Infrastructure projects will remain a priority this year, despite the government’s new focus on human capital development, a government official has made clear.
Committee for Acceleration of Priority Infrastructure Delivery head Wahyu Utomo said most of the government’s National Strategic Projects were only for primary infrastructure forming the backbone to improve connectivity in the country. He added that there was still room to improve Indonesia’s competitiveness among its regional peers.
Infrastructure still needs to be built, despite the government’s focus on developing human capital, and that [infrastructure development] should be conducted continuously,” Wahyu told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.
He said better infrastructure was vital to boost the country’s competitiveness vis-à-vis that of its peers.
Indonesia had a US$1.5 trillion gap in infrastructure, the World Bank said in a 2017 report. The bank also said Indonesia lagged behind its peers in ASEAN in terms of the quality of infrastructure, despite recent improvements.
After driving infrastructure development across the archipelago in the past four years, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration turned its focus on developing Indonesia’s human capital this year as part of the government’s efforts to boost competitiveness.
Despite the new focus, the government allocated Rp 415 trillion for infrastructure projects, or 16.8 percent of the total 2019 state budget, marking an increase from Rp 410.7 trillion allocated in the 2018 budget.
Wahyu added that it was vital to develop urban infrastructure to serve the needs of the growing urban population, while also developing networks of infrastructure connecting ports and industrial zones to the hinterland to augment the development of new economic corridors outside Java.
He added, however, that soft infrastructure, such as skilled workers, were vital as well, particularly for maintaining and operating the country’s growing infrastructure assets.
“We still lack engineers to develop as well as operate [public facilities] once the infrastructure is constructed,” said Wahyu.
For every Rp 1 trillion allocated in infrastructure development, the government calculated that 14,000 construction workers were required.
To meet the demand for certified construction workers in the country, the Public Works and Housing Ministry has rolled out a certification program for construction workers. The government aims to certify 3 million workers in 2019.
While acknowledging that infrastructure development was important to fill the gap left behind by underinvestment in the past, Center for Reform on Economics Indonesia executive director Mohammad Faisal said it was equally important to ensure the finished facilities would be able to fire up the economy.
“The [government’s] focus should not be only on physical aspects but also on the effectiveness of finished facilities to boost economic growth,” said Faisal, adding that community empowerment was equally important, especially to create new economic centers outside of Java.
The government’s infrastructure drive, however, has not been smooth sailing. A series of accidents in the construction of elevated transportation projects in early 2018 prompted Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono to temporarily halt all elevated projects to review the safety of such projects.
In December, construction was temporarily halted on parts of the trans-Papua road after an attack by an armed group with alleged ties to the Free Papua Movement, which claimed the lives of 19 construction workers and one Indonesian Military soldier.
Source: The Jakarta Post https://www.thejakartapost.com