation mode would not be here without him as Jakarta governor and his then-deputy, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Delivering a counter punch, Anies sent a love letter to thank all MRT Jakarta employees for their hard work.

Political analysts agree that Jokowi took advantage of the MRT to bolster his electability, while Anies' responses were a much-needed investment as he sets his sights on the 2024 presidential race and a second gubernatorial term in 2022.

The unnecessary politicisation of the MRT only shows the shortsightedness of our elite, while in fact the mega-project is a long-term investment with the aim of serving the public well and solving mobility problems facing metropolitans.

Jakarta still has a long way to go to build an MRT system that rival those of big cities in other parts of the world like Singapore, Tokyo, New York or even New Delhi.

Jakarta still has to raise a lot of money to finance the second phase of the MRT's north-south lane and east-west route.

It will take the effort of several presidents, governors, MRT Jakarta directors and thousands of workers to complete the dream MRT system.

And don't forget the subsidy that millions of taxpayers have to bear and the land many residents have to give up to realise the MRT.

The first phase, a 15.7km route connecting Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta and Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, cost Indonesia Rp 16 trillion.

The second phase, which will expand the existing route to Kampung Bandan in North Jakarta, is estimated to cost an even higher Rp 22.5 trillion, because it will have more underground stations along its 8.3km route.

MRT Jakarta has targeted to complete the second phase in 2024, 12 years after its groundbreaking during the term of Fauzi Bowo.

It may also take about the same time to build the east-west route connecting Cikarang in Bekasi and Balaraja in Tangerang, but just recently Jokowi said he wanted the project to go in parallel with the second part of the south-north lane's construction.

Indeed sacrifice is a must for Jakartans if they want to brag about a sophisticated, iconic public transit system that will solve their long-standing traffic malady.

A lot more work will have to be done and for this reason everybody, especially politicians, has to put the MRT beyond politics.

The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.

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