An economist has criticized a proposal for a bridge across the Sunda Strait that would connect Java and Sumatra, Indonesia’s two most populous islands, saying it was far too expensive.
Planning consultant JSS Wiratman & Associates has estimated that such a bridge should cost $25 billion. However, Didik Rachbini, the chairman of the Institute for Economic Research and Development at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin), said he found fault with the cost projection.
He said on Friday that the Suramadu Bridge, a smaller, similar bridge connecting Java to Madura island five kilometers away, only cost Rp 5 trillion ($550 million).
“Using that as a benchmark, the 29-kilometer Sunda Strait bridge should only cost Rp 30 trillion,” he said. “It must be studied thoroughly. The government does not need to rush to build this project.”
Didik said he understood why the government wanted to build the bridge, but he said officials would do better to prioritize basic infrastructure such as roads, airports, seaports and trains or other utilities such as water, electricity and gas.
“Basic infrastructure is important to boost the economy,” he said. “But we can build this bridge later.”
The consortium involved in the plan is Graha Banten Lumpung Sejahtera, a joint operation between the Lumpung and Banten provincial governments and tycoon Tommy Winata’s Artha Graha Group.
Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said the government was discussing terms with the consortium.
“We are still negotiating,” he said. “We have to be very careful because the plan involves hundreds of trillions of rupiah and must be prepared well.”
One crucial point in the negotiations, Djoko said, was regarding compensation for the private interests involved. He said the government still needed to create a plan to pay for the pre-feasibility study that had already been carried out.
Something else yet to be decided is what will happen if the project falls into trouble and what kind of assurance the private sector would provide for such a situation, Djoko said.
The result of the pre-feasibility study conducted by Bangungraha Sejahtera Mulia, a unit of the Artha Graha Group, predicted that the bridge’s eventual length would be 29 kilometers with 2,000 meters separating each of its supporting pillars.
With 81 meters of vertical room, there would be plenty of space for large international vessels to pass under the bridge.
The business community has complained that the government has been too slow in better linking the Java and Sumatra, limiting development. Java is the heart of Indonesia’s commercial and economic activity, while Sumatra is a resource-rich island with abundant minerals such as coal.