Your letters: If not the bridge, then what?
| November 06 2014 | 11:18 AM
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo surely has the executive prerogative to kill the Sunda Bridge project, but the public has seen neither of the studies that this decision, or the former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono government’s decision, are based on.
It would be interesting for us to know: What is this economic feasibility benchmark that the government uses?
Who are these so-called rich business persons and why can’t the government or state-owned enterprises run the bridge for the benefit of all users? How will a bridge interfere with Jokowi’s maritime vision? In particular, what is his maritime vision?
If the bridge is not constructed, then Java and Sumatra’s connection will be left in the hands of a few ferry owners running unseaworthy vessels with a cargo monopoly. How will the government introduce competition and encourage port building?
Jokowi was elected on a platform of transparency and openness. Presenting first-hand studies to the public would be a good example to showcase that commitment.
The government’s objective should be to make strait crossings safe, fast and affordable, whatever the means. If it decides to kill or shelve the Sunda Strait Bridge, the alternative (i.e. ferry crossings) must be viable.
This means safe, seaworthy and fast vessels, expanded port capacity and economical prices. It is no good having fast and new vessels if no one can afford them, or if tariffs are so expensive that they don’t reduce logistics costs (sea logistics make up 10 percent of the retail prices of average goods).
So I’d like to know what the government has in mind. How will it encourage shipping and ferry companies to invest in the new vessels? They are not cheap and registration is messy, if not dirty. Will it allow them to increase the prices charged to the point it gives them a reasonable return of investment?
If that is the case, how will they balance that with affordability? Will it make investment and operational costs lower (e.g. by burning the bureaucracy and red tape) or will it subsidize the users? How does it plan to combat the vested interests and the bureaucrats?
Who will be responsible for port building, the government? If so, is it the central government or the Lampung government? Or will it be the private sector? In which case, the same questions on affordability versus investment appetite apply, as above. Again, financing these are not cheap, the public private partnership (PPP) model has been proven too slow and obtaining permits is a messy affair.
These are questions that we should ask the government and that should be answered by National Development Planning Minister Andrinof Chaniago. He is known to criticize current development models.
Now that he’s in government — a government elected on the premise of inclusiveness, cleanliness, transparency and openness at that — he should really make the reasons behind this decision public.
Ngukzilla. 2014. “Your Letters If Not Bridge Then What”. Di akses pada 14 Mei 2015. http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/11/06/your-letters-if-not-bridge-then-what.html.