A Price Water House Coopers forecast released in August in Jakarta stated that Indonesia is on track to realise 80 per cent of its ambitious infrastructure targets over the next five years. As one of the giant steps on this journey, on November 4 Minister of Transportation Ignasius Jonan officially launched Tol Laut—the new shipping programme—at Tanjung Priok port. Three ships set out on maiden voyages to serve freight on new routes as part of the implementation of the new marine highway programme as outlined in the 2015 budget.
“As regards the sea toll programme, the infrastructure development is not something that can happen overnight,” said Jonan in an amicable interview with Indonesia Tatler. “The process just takes time,” stressed the Singaporean-born cabinet minister. “Progress on the maritime highway will only be clearly observed in between three to five years.”
This year alone, the Ministry of Transportation has allocated Rp 8.2 trillion to develop 77 seaports in support of the maritime highway programme. These projects range from seaport development, harbour facilities development, a global maritime distress and safety system, and a vessel traffic service. The Ministry has also allocated Rp 3.1 trillion for the procurement of various types of vessel for shipping, sea patrol and navigation.
Jonan disclosed that the government is continuing to focus on improving and increasing the capacity of the currently badly managed seaports and harbours in distant provinces. It is also concentrating on the establishment and development of scheduled pioneer shipping lines in remote areas of the archipelago, moving people and goods safely, efficiently and sustainably. This important step will minimise the price disparity of consumer goods between the remote areas and Java. “That is what we want to always improve,” Jonan told us.
As regards insufficient connectivity in freight transportation, Jonan said the gaps will be reduced step by step. At Tanjung Priok and Tanjung Perak in Surabaya, a railway will connect the ports within a few years, for example. Jonan emphasised that the toughest problems facing transportation in Indonesia are two-fold. The first is fostering the understanding of all elements to the community that transportation safety is of the utmost importance, with the second issue to develop quality services that provide comfort and security.
“Regarding safety, or transportation safety in particular,” Jonan continued, “it is related to cultural issues. Culture is not something that can be changed overnight based merely on regulations or by political decree; culture comes from habits and discipline, which is why overcoming these challenges is not an easy thing to do. But if we don’t do it now, then when can we start?” he said.
Quality of service comes a close second. “Quality standards never existed before, so when I plunged in into this role, I directly applied new standards of service with a transition period of around 18 months.”
Directly applied and socialised throughout the rank and file at the Ministry of Transportation, the ministerial decree on service quality should be strictly heeded, according to Jonan, and one should not be permissive or tolerate lower standards. He applies a firm a carrot-and-stick approach to develop behavioural traits with those who violate or neglect the rules punished and those who excel rewarded.
“All the main players have to be disciplined,” Jonan continued. “I call on ORGANDA, the land transportation owners’ organisation, the Indonesia National Air Carriers Association, and managers of seaports and airports all over the country to continuously improve the quality of service that they give to consumers.” Corruption is a problem that should not exist: Jonan is easily able to employ the rules of good service-quality standards in the transportation sector because he has no vested interests in whatever position he holds.
For example, on October 1, the Ministry of Transportation decreed that all aircraft without a “PK” registration would be prohibited to fly to more than one domestic airports. Exempted from the regulation are VVIP trips, medical evacuations and diplomatic flights. “There is a transitional period of six months,” Jonan told us. “But if I had a personal interest, like owning or using a non-PK-registered jet, I would not have the guts to enact such a regulation.”
As of January 1, 2016, the ASEAN “Open Skies” policy will also come into effect. The Open Skies policy, which is also known as the ASEAN Single Aviation Market, is intended to increase regional and domestic connectivity, integrate production networks and enhance regional trade by allowing airlines from ASEAN member states to fly freely throughout the region via the liberalisation of air services under a single, unified air transport market.
“This means that their aircraft can enter our airspace and vice versa,” explained Jonan. “They can fly freely to Kuala Namu the airport of Medan, Soekarno-Hatta Jakarta, Juanda Surabaya, Ngurah Rai Denpasar and Hasanuddin Makassar. Of course, aside from those airports, we have our own considerations: Indonesia actually has 237 airports in total and if all of them were open to ASEAN aircraft, it would be incorrect. This is the decision taken by the government.”
The strategic steps and efforts taken by the Ministry of Transportation in the development of transportation infrastructure are all dedicated to the needs of the people. “To achieve this goal will take about 10 to 20 years,” Jonan said. As to the realisation of the comfort and safety factor in public transport, Jonan estimates that it will take up to three years.
“I think people will begin to benefit from the improvements by 2017. If there are high expectations that in one year I can create big differences, these are unrealistic. My biggest challenge here is how to alter a work culture and habits that have been deeply rooted for years,” said Jonan.
And what of his dreams for the transportation sector in Indonesia? “Speaking of dreams, I never dream because I sleep very little: on average, only four to five hours a night,” quips the man who was caught on camera taking a catnap on a train. Well, it’s a tough job and this hard-working visionary deserves to be cut some slack.”