News Analysis: Indonesia, China have matched interests in connectivity initiatives

By Abu Hanifah–

JAKARTA, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) — The Indonesian government’s idea to boost the nation’s maritime connectivity is likely to match with China’s proposal to link economies through the “Belt and Road” initiative.

“The cooperation to align Indonesia and China’s connectivity programs were strongly possible. We can align the interests,” Dradjat Wibowo, an expert at Institute of Development and Economics and Finance (INDEF), told Xinhua on Friday.

Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is considered to have potential in further economic cooperation with China. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative was firstly introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speech in Indonesian parliament building during his visit to Jakarta in October, 2013.

Dradjat said that alignment of China’s Belt and Road initiative and Indonesia’s maritime connectivity vision would be very beneficial to each other.

He said that the alignment would give Indonesia a new export channel, as the two countries have set target to see 150 billion U.S. dollars of bilateral trade value by 2020.

“It would be best if the alignment is implemented in the expansion of the ship industry which is direly needed in Indonesia,” the expert said.

He pointed out that Indonesia has several competitive edges to make itself a complementary growth center to China.

“Indonesia has a huge market and resources at the same time, talented workforces who potentially make Indonesia as center of innovation. Besides that, as a tropical country, Indonesia can provide further cooperation in biotechnology researches,” Dradjat said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo was determined to advance the nation’s maritime connectivity through his so-called Sea Toll Road program in a bid to overcome high economy disparity problem in the nation.

The Sea Toll Road was also expected to reduce the high logistic cost that has been burdening investors in Indonesia.

Besides the maritime connectivity program, the president is also determined to transform the nation into the Global Maritime Axis given its geographical position which is located between two continents and two oceans.

To heed up with the president’s aim, Indonesia has ordered a total of 71 vessels from several dockyards in the past two months.

The government also plans to construct a total of 24 seaports within five years, including 5 large hub seaports and 19 smaller ports designed as passenger and cargo feeders to the hub seaports.

The Indonesian president has set an ambitious target to see more than 8 percent growth at the end of his presidency term in 2019 from the present 4.7 percent. The nation may face an uphill battle to achieve the target with insufficient infrastructure to facilitate the efforts.

“The poor physical infrastructure is easily seen in road and ports, everything is congested. In the airport we can also see the same thing. Indonesian capital airport was nothing compared to airports in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It is still lagged behind,” Umar Juoro, expert at an prominent think tank agency of Habibie Center said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

To address the poor infrastructure, the government is now intensifying efforts to build power plant projects of 35,000 mega watts and 15 new airports within five years.

Besides that, constructions of toll roads in Java and Sumatra and railway tracks outside Java have been intensified.

An agreement to develop high-speed railway system has been signed between Indonesian and Chinese firms to link Jakarta to Bandung, the capital of West Java province.

The 5.5-billion-U.S. dollar project was regarded as a positive signal for further connectivity alignment cooperation with China in the future.

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