Quo vadis, Jakarta monorail?
While Jakarta traffic grows more chaotic day by day, and the administration is seemingly unable to remedy the situation, the construction of the city's first monorail, which is expected to help ease congestion, has been at a virtual standstill since its work started in June 2004.
The absence of adequate information from the administration as to why the project has stopped and what has really happened has provoked understandable public speculation.
Motorists passing along Jl. Asia-Afrika -- the Senayan Stadium area -- are puzzled when seeing a number of unfinished reinforced pillars along the median strip, which stand out like white elephants.
These stumps are the work of PT Jakarta Monorail, a joint venture between PT Indonesia Transit Central (ITC) with 55 percent, and the Omnico Group of Singapore, which is authorized to build and manage the monorail project under a 30-year concession from the Jakarta municipal administration.
Omnico replaced a Malaysian company, MTrans Holding Sdn Bhd,. with which ITC had signed an MoU in Kuching in August, 2003, at a ceremony witnessed by then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad and then president Megawati Soekarnoputri.
The project seemed to get off to a good start in mid-June last year, a month after the awarding of the concession by Governor Sutiyoso to Jakarta Monorail. Foundations were driven into Jl. Asia Africa and with great fanfare as Megawati again stood by. However, the work stopped altogether only after a few weeks.
Omnico later said the MoU between ITC and the Indonesian Consortium was signed without its approval.
The US$600 million project then changed hands again in July when ITC, the Indonesian partner of Jakarta Monorail, suddenly signed a MoU with an Indonesian consortium led by PT Bukaka Teknik Utama (partly owned by Vice President Jusuf Kalla), with the support of state-owned PT INKA, the Bandung-based PT LEN electronics industry and PT Siemens Indonesia.
The oft changes in the partners have undoubtedly led to allegations that certain parties with strong vested interests and powerful political backing had jumped on the project.
Before the MoU between ITC and Bukaka was signed, the Jakarta administration had approved Jakarta Monorail's decision to use South Korean technology, a form of magnetic levitation or "mag-lev", which was developed by Rotem. Rotem is part of the Omnico consortium that also includes Singapore's Mass Rapid Transport Pte. Ltd. and Singapore Technologies Engineering Pte. Ltd.
The dispute between Jakarta Monorail shareholders escalated after the Indonesian partner (ITC) and its Konsortium Indonesia, apparently with the suppport of the Jakarta administration, decided last month to use Siemens' "straddle" or "buggy" technology, which they claim is much cheaper than the high-tech mag-lev system.
While the shareholders of Jakarta Monorail, the holder of the concession, are embroiled in a dispute, it is the public that is the real loser, as the project will certainly fall behind schedule. One has to wonder why the Jakarta administration allowed the tug-of-war between the business partners to drag on this long...