Softbank’s CEO Is Helping Indonesia Build a New Capital

Tony Blair and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi are also lending a hand. What could possibly go wrong?
Man walking in flooded Jakarta street.
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If you ever found yourself wondering what a 21st Century city conceived of and funded by a petrostate and techno-fetishist might look like, you might not have to wonder much longer.

Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is overcrowded, flooding, and sinking into the sea. So Indonesia wants to build a new capital city. This is not a new decision, as the Indonesian government has reportedly been studying potential sites for three years and settled on the province of East Kalimantan due to its low risk of flooding, forest fires, and volcanoes. The government also says the area has “relatively complete infrastructure,” as reported by Sky News, but it’s not totally clear how to reconcile that with the region being “sparsely populated” and known mostly for its rain forests.


In any event, Indonesia has now asked Softbank’s Masayoshi Son, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to help them build this city.

Specifically, Indonesia has created a committee to oversee and handle construction of this new capital city, and those three esteemed members of the global elite will sit on said committee, according to Bloomberg.

The new capital will be on Borneo island, where Bloomberg reports Indonesia has “identified 256,000 hectares (632,500 acres) of land” which is about four times the size of Jakarta.

The situation with Jakarta is obviously untenable, but I’m not sure how many people were clamoring for that problem to be solved by the architect of WeWork and a Crown Prince, who certainly have a lot of money to bring to the table but little in the way of urban planning expertise. In any event, the new capital is still exceedingly light on details, which I suppose is what this committee is supposed to solve.

Jakarta is hardly the first and will not be the last place to face an existential crisis in the face of the climate crisis. And, as with all seismic changes, one of the key questions is how to deal with it in an equitable way. The fact that Indonesia has brought on two of the world’s richest men and one of its most well-connected global citizens to that network of wealth to plan a new capital city doesn’t bode well.