This week’s recap is about Indonesia’s new capital city, which is set to be christened “Nusantara”. Then, we move on to the Philippines acquiring new defense equipment along with the continued fallout of Hun Sen’s Myanmar visit.
Unfortunately, I haven’t acquired any new beans this week as I was busy relocating. Coffee recommendations will resume next week!
Indonesia: COVID and the new capital city
Indonesia has seen a recent uptick in Omicron cases, yet has moved to relax travel restrictions for international arrivals. Mandatory quarantine for international arrivals have been reduced to 7 days, from the previous 14 days. The measures were cited as being “counterproductive”. The relaxed travel restrictions are likely due to Indonesia’s packed international agenda, which includes hosting the G20 Summit in Bali and the Mandalika MotoGP to be hosted in March.
The Indonesian House of Representatives recently passed a law which provides a legal framework for the relocation of the capital city. Jokowi had chosen the name “Nusantara” as the official name of the new capital city. The name was allegedly chosen to represent the inclusivity of the new city and due to its familiarity.
The new capital city has been controversial. While Jakarta is indeed sinking, the cost of the new capital city also raised questions of its urgency. The costs of construction of the new capital city (estimated at around IDR 466 trillion) was initially expected to be funded mostly from foreign investment, an updated estimate indicates around 54 per cent of the funding will be drawn from the state budget. This would likely entail more cuts down the line, especially in social welfare and healthcare programs, and most importantly, pandemic recovery. The relocation would also entail a large environmental cost due to deforestation and habitat destruction. There are also some implications for defence. The shift would also entail a hefty relocation of Indonesia’s defence assets to Kalimantan, which involves setting up new levels of command and bases. The move will be costly. Laksmana estimates it will at least be around USD 9 billion (which is roughly the allocated defence budget for 2022. The move would also entail delays in Indonesia’s future defence improvement plans.
In lighter news, 9News, an Australian media outlet, publishes a hilariously wrong map of where they think Jakarta is located. Kuta is a capital city, but for entirely different reasons.
The Philippines: new defence hardware
Philippines agreed to a USD 375 million deal for Indian-made Brahmos supersonic shore-based anti-ship missiles. This would make the Philippines the third country in Southeast Asia to operate anti-ship missiles—Indonesia and Vietnam both operate the P-800 Oniks anti-ship missile (or also known as the Yakhont).
The Philippines also inked a deal to purchase 32 new Black Hawk helicopters, with the first five units are expected to arrive in 2023. The purchase was to rejuvenate its ageing Huey helicopters, which are required for disaster relief operations.
ASEAN: still dealing with the cowboy
In a video call after the postponement of the ASEAN foreign minister’s retreat, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong insisted that Hun Sen honor the Five Point Consensus and not act unilaterally until notable progress has been made in implementing the Consensus. Any proposals, such as the delivery of humanitarian aid, ought to be discussed and implemented collectively through ASEAN. To date, four ASEAN members have expressed concerns over Hun Sen’s “cowboy diplomacy”.
Numerous analyses (such as this one) point towards a disunited ASEAN, which will likely have further implications on the regional agenda later down the line, and ASEAN’s relevance in the Indo-Pacific.
That’s all for this week! Tune in next week for more coverage of interesting topics in Southeast Asia.
Header image: Concept art of the new Indonesian capital city, Ministry of Public Works of Indonesia