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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    29 May 2012

Indonesia mulls developing Jakarta’s 'Asean diplomatic zone'

29 May 2012

The Jakarta administration says it will develop Kebayoran Baru in South Jakarta into a long-awaited special zone for diplomatic affairs to support ambassadors to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in the capital.

"So far, the diplomatic zone we have [in Jakarta] is in Kuningan. We realise that a specific area for diplomatic matters is needed, thus, with the presence of the Asean Secretariat here [in Kebayoran Baru], we think that this area should be developed,” Izhar Chaidir, the head of spatial planning for the Jakarta Development Planning Agency, said yesterday.

Jakarta has long been considered the informal capital of Asean, a geopolitical and economic organisation of 10 nations in the Southeast Asian region, as it hosts the organisation’s secretariat on Jl. Sisingamangaraja in Kebayoran Baru.

Currently, 33 nations, including nations with large economies such as the US, the UK, Germany, China and India, have accredited ambassadors to Asean, in addition to ambassadors representing the nations to the Indonesian government.

The government has realised Asean’s importance to Indonesian foreign affairs and the nation’s diplomatic missions, and has vowed to improve facilities for Asean envoys residing in the area, Izhar added.

"We are currently mulling a plan to build international schools, international-level clinics and other facilities [in Kebayoran Baru] aimed at foreigners living in the area,” Izhar said, adding that the facilities would be bolstered by the presence of a subway station that would become operational in 2016.

Izhar argued that the establishment of special zone for Asean diplomats, as well as the building of the international-class facilities, were necessary so that diplomatic missions could be carried out effectively in Jakarta.

"Recently, we have seen an increase in land purchases by Asean diplomats in the area. We want them to live comfortably,” he said.

For its first step, the city administration would soon flatten the former offices of the South Jakarta mayoralty, which are located right beside the Asean Secretariat, and grant the Foreign Ministry authority to use the land to construct buildings for diplomatic purposes, Izhar added.

Bernardus Djonoputro, a city planning expert from the Indonesian Association of Urban and Regional Planners, said that the plan was necessary not only to improve the stature of Jakarta as Asean’s "capital", but also to boost the image of Indonesia on the world stage.

Compared to other cities, such as Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, Bernardus said that Jakarta was less appealing to foreign diplomats due to its poor spatial planning, poor infrastructure and poor public transportation.

"As a consequence, we cannot deny the fact that many diplomatic affairs in Jakarta are carried out inefficiently,” Bernardus said, claiming that the Jakarta administration frequently overlooked the importance of diplomatic affairs and prioritised the interests of business instead.

In 2010, Asean deputy-secretary-general Bagas Hapsoro previously urged the government to accommodate the needs of Asean to develop a stronger presence in Jakarta, saying that it would benefit Indonesia economically and diplomatically.

According to Bagas, the Asean Secretariat employed more than 270 employees who served 10 countries with a combined population of 585 million people.

The number, he argued, was relatively small compared the European Union, which employed 14,000 people serving 27 members with a smaller combined population.

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