Japan offers to help Indonesia move its capital to Borneo

Japan has offered to help Indonesia to build an administrative capital in Borneo. The offer was made during a meeting between Hiroto Izumi, a special adviser to Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, and Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime and investment affairs on 19 November, the Kyodo news agency reports.

The new capital is to be located in a forested area between Samarinda, the capital of East Kalimantan province, and the port of Balikpapan, its largest city. The cost of the move has been put at about $48bn.

According to the source, Izumi told Pandjaitan that the Indonesian plan to make the move within the next five years was too ambitious, but that Japan was ready to assist with it. He added that Japan had experience in "building a very big new artificial town", a reference to the building of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 60km northeast of Tokyo.

Izumi also told Pandjaitan that it was important that the capital be human-centered city, and should be designed with the wishes of its inhabitants in mind.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo said recently that his aim was that the new city would be bigger than Dubai, and the cleanest and most innovative city in the world.

Michiaki Hirose, chairman of Tokyo Gas, who also attended the meeting with Pandjaitan, expressed his company’s wish to contribute to the development of the new capital, saying Japan is experienced in building an efficient, disaster-proof energy system.

President Widodo has said the cost of the new city would be met by a mix of public and private finance.

In past years, Japan has been locked in a battle with China over investment in Indonesian megaprojects, most notably a struggle over which of them would build a $6bn, 150km high-speed rail line from Jakarta to Bandung on the island of Java, which China won because it offered better financial terms.

Pandjaitan told Izumi at the meeting that Indonesia did not want to cooperate only with China "because Japan is our older brother".

Japan is presently involved with 17 national projects, including a medium-speed railway between Jakarta and Surabaya.

Image: The movers: Jakarta’s Japanese community celebrating the Ennichisai festival (Seika/CC BY 2.0)

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