Tue, 30 Aug 1994

`Growth of cities depend on political power'

JAKARTA (JP): A scholar said that the boom of Indonesian cities, particularly Jakarta whose population is estimated to reach 30 million over the next 25 years, is closely related to the distribution of political power.

"In Indonesia, cities usually become a center of commerce, industry, education, art and culture because of the their initial status as a center of administrative power," said Sarlito Wirawan Sarwono, a noted scholar from the Jakarta-based University of Indonesia, at a two-day seminar beginning here yesterday.

Citing an example, Sarlito told the seminar, under the theme Cities Booming in Indonesia that Jakarta was able to grow into its current huge size because of its status as a center of political power and decision making process.

In other countries such as North America where administrative and political power is not highly centralized, many urban centers grow along with the development of cities into centers of industries and commerce, he added.

Suntara, the chairman of the Indonesian Society of Architects (IAI), which organized the seminar, said in his opening address that 50 percent of Indonesia's 240 million population in the year 2019 will live in urban areas.

"It's quite a boom," he said.

State Minister of Research and Technology B.J. Habibie, another speaker at the seminar, however, questioned the speculation of the boom.

"Isn't it possible for us to stop such a boom?" Habibie said, adding that albeit the development of the cities' infrastructure, villagers rarely survive in cities because they are not trained to work in urban areas.

He said Indonesia should curb urbanization, a trend which has been increasing over the last three decades, by developing small scale, high-tech enterprises in villages.

"We cannot rely on traditional agriculture due to its limited value added," he said, citing the success of small scale enterprises developed in Taiwan.

"If my job allows me, I would like to stay in a village rather than here in Jakarta," the technology czar said, adding that a village life is environmentally better than a metropolis one.

As if trying to convince the audience, he affectionately told a story about his childhood period at Pare-pare, a small village in South Sulawesi, in which he could swim in the clean river and play with his horse in the meadow.

Sarlito said that the alternative to spreading the growth of Indonesian cities is to decentralize the distribution of power and the decision making process.

As if trying to prove his point, Sarlito challenged, "If the development of the eastern part of Indonesia is considered to be the most important part of national development, we can easily do it by removing the capital from Jakarta to one of its cities."

Suntara called on architects and planners attending the seminar to work together with sociologists, economists and anthropologists to cope with the high rate of urbanization.(09)