Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja – Straits Times
Business and banking operations as well as travel are expected to get a big boost when Indonesia switches to a single time zone on Oct. 28.
The Indonesian archipelago now has three time zones and Jakarta is an hour behind Asean neighbors Singapore and Malaysia, as well as major trading partner China.
Officials expect the move to cut energy consumption, spur foreign exchange trading, and raise the productivity of businesses that operate in two or more time zones across the archipelago.
But safety concerns have been raised as the time zone switch would mean that residents such as schoolchildren would be leaving their homes while it is still dark.
Jakarta lies in the western time zone, which is one hour behind the central zone and two hours behind the eastern zone.
About 190 million of the 240 million Indonesians live in the western zone — mostly on Java and Sumatra.
With the change, people living in the western zone will effectively be getting up an hour earlier than they do now.
“People will leave their homes earlier and turn off their electrical appliances earlier,” Edib Muslim, spokesman for the Committee for the Acceleration of Economic Development of Indonesia, told The Straits Times.
Households consume 80 percent of the total electricity output in Indonesia, Edib said.
The committee, which is chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had proposed that the change take effect at midnight on a Saturday, when business is usually slow, before deciding on Oct. 28, a Sunday.
This date has added significance because it marks the 84th anniversary of Youth Pledge Day. In 1928, young Indonesians gathered in Jakarta where they pledged to be united as one nation speaking one language.
Officials have said that switching to one time zone helps to unite Indonesians even as it enables the country to become more business-friendly.
Edib reckons that the move would cut the country’s energy consumption by between 1 percent and 3.5 percent. One percent translates into about 1.3 billion kilowatt hours per year.
Tourists will find it convenient to travel within a country that operates on one time zone instead of three, said Bagus Sudibya, deputy chairman of Bali Tourism Board.
“Travelling tourists may forget to adjust their watches when they cross time zones and miss a flight,” Bagus told The Straits Times over the telephone from Indonesia’s main tourist island.
Businesses that operate in two or more time zones now will benefit from the change, Sofjan Wanandi, chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association, said.
“All our business branches can operate simultaneously, with no waiting time. It would mean higher productivity,” he said.
Senior banker Albertina Dwita Harliani said the change will give Indonesian banks more time to trade as well as transfer funds denominated in the Singapore, Hong Kong, Australian or Japanese currencies.
“If Indonesian clients need to transfer Singapore dollars to a bank account in Singapore, we need to do it early in the morning now so that the funds will reach the account on the same day… We normally must do it by 10 a.m. at the latest,” Dwita said.
A tax official in Papua, which is two hours ahead of Jakarta, looks forward to the time zone change.
“Often, instructions come in at 4 p.m. Jakarta time. Our time in Papua is 6 p.m. and everyone has gone home. So we can follow up only on the next day,” Hanan Haq told Detik.com.
Not everyone thinks it is a good idea. Former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, for one, believes that the move is “a mistake” that will benefit a few thousand people but disadvantage the majority.
“Millions of schoolchildren would have to leave home while it is still dark. Their safety is at risk. Who will take responsibility?”
Meanwhile, in Thailand, which is one hour behind Singapore, the idea to bring its stock exchange into the same zone as its neighbors’ was mooted briefly when former premier Thaksin Shinawatra came to power in 2001. But it failed to gain any traction and was dropped.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times