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Migrating capitals

International | Indonesia joins several other nations in moving their seats of government to new cities
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 9/03/19, 04:06 pm

The Indonesian government last week said it will build a new capital city from the ground up to alleviate pollution, traffic, and environmental hazards in its current capital, Jakarta.

The move, set to begin by 2024, could cost Indonesia about $33 billion. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, said the move is necessary because “the burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the center of governance, business, finance, trade, and services.” That’s true figuratively and literally: The area where Jakarta sits is prone to flooding and earthquakes, and the land is sinking by as much as 11 inches per year.

Where is the capital moving?

The nation’s administrative functions will relocate to the East Kalimantan province of Borneo, an island shared by Indonesia and Malaysia. The forested island sits about 1,250 miles northeast of Jakarta and is less susceptible to natural disasters.

“The location is very strategic—it’s in the center of Indonesia and close to urban areas,” Widodo said. The state will fund 19 percent of the move and collect the rest of the money from private investment and public-private partnerships. Officials expect the “smart city in the forest” to hold government offices and accommodations for about 1.5 million civil servants.

Ten million people live in Jakarta, and another 20 million reside in its greater metropolitan area. The densely populated city struggles to cope with traffic congestion and lack of infrastructure. Indonesian National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro told Reuters only 60 percent of the city has access to water utilities. The shortage has forced millions of residents and businesses to dig wells. “Jakarta is not doing fine at all,” he said. “The water condition is a cause for concern, wastewater, air pollution.”

The Indonesian government also plans to improve conditions in Jakarta. Brodjonegoro said officials will spend about $40 billion in renovating the city over the next 10 years.

Has any other country done this before?

Several other nations have made similar moves in modern history. In 1960, Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia. The government designed the new capital to minimize traffic congestion and spur development in the country’s interior.

In 1991, Nigeria moved its capital from Lagos to Abuja, which is geographically centered and politically neutral.

Egypt is building a yet-to-be-named capital city to replace overcrowded Cairo, where more than 20 million people live. Egyptian officials boasted the city would have a smart traffic system and sensors to report smoke or fires to emergency services. But the $58 billion project faces financial hurdles after losing key investors.

Can Indonesia pull off the move?

The country has long dabbled with the idea of relocating its capital without plans coming to fruition, and analysts worry this time won’t be any different.

“Big projects in Indonesia generally develop in one of two ways: as a boondoggle that attracts corruption but eventually gets done or as a ‘clean’ project that never gets done,” Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, explained to Foreign Policy. “The challenge for Jokowi is to ensure it doesn’t turn into a boondoggle, but … he’ll have trouble attracting support if patronage networks don’t see themselves benefiting from the project.”

Some environmentalists also warn the move could cause more harm than good if not executed properly. “New roads cutting through forest areas break the continuity of the forest cover, and typically more slash-and-burn deforestation happens in their vicinity,” Petr Matous, a lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering, told Bloomberg.

Facebook/Hkalam Samson Facebook/Hkalam Samson Hkalam Samson

Myanmar military officer sues pastor

Myanmar Lt. Col. Than Htike filed a defamation suit last week against Hkalam Samson over comments the ethnic Kachin pastor made to U.S. President Donald Trump. Samson, leader of the Kachin Baptist Convention, met with Trump at the White House during a religious freedom event on July 17. A day earlier, the United States announced sanctions against several Myanmar military leaders for human rights violations, including killings of Rohingya Muslims. International Christian Concern said Samson expressed support for the sanctions and told the president about the lack of religious freedom in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

“I spoke about what was really happening in our country, and I think what I said about the U.S. sanctions decision made them angry,” Samson told Frontier Myanmar after learning of the lawsuit.

Radio Free Asia reported the military officer filed the suit because Samson’s remarks appeared in an ABC World News Now video on Facebook. A court will decide by Monday whether the case will proceed. —Julia A. Seymour

Getty Images/Photo by Brendan Hoffman Getty Images/Photo by Brendan Hoffman A measles patient at the Oleksandryvskyi Medical Clinic in Kiev, Ukraine, in May

Europe battles measles epidemic

Europe is seeing a dramatic resurgence of measles, with the number of cases doubling in the first six months of 2019. The World Health Organization noted last week the virus sickened nearly 90,000 people between January and June, higher than the total number of cases last year.

Most of the outbreak occurred in Ukraine, where there were about 84,000 patients, along with Kazakhstan and Georgia. Four countries, including Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece, and the United Kingdom, lost their status of having eliminated the disease.

Measles is a highly infectious disease spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close personal contact. Two doses of a vaccine can prevent it. Many European countries implemented vaccination policies, but experts said the increased number of people refusing the vaccine triggered the epidemic.

“If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily, and some will tragically die,” said Guenter Pfaff, chairman of a WHO expert committee on measles in Europe. —O.O.

iStock/Rainer Puster iStock/Rainer Puster An Iranian flag flies behind a statue of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran.

Iran jails another British dual citizen

Iran last week sentenced another person with dual citizenship with Britain to 12 years in prison, charging him with spying.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili confirmed Anousheh Ashouri received 10 years for sending information to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and two additional years for receiving $36,600 from the country. The British Foreign Office confirmed it knew of the case and was working with Ashouri’s family.

Iran doesn’t recognize dual citizenship and has a long record of detaining those who hold the status. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has remained in detention since April 2016 after authorities arrested her while she was visiting relatives with her daughter Gabriella. Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces accusations of plotting against the Iranian government.

Last week, an Iranian appeals court upheld the 10-year sentence against Aras Amiri, an Iranian national who worked at the British Council. Amiri lived in London but was detained in 2018 when she visited relatives in Iran. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Dita Alangkara Associated Press/Photo by Dita Alangkara A Papuan activist during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Aug. 22

Indonesian authorities crack down on Papua unrest

Authorities in Indonesia’s Papua region on Monday banned demonstrations after two weeks of violent protests against racism and in support of independence.

Police detained at least 30 people, blocked internet access, and deployed an additional 6,000 troops to the region. Authorities issued a public notice barring the spread of false news reports and the carrying of sharp weapons.

The unrest began after officials used a racial slur and tear gas while detaining some Papuan students earlier this month for desecrating a national flag in the city of Surabaya on the main island of Java. Indonesia incorporated the Papua and West Papua provinces after a United Nations–backed referendum in 1969. Low-level insurgency and calls for secession still exist in the impoverished region of Papua.

Last week, demonstrators threw stones and set fire to shops and cars in the provincial capital of Jayapura. Protesters said at least six people died and more than a dozen others sustained injuries after police officers opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in the city of Deiyai. —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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  • momof 13
    Posted: Fri, 09/06/2019 01:21 pm

    I do find it interesting that despite the claims of impending death unless we vaccinate- even though this year we've seen major outbreaks- not one death has been reported, in the US, to my knowledge.