Indonesia’s leader pledges capital move, economic boost

by AFP/ pic by AFP

JAKARTA – Indonesian leader Joko Widodo (picture) said Friday he would press on with plans to move the nation’s capital and roll out measures to kickstart Southeast Asia’s biggest economy as it feels the sting of slowing global growth.

In a sweeping state-of-the-nation address, Widodo asked parliament to sign off on a plan to move the capital to Borneo, shifting Indonesia’s political heart from traffic-clogged megacity Jakarta – one of the fastest-sinking cities on the planet.

“I’m asking for your permission to relocate our capital to the island of Kalimantan,” Widodo told lawmakers, referring to Indonesia’s portion of Borneo.

“A capital is not only a symbol of a nation’s identity, it also represents its progress,” he added.

Widodo did not reveal a specific location for the country’s new capital or new details about when the move could happen.

Speaking a day before the 74th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence, the recently re-elected leader said his second term would focus on cutting red tape and luring more foreign investment.

He pledged to boost lagging productivity, turn Indonesia into an electric-vehicle hub and focus on improving worker skills in the sprawling country of some 260 million people.

“We have to be faster and better than our neighbours,” he said.

“We’re facing a tumultuous global economy and geopolitical change.”

Indonesia’s president is expected to unveil next year’s budget later Friday.

Widodo struggled to lift growth in his first term despite a huge roads-to-railways infrastructure building blitz.

The economy has been expanding around five percent annually, but that is well short of the seven percent Widodo had pledged in his first term.

This week, it posted its slowest rate of quarterly growth in two years.

Resource-rich Indonesia is grappling with weaker prices for commodities like coal and palm oil, as the global economy falters on the back of US President Donald Trump’s intensifying trade war with China.