Indonesian Infrastructure in Politics
By Lucky Agung Pratama
Indonesians will go to the polls in April, bringing the contentious presidential campaign to an end, at least before the cycle repeats again in five years. During this race between incumbent president Joko Widodo and his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, both candidates have boasted about what they have achieved and what actions they would take in the future as president. Among many topics that have arisen, the improvement of infrastructure in Indonesia has played a key role.
Over the past five years, the government has spent roughly 188 trillion on projects to improve infrastructure in suburban areas. This has resulted in a total of 191,000 kilometers (equivalent to 118,000 miles) of roads that connect villages across in Indonesia, according to Jokowi.¹
There are also highway, airport, and sea port projects that have been completed during Jokowi’s tenure. The most recent achievements in Indonesian infrastructure improvement are the Light Rail and Mass Rapid Transit systems. Both transportation modes are the government’s answer to the ever increasing problem of traffic in Indonesia’s largest city. Both systems are planned to cover more area as time
This achievement is one of the many issues brought up by opposing candidates because the project started prior to Jokowi’s governance. “The president is only piggybacking on the success of his predecessor,” say many social media buzzers. There are also people, likely Prabowo’s supporters, questioning the validity of Jokowi’s statement regarding the 191,000 km of road projects completed during his presidency. ²
Is Jokowi’s claim true? According to data from Kementerian Desa, Pembangunan Daerah Tertinggal dan Transmigrasi (Indonesian Ministry of Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration), the numbers are correct. As of December 2018, a total of 191,600km of village roads had been built.
Data of village development over 4 years ³
Looking at the bigger picture, during his tenure, highway construction also underwent significant improvement since 2015. The accumulation of new highway almost quadrupled over the three years according to data gathered by a team at Katadata, an online media, data and research company based in Indonesia.
The government’s focus on infrastructure improvement makes sense. Indonesian infrastructure has been falling behind other Southeast Asian countries over the past years. In 2011, Indonesian infrastructure ranked 76, way behind other countries in Southeast Asia. 5
The rank moved up to 52nd in 2018. 6
Nevertheless, these achievements do not reflect the overall improvement in Indonesian infrastructure. A recent study demonstrated that most projects are focused on Java island. Based on just the value of the projects, it is clear that majority of government projects are centralized in Java, and more specifically Jakarta, as demonstrated by a chart below. If other areas do not receive equal improvement, it will just attract more problems for the city. Be it more gentrification, land acquisition issues, or even increased unemployment.
Nevertheless, it is still a long way to go for the country in providing equally adequate infrastructure for all of its citizens. An Indonesian photographer voiced his concern through a set of images that pokes fun of this situation. The professionally taken photos were taken in South Sumatra.