Yudhoyono reopens possibility of new capital city

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said his administration has continued to consider the possibility of moving Indonesia’s center of government to a city less densely populated and problem-prone than Jakarta.

“We had made a small team to think about the moving of our capital city,” he said at a press conference in St. Petersburg, Russia on Saturday, according to his official website. “In this case, the center of economy, trade and others would stay in Jakarta, but we would move the government center to another place.”

Yudhoyono spoke while on a week-long trip to Russia, Poland and Kazakhstan, during which he conducted official state visits and attend G20 meetings. He and First Lady Any Yudhoyono returned to Jakarta on Sunday.

He first considered the possibility of moving the capital five years ago, he said, but decided he wasn’t ready for the harsh debate that such a proposal would inevitably cause.

After visiting Astana, which replaced Almatty as the capital of Kazakhstan in 1997, Yudhoyono began reconsidering the idea in earnest. He was impressed by the new capital’s architecture and urban planning, he said, although the two nations face different challenges: While both countries occupy around two million square kilometers of land, Kazakhstan’s has a population of 19 million, as opposed to Indonesia’s 240 million.

Yudhoyono said that he was thinking about Indonesia’s best interests 30 years from now, citing the examples of Turkey, Australia and Malaysia — countries that successfully relocated their capitals.