SINKING INDONESIA’S PLANNING MINISTER ANNOUNCES

Bambang Brodjonegoro said President Joko Widodo had chosen to relocate the capital in “an important decision”.The new location is not yet known. However state media reports one of the front runners is Palangkaraya, on the island of Borneo.Jakarta, home to over 10 million people, is sinking at one of the fastest rates in the world.

The announcement comes after Mr Widodo declared victory in the country’s general election earlier this month, though official results will not be announced until May 22.The idea of moving the capital has been floated several times since the country gained independence from the Dutch in 1945.

In 2016, a survey found that the mega-city had the world’s worst traffic congestion. Government ministers have to be escorted by police convoys to get to meetings on time.The planning minister says snarl-ups in Jakarta costs the economy 100 trillion rupiah ($6.8bn, £5.4bn) a year.

There has also been a huge programme to decentralise government for the last two decades in a bid to give greater political power and financial resources to municipalities.Researchers say that large parts of the megacity could be entirely submerged by 2050. North Jakarta sunk 2.5m (eight feet) in 10 years and is continuing to sink an average of 1-15cm a year.

Half of Jakarta is below sea level. One of the main causes of this is the extraction of groundwater which is used as drinking water and for bathing.Indonesians are sceptical about their capital ever moving. They have heard this before and none of Indonesia’s six presidents have been able to pull it off.But President Joko Widodo has achieved ambitious infrastructure building in his five years in office, so he may well be the man that finally does it.

Indonesia is an incredibly diverse nation made up of hundreds of ethnic groups living on thousands of islands. But economic development, national cultural identity and political power have always been dominated by the Javanese.Indonesians have never elected a non-Javanese president and most of Indonesia’s wealth is concentrated in Jakarta.Indonesians living outside Java, particularly in the east, have long complained about being forgotten and neglected by the country’s leaders sitting in the sprawling capital.

Moving the capital out of Java would send a powerful political message that this is changing, if it happens.