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Jakarta Post

Tasting trans-Sumatra connectivity

  • Primastuti Handayani
    Primastuti Handayani

    The Jakarta Post

Medan, North Sumatra   /   Mon, March 11, 2019   /   07:58 am
Tasting trans-Sumatra connectivity The entrance to the Helvetia toll gate in Medan, North Sumatra. JP/Primastuti Handayani (JP/Primastuti Handayani)

“You have not visited Medan, if you haven’t tasted durian of Ucok” that is the tagline of the famous durian store in the capital of North Sumatra. Even after purchasing online, people from out of town – who have gone to Medan for conferences or business, including President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo – have the urge to personally visit the store located on Jl. KH Wahid Hasyim.

The durian was mostly supplied from areas surrounding Medan, especially Sidikalang. Therefore, the presence of a toll road connecting Medan and Binjai has helped business. 

“Now the durian supply can arrive about two hours earlier than before the toll road was opened,” said store owner Zainal “Ucok” Abidin Chaniago in a testimonial video.

The Medan-Binjai toll road is just a small section of the trans-Sumatra toll road that is to stretch from Aceh in the north to Lampung in the south. The total length of the toll road is to be 2,048 kilometers. It is to be divided into four main corridors: Lampung-Palembang (358 km), Palembang-Pekanbaru (610 km), Pekanbaru-Medan (548 km) and Medan-Banda Aceh (460 km). There are also to be three priority corridors consisting of Palembang-Bengkulu (303 km), Pekanbaru-Padang (242 km) and Medan-Sibolga (175 km). In total, the trans-Sumatra highway is to cost about Rp 476 trillion (US$33.28 billion).

“The trans Sumatra is expected to be ready [for drivers] by 2014,” Hutama Karya president director Bintang Perbowo told journalists in Medan on Wednesday. The state-owned enterprise was appointed to do the work by Presidential Decree No. 117/2015 on the national strategic program.

On Friday, Jokowi inaugurated the Rp 16.8 trillion ($1.18 billion), 140.9-km Bakauheni-Terbanggi Besar section of the trans-Sumatra highway in Lampung province. He had already officiated the opening of the 8.9-km Section 1 connecting Bakauheni to a nearby port and the 5.65-km Section 5 connecting Lematang and Kotabaru on Jan. 21.

Travelers are expected to be able to use the toll roads for this year’s Idul Fitri exodus, which is to take place near the end of May. To drive from Bakauheni Port to Palembang, South Sumatra, a distance of about 350 km, would take just five to six hours.

“Previously, travelers needed to spend at least 12 hours,” said Bintang.

Right now, Hutama Karya is still preparing for the operation of the 2.7-km Helvetia-Marelan subsection, which is part of the Medan-Binjai section.

In general, each km of the trans-Sumatra toll road costs the state enterprise Rp 172 billion, compared to the trans-Java, which only costs Rp 100 billion per km, because of differences in terrain.

Since its appointment as the developer of the trans-Sumatra, Hutama Karya has had a positive performance. Bintang explained that in 2014, the state-owned enterprise recorded revenues of Rp 5.72 trillion. They increased to Rp 6.32 trillion the next year and to Rp 8.82 trillion in 2016. In 2017, revenues jumped to Rp 18.09 trillion and last year the company recorded Rp 26.54 trillion in revenues. For this year, Bintang said, the company projected revenues of Rp 34.32 trillion.

Hutama Karya’s net profits increased slightly from Rp 140 billion in 2014 to Rp 250 billion in 2015. In 2016, the firm booked Rp 300 billion in net profits. The figure jumped to Rp 1.07 trillion in 2017 and Rp 2.21 trillion in 2018. This year, its net profits are projected to be Rp 2.2 trillion because of loan interest expenses.

Brahmantio Isdijoso, the Finance Ministry’s director of state finance risk management, said that based on studies, the trans-Sumatra toll road would make good macroeconomic impacts. 

“Those studies show that there will be an increase in manpower, output and revenues for each regional administration,” he said.

Arif Budimanta, deputy chairman of the National Economy and Industry Committee, said the trans-Sumatra would bring opportunities for Indonesia to expand its exports to Asia and Europe, thanks to the Asian Connectivity Network and China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

“We have always suffered from a trade deficit with China. This trans-Sumatra is our opportunity to narrow the deficit. We would have access to reach [Southeast] Asian peninsula and would be able to have access to 65 countries in Asia and Europe that altogether have a population of 4.5 billion and 40 percent of the global [gross domestic product] GDP,” he said.

Despite the rosy picture, Hutama Karya is also facing tough challenges, especially in land acquisition. There were several ongoing disputes related to land ownership and opposition from villagers who are being forced off their land by the toll road construction.

“About 40 percent of the land [needed for construction] has not yet been acquired,” Bintang said.

However, he said he believed the state-owned enterprise would meet the 2024 deadline set by President Jokowi.

With that same optimism, businesspeople like Chaniago say they see nothing to worry about.

“With the toll road, my durian can arrive on time and I don’t have to worry if they would rot if the drivers get stuck in traffic jams,” he said.

The Jakarta Post was among the media invited by PT Hutama Karya to visit the Medan-Marelan-Binjai toll road.