Facing 'enormous' task, transportation boss hears reform call

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The new transportation minister must reform the ministry's bureaucracy to improve the safety and services of all modes of transportation, an activist and expert said Sunday.

Sudaryatmo of the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) said new Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal needed to fix the "institutional framework".

Installed on Wednesday, Jusman said reaching a zero accident rate for railways was his first priority because the country's rail system transported so many people.

He said his next priorities would be the shipping and aviation sectors.

Contacted separately, chairman of the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI), Bambang Susantono, said Jusman should push for reform at the ministry, and draw up new laws on aviation, land transportation and shipping.

"Both the macro and micro-outlooks for the transportation sector have to be improved. For the macro-outlook, the ministry has to fix the institutional framework," Sudaryatmo, a senior member of the YLKI, told The Jakarta Post.

"The important thing is that the new minister must have a willingness for reform."

He said to bolster institutional reform, the central government should implement the new railway law, which was passed recently by both the government and the House of Representatives.

The new law allows open competition in the railway sector, which is currently controlled by state-owned railway operator PT Kereta Api.

"Open competition means that regulators should be more selective in issuing and extending operation permits.

"The mechanisms for which institution is responsible for accidents is clearer in the new railway law," Sudaryatmo said.

He said the old law tended automatically to place the blame on the operator, even for things that were beyond its control and authority.

Under the new railway law, the maintenance of moving components, such as train cars, and non-moving components, such as tracks and stations, are the sole responsibility of the operators.

"As for micro-improvements, the Transportation Ministry still receives a bad grade in safety," Sudaryatmo said.

Bambang said the new transportation minister had a lot of work to do in improving transportation in the country.

"The challenge of revitalizing our transportation system is enormous," Bambang said.

"The roots of the problems span from deficiencies in infrastructure, fleet, management systems and human resource development."

According to the ministry, 32 percent of moving parts in the railway system, such as trains and carriages, are more than 40 years old.

"In the short run, the new minister must be able to restore people's confidence in their safety," Bambang said.

A survey of rail, air and sea passengers at the beginning of this year found that about two-thirds of respondents felt "insecure" when traveling by public transportation, according to Bambang.

"Another challenge is to continue the reform in the transportation sector by finishing the amendments to the maritime, aviation and land transportation laws. There should be a clear road map for tackling the problems," he said.

The House of Representatives will start deliberating the amended aviation and shipping laws this month, the chairman of the House's transportation commission, Ahmad Muqowwam, told Detik.com news portal.
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