Jakarta to tap S’pore expertise in town planning

Foreign investors will be roped in for big projects across Indonesia.

INDONESIA will be looking to draw on Singapore’s expertise in town planning when it undertakes a massive five-year programme to rebuild areas in Aceh devastated by the recent tsunami, said Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

He also said that the responses of Singapore and other nations to his country’s plight would help boost future relations.

He told The Straits Times in an interview that Indonesian officials were now drawing up a blueprint for Aceh, where the capital Banda Aceh and other coastal towns would be moved inland by 2km to 3km.

‘Aceh has suffered so much,’ said Mr Jusuf, who heads the national coordinating council for the disaster. ‘More than 100,000 have died. More than a million are poor and jobless – we have to rebuild everything from scratch.

‘The big challenge is to build a new capital. This involves replanning. In fact, all the big cities need replanning – Meulaboh, Calang. All these are coastal towns.

‘If we rebuild, we have to take into account the possibility that the tsunami could strike again in 20 years or 50 years.’

The blueprint for reconstruction is currently being drawn up by a team of experts from the government and Indonesian universities with the advice of international agencies such as the World Bank and the United Nations.

But Mr Jusuf noted that Jakarta would also need to tap Singapore’s expertise in town planning. ‘Singapore is an island state. We need to draw on their experience in building coastal towns.’

Mr Tanri Abeng, a senior economic adviser to the government, said the government preferred to use Asean cities as a model for the development of new towns in Aceh, given the cultural similarities.

‘We share a lot in common with Singapore, Malaysia and even Thailand,’ he said. ‘Singapore is, of course, the closest model because it is surrounded by water. We will want to incorporate elements of its layout in the cities we will build in Aceh.’

Smaller projects would be given to local contractors to generate jobs. But big infrastructural projects would go to foreign investors – not just in Aceh but also other regions across the sprawling archipelago.

Jakarta has indicated that it would need around US$145 billion (S$240 billion) in fresh investment for the development of several infrastructural facilities in the country.

On top of this, US$2 billion to US$3 billion in foreign aid will be required for roads, bridges, seaports, telecommunications, and power and electricity. The government would set aside US$1 billion for Aceh.

Mr Tanri said he expected Australian, US, Chinese and European firms to bid for these projects in Aceh. ‘We are open to foreign participation in a big way.’

Mr Jusuf said reconstruction would start this June as part of a three-phase effort to rebuild the province.

He said help offered by countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and the United States would likely influence future ties.

Singapore, he said, was a key player in initiating the Asean summit on the disaster in Jakarta this month.

‘Singapore was one of the first countries to enter Aceh. The SAF was very helpful and very generous in aid. They were very effective.’

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