Primate city is a major city that plays dominant role in many respects in a country. It becomes a high concentration of urban population and plays as political, economical, cultural and transportation center of a nation. In term of population, a primate city is at least twice as populous as the second largest city in the nation. For some scholars, the population of primate city is larger than a combined population of the second, third and fourth largest cities of a nation.
Is Jakarta the primate city of Indonesia? The answer is very clear. Jakarta is indeed the primate city of Indonesia. Jakarta and its peripheral areas are more than twice as populous as Bandung -the second largest city in Indonesia. The Metropolitan Jakarta's population in 2005 was 14.0 million and it is 3.4 times of Bandung's population (4.1 million). The combined population of Bandung, Surabaya and Medan -the second, third and fourth populous cities in Indonesia respectively- was 9.4 million and it was still less than Jakarta's population.
Under the Dutch colonialism, Jakarta was the center of commercial and transportation hub of the nation for three centuries. The concentrated urban activities in Jakarta had allowed the Dutch colonialist to efficiently collect the resources from across the nation or redistribute goods and services to other parts of the nation. The concentrated urban activities in Jakarta created accumulation of wealth in Jakarta and it was not a problem for the Dutch colonialist. Regional imbalance between Jakarta and other parts of the nation did not really matter for the Dutch colonialist.
The Jakarta's dominance in the Indonesia's urban system has not changed much in post-colonialism era. Data of urban population in Indonesia since 1950 as reported by the United Nations World Population Prospect (1996) reveals that the domination of Jakarta over other cities in Indonesia has been increasing since the 1950s. The highly concentrated urban activities in Jakarta indicates that the Government of Indonesia has underinvested in interregional transport and telecommunications which favors producer and investors in Jakarta over other parts of the nation. More over, Henderson (2003) asserted that favoritism involved restrictions in capital and export/import markets, all favoring firms that locate in Jakarta. This allowed the central bureaucrats and politicians not to compete with lower ranked bureaucrats from other parts of the nation for extracting rents in the allocation of loans and licences.
Regional imbalance does matter in the post-colonialist era in Indonesia. A variety of policies have been implemented to boost the development in other parts of the nation particularly the Eastern Indonesia. Even, there has been a ministry that is assigned to accelarete the development in the Eastern Indonesia. It is really hard task to do since Jakarta is still dominant in Indonesia's urban system.
More interestingly, the implementation of regional autonomy law in 1999 has not taken much effect in the urban population distribution. The regional autonomy law which is also to stimulate more growth in local level apparently could not redistribute growth from Jakarta to other parts of the nation.
Using data of many countries, Henderson (2003) found that the degree of urban concentration rather than urbanization contributes to economic growth. He asserted that over concentration will be very costly to economic growth of the country. In order to avoid the decline of economic growth due to high degree of urban concentration, the increasing dominance of Jakarta over other cities in Indonesia should be reduced. There must be other urban agglomerations in Indonesia that compete with Jakarta and reduce the degree of urban concentration in Indonesia. It will eventually create regional balance and more sustainable development in Indonesia.
- The United Nations. (2006). The United Nations World Population Prospects
- Henderson, Vernon. (2003). The urbanization process and economic growth: The so-what question. Journal of Economic Growth 8:47-71
(This post was cited in a book titled Focus on Gamelan Music of Indonesia by Henry Spiller)