Indonesia looks to MBZ’s lobbying power for projects

Indonesia is moving ahead with its $33-billion mega project plan to relocate its capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan by establishing a steering committee of global figures. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Indonesia looks to MBZ’s lobbying power for projects

  • UK’s ex-PM Tony Blair and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son roped in, says Widodo

JAKARTA: Indonesia is moving ahead with its $33-billion mega project plan to relocate its capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan by establishing a steering committee of global figures, which includes Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who are expected to boost foreign investors’ trust and an interest to participate in constructing the new city from scratch.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the other two figures were former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and founder and chief executive of Japan’s SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, who would be working pro bono for their assistance.

“In my view, these figures have a good reputation in the international world, but we will still be the ones dealing with operational matters on the field,” Widodo said, according to a statement from the presidential palace.

He added that these figures were expected to build the trust of foreign investors which would eventually make it easier for Indonesia to forge deals and cooperation, as the government expects to finance only 19 percent of the cost, while the rest of the projects will be funded by private investments and public-private partnership schemes.

He said the three men were experienced in dealing with development projects, with the crown prince’s success in building Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, Son’s reputation in the technology and financial sectors, and Blair’s experience in governance.

But an economist at the Jakarta-based Institute for Development of Economics and Finance, Rizal Taufikurahman, questioned the urgency of appointing them specifically for the new capital construction project.

“If the main consideration is their lobbying power, why not appoint them for other development projects as a whole?” he told Arab News. “Besides, foreign investors’ confidence to invest depends more on things such as the ease of doing business, legal certainty, national security, and stability. We won’t solve our development problems just by relocating the capital.”

The government said the crown prince had agreed to the appointment.

According to the chief maritime affairs and investment minister, Luhut Pandjaitan, the crown prince said “it would be an honor to have a role in the development of the largest predominantly Muslim country.”


Widodo said these figures were expected to build the trust of foreign investors which would eventually make it easier for Indonesia to forge deals and cooperation.

Blair heads an institute that has governance as one of its key areas of work. It says it is focused on helping governments and leaders make their vision for development a reality. “We work in the center of government and key line ministries and our work is shaped by national priorities,” and lists African countries in the institute’s client roster.

“We are still drawing up their roles. The president will be in charge and they will provide him with advice,” Pandjaitan told journalists. “They will be the figures to promote (the new capital construction) but they will not act as brokers,” he added.

He said that the UAE and SoftBank had expressed an interest in investing in the as yet-unnamed new capital, about 1,300 kilometers away from Jakarta, with the latter offering to chip in $30 billion to $40 billion.

It was not clear whether the investors would pump their money into the projects directly or through the Indonesian sovereign wealth fund, which the UAE has committed to help in establishing and investing in, in addition to investment pledges from SoftBank and the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Pandjaitan said he expected to meet with SoftBank’s Son on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos and in Tokyo later this month to finalize the fund, while the bill that will oversee the funding is being drafted.

“We are preparing the (financing) structure and the president will announce the decision in February,” Pandjaitan said, adding that despite rolling out the red carpet for the private sector to construct the new city, the government would foot the bill for the construction of key government offices.

Widodo announced in August that the government planned to move the capital to a 180,000-hectare area between the districts of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara in East Kalimantan province, envisioning it as a smart, green city. 

Groundbreaking is slated to take place in early 2021 and the initial move will begin by the end of 2024 when the president’s second and final term ends.

Indian Muslims in riot-hit Delhi slam govt for inaction

Updated 27 February 2020

Indian Muslims in riot-hit Delhi slam govt for inaction

  • Indian PM Modi appeals for calm as death toll from violence rises to 27

NEW DELHI: Sadaqat has been trying to collect the body of his shooting-victim brother from a New Delhi hospital since Tuesday.

The 26-year-old, who arrived to work in the Indian capital a few weeks ago, said on Wednesday he was afraid to seek help from police who have been struggling to contain violence over a new citizenship law which has resulted in scores of deaths, mostly among Muslims.

“The hospital is refusing to hand over my brother’s dead body even after 24 hours,” he told Arab News. “No one is there to help me. I am scared to reach out to police also. I am so scared that I don’t want to go to my house for fear of violence. Yesterday, I took refuge at my relative’s house in another part of Delhi.”

Sadaqat claimed his younger brother, Mubarak, was returning to his rented house in the Maujpur area of northeast Delhi, when a Hindu mob shot him dead.

On Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for calm. According to media reports, violent clashes in the city have claimed 27 lives since Sunday evening, although the unofficial death toll has been put at more than three dozen. The neighborhoods of Maujpur, Mustafabad, Jaffrabad and Shiv Vihar are said to be in the grip of fear.

“I am planning to leave for Jaipur and stay there until the situation becomes normal. I have never seen this kind of violence in my life,” said 30-year-old garment seller Sharukh.

“My neighbor’s son was injured in the violence, but he is scared to go to the police and report it. He also doesn’t want to go to hospital. We have lost our trust,” he added.

Trouble started when a Hindu mob attacked Muslims protesting in Jaffrabad against the citizenship law that provides fast-track naturalization for some foreign-born religious minorities but not Muslims. As clashes spread, several mosques were damaged, and numerous shops and houses belonging to Muslims were burned down.

India has been rocked by violence since the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed in December last year. The legislation is seen by many as anti-Muslim and has raised concerns that when the Indian government goes ahead with its National Register of Citizens (NRC), many from the Muslim minority population will be rendered stateless.

Delhi-based social activist, Nadeem Khan, told Arab News: “There is a sense of helplessness among Muslims now. They don’t have the resources to fight the government. They were already at the receiving end of the CAA and NRC, and this violence further marginalizes the community in their own land.”

In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Modi said: “Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times.

“It is important that there is calm, and normalcy is restored at the earliest. Police and other agencies are working on the ground to ensure peace and normalcy.”

The premier’s statement came after the opposition Congress Party questioned the government’s silence on the violence in Delhi and demanded the resignation of Modi’s right-hand man, Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah.

During a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday, Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, said: “The central government, including the home minister, is responsible. The Congress party demands that he resigns immediately.”

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar responded to Gandhi’s statement by calling it “unfortunate and condemnable,” and blaming her for “politicizing the violence.”

He said: “At such times all parties should ensure that peace is maintained, blaming the government instead is dirty politics.”

Meanwhile, the High Court of Delhi on Wednesday called for legal action against those who incited violence and requested “the filing of cases of those who made hate speeches.”

Political analyst Prof. Apoorvanand, of the University of Delhi, told Arab News: “The BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party) hate campaign and the vilification of the Muslim protesters in the last few months has resulted in the violence.

“No one is willing to take Modi’s words for calm at face value. The violence was state-sponsored. The violence sent a message to Muslims that they are helpless, and the state cannot help you,” he added.