Greater Jakarta but failed local autonomy

Darmaningtyas, Jakarta | Sat, 02/05/2011 1:04 PM | http://www.thejakartapost.com/paper
The idea of expanding Greater Jakarta has been proposed as a way for Jakarta to solve its problems of flooding, traffic congestion, poverty and the general decrease in the city’s quality of life.
The concept manifests a concern that the infrastructure needed to create comfortable living conditions in the city is no longer sufficient. This is particularly valid when one looks at the growth of Jakarta’s population and the mobility of people who live around the city in Greater Jakarta, which is comprised of Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi. It is difficult to imagine a Jakarta that is free of traffic congestion, fires, poverty or annual floods.
Some alternative schemes have been offered as viable solutions to these problems.
The first scheme is to relocate the capital off of Java. Jakarta would become a commercial city only; government affairs would be conducted in the new capital. This might be a way to distribute resources to other areas.
The second scheme calls for the center of government to be relocated to an area near Jakarta, such as Jonggol, Sentul, Kerawang or Banten.
The third scheme calls for the capital to remain in Jakarta with significant reorganization, including expanding the city to include the Greater Jakarta area. People assume that by expanding Jakarta it will be relatively easier to organize resources, facilities and systems to solve the city’s problems .
At present, conditions in Jakarta are stagnant or even deteriorating. A proposed reorganization will not be successful if surrounding cities are not also reorganized and integrated with Jakarta.
However, reorganizing Jakarta’s surrounding areas is difficult. Those areas come under different authorities. By expanding Jakarta into Greater Jakarta it is expected that the reorganization would be easier since the entire region would fall under a single Greater Jakarta authority.
At a glance, this proposition is very logical. Yet, it will not solve the problem. It will not even change the configuration of the problem.
It will not change anything. Not one bit. Traffic congestion, floods, fires and poverty will continue to plague Jakarta. Expanding the city to include Greater Jakarta will not be automatically followed by the redistribution of communities or businesses that have always been centered in Jakarta.
What will happen is probably what happened after self-sustaining suburbs appeared. These suburbs were created to lessen the burdens on Jakarta, but their objective was not met. Their function was residential only; residents still maintained their jobs in Jakarta. Eventually, the existence of suburbs simply adds to traffic congestion in and around Jakarta.
The Greater Jakarta concept will not solve the problems of Jakarta if the population and the center of business are not relocated. This relocation, furthermore, will not come cheap and will require substantial investments.
The deterioration of Jakarta does not only reflect a failure of management, but also a failure in the decade-long regional autonomy experiment. It is still fresh in our memory that the implementation of local autonomy at the municipal level was aimed to facilitate administrative matters.
With more authority, it was expected that economic development at the local level would accelerate and eventually would slow the urbanization rate. People would not see a need to go to Jakarta for work because they would be able to find jobs in their own cities.
Unfortunately these expectations did not materialize. Had all administrative matters been resolved at the municipal level, new economic activities would have emerged.
These new productive economic activities would have consequently recruited young fresh graduates.
Local autonomy has failed to promote local development because economic activity has remained centered in Jakarta. Jakarta has remained the national center of money circulation.
Local autonomy has encouraged more locally generated money to be spent in Jakarta. Local administrations and officials were forced to go to Jakarta to lobby decisionmakers for more development funds, which went to high ranking officials, legislators, restaurants, hotels and travel agency owners — at the expense of the people.
Hence, local autonomy did occur in the regions from a political but not economic perspective. I also consider this an anomaly. Usually the circulation of money follows the circulation of politics.
What has happened in Indonesia is the contrary. Political autonomy has not been followed by economic improvement reflected in improved welfare. What has been decentralized is merely the corrupt mentality. This is why Jakarta cannot free itself from its problems
To make matters worse, the money from corruption was spent on shopping malls or invested in apartments or houses. The implementation of local autonomy made Jakarta’s problems more complicated.
In my opinion, the capital does not need to be relocated to solve Jakarta’s constant headaches. What is much more important is to evaluate the implementation of local autonomy.
Regional autonomy must improve public welfare in the regions so that the people do not need to migrate to Jakarta and local officials do not waste money in Jakarta.
Efforts to link solutions to Jakarta’s problems with regional autonomy are not new, but have never materialized. Proposed solutions have always involved high costs, such as would be incurred by relocating the capital city, which will cost hundreds of trillions of rupiah. Policymakers have failed to propose softer and more efficient solutions to the problems.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono does not need to set a 2014 deadline for a decision on the relocation of the capital. Instead he should set a target for regional autonomy to improve regional welfare to reduce Jakarta’s growth before 2014.
Greater Jakarta will create new and more complex problems in the future if the welfare of the communities in other regions does not improve.
Therefore if Jakarta is expanded, it will attract new residents from other regions.
The concept of Greater Jakarta needs to be reviewed carefully. It is more appropriate to assess the performance of local autonomy that might development of the nation, rather than relocating or expanding Jakarta, which might exacerbate existing problems.

The writer works for the Institute for Transportation Studies
(Instrans).

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