An overdue plan
The proposal emerged from President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) after his visit to the city of Palangkaraya. The idea was then forwarded to the national development planning committee for assessment. If approved, the project will start as soon as 2018.
Jokowi is not the first president to have expressed the idea. The country’s very first president, Soekarno, once said that Palangkaraya should be the capital city. He said that he wished Indonesia’s capital to be built from scratch by the independent nation; Jakarta was first established by the Dutch during the colonial era. However, nothing came of this idea.
In 2013, Indonesia’s sixth president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, devised a list of alternative capital cities, and Palangkaraya was again among the candidates.
But why move the capital?
The current capital, Jakarta, is also the center of business and government activities in Indonesia. Development in this vast country has always revolved around Jakarta, attracting more and more people to work, live, and establish their business in this city. That makes Jakarta the most developed but also the most painfully-crowded area of the country. Housing prices are out of control and traffic jams are the norm.
Despite the government’s many efforts to migrate some people away from the capital to other towns, provinces or islands, the population of Jakarta continues to grow. The intention behind the idea to move the capital is to move the center of development to another, otherwise forgotten area.
In terms of Indonesian business and tourism, Palangkaraya is a seldom heard name, even among Indonesians. However, Palangkaraya is located in the middle of the vast archipelago. That means it’s in a strategic location as the new center of development. Moving the capital to Palangkaraya will shift the burden of population density away from Jakarta and the island it’s situated on, Java.
Palangkaraya is also considered safe from natural disasters like earthquake or floods, making it an ideal place for the government to be located.
Palangkaraya is in the heart of Kalimantan (Borneo), the largest island in the Indonesian archipelago. It is also the capital of the Central Kalimantan Province. In 1957, Indonesia’s first president Soekarno initiated the city’s construction to prepare it to be the new capital of Indonesia, although that initiative was left unrealized.
The city is split in two by the great Kahayan River, and the two parts are connected by the Kahayan Bridge. Many economic and tourist activities revolve around the river.
Palangkaraya is inhabited by different ethnic groups, but the predominant group are the Dayak tribe, a people indigenous to Borneo. Other ethnic groups include the Banjar, Java, Madura, Sunda, Bali, and Batak people.