We need to get in fast lane, minister admits

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With Indonesia needing to build 54 new expressway sections totaling 1,835 kilometers to enable high economic growth to take off, the Public Works Ministry is seeking ways to speed up highway construction.

"Things will need to be accelerated if we want to meet the targets within a reasonable timeframe," Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said Thursday, while admitting that the pace of expressway construction had been unacceptably slow over the years.

"From 1978 to the time when the financial crisis struck, we were able to build at least 25.75 km of turnpike per year," said Djoko, during a discussion on "The Role of the Private Sector in Turnpike Construction".

Since then, the rate of expressway construction had fallen drastically to 9.25 km per year. "So, at this pace, if we want to build 1,800 km of expressway, it will take us some 162 years."

"The clock is ticking, and since we set our targets in 2005, only 47 km of expressway have come onstream," Djoko said.

Meanwhile, 48 km of expressway were under construction, contracts had been signed for 612 km, negotiations were underway for 204 km, 61 km were at the tender stage, and 177 km were at the prequalification stage.

In addition, projects for the construction of 683 km of expressway were being prepared to go to tender.

Frans S. Sunitro, president director of state-owned turnpike operator PT Jasa Marga, said the main reason for investor reluctance to put money into expressway projects was the prevailing investment and regulatory climate.

"Land acquisition is not easy, and the government doesn't provide any guarantees in this regard. This often delays our projects and costs us extra money," said Frans.

Agus Sidharta, a member of the Turnpike Regulatory Board, suggested that the land for turnpike projects should be acquired by the government, rather than by the investors.

"This would make such schemes more feasible and attractive to the private sector." (05)
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