After writing about long distance bus trips in my previous post, I was interested to come across the largely unreported news that a Presidential Decree (Peraturan Presiden or Perpres) has been issued which gives the go-ahead for what will be the most ambitious construction project ever undertaken by Indonesia: the 29 km long Selat Sunda Bridge linking Java to Sumatra.
So long is the planned bridge that it makes the recent construction of the Rp5,438 m Suramadu Bridge that links Java to Madura look like a little kid’s meccano project.
But like all grand undertakings, the Selat Sunda Bridge doesn’t come with a low price tag and will cost an estimated Rp100 trillion (around US$10 billion) to build (or more than 20 times the Rp4.5 trillion it cost to build the Suramadu Bridge!)
To put this number into perspective it amounts to a phenomenal Rp1.05 million for every working person in this country (based on a 95 million strong workforce) and is about twice the entire state budget for education in 2010 of Rp 51.8 trillion!
So is this nationalistic folly or economic sense?
Well, according to the Presidential Decree, the project will be government managed although private contractors will also be brought in.
The feasibility study for the bridge has already been done – and interestingly enough by a company called PT Bangungraha Sejahtera Mulia (BSM), one of the companies in the “well connected” Artha Graha Network (AGN).
The sheer size of the project means potentially huge profits for certain parties and when you consider that up to 50 percent of public works funds in Jakarta are said to be used “inappropriately” (explaining why Jakarta’s roads are in such a shamefully poor state) it is little wonder the project is being pushed so aggressively.
Key to the project’s success is funding. Where will it come from?
But if the “in limbo” Jakarta monorail project is any guide, the bridge may never even be built anyway!
Note: Among the longest bridges in the world are the Seven Mile Bridge in the US, the King Fahd Causeway, the 13.5 km Penang Bridge in Malaysia, and the incredible 32.5 km Donghai Bridge (literally “East Sea Grand Bridge”) in China.
The Java-Sumatra bridge? I’ll believe it when I see it.