Vice President Jusuf Kalla has called for the Suramadu bridge linking Surabaya and Madura island in East Java to be completed before the start of general elections in April 2009.
“With the bridge in operation, campaigns to Madura could easily be conducted,” Kalla said in a visit to the project on Sunday.
Kalla was accompanied by East Java Governor Imam Utomo and a number of ministers, including minister of industry Fahmi Idris and minister of public works Joko Kirmanto.
The 5.4-kilometer bridge is under construction between Surabaya in Java and the town of Bangkalan on the island of Madura.
The Rp 3 trillion (US$330 million) bridge, to be the longest in Indonesia, will have two lanes in each direction plus an emergency lane and a dedicated lane for motorcycles.
Yudha Andita, chief of the bridge development project, said the bridge was 76.27 percent complete at the end of last month.
He said the construction of the bridge, which was designed during the Soeharto era and kicked off by former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, was entering a vital stage of the central section in the deepest waters.
“Don’t worry about the money because the government has allocated Rp 900 billion for the remainder of the project,” Kalla said, adding that the money was being processed by the office of the state minister of the national development planning agency (Bappenas).
“At Bappenas, the process is easy. But (the money) will be disbursed in stages because if it was disbursed all at once, it could enter the pockets,” said Kalla.
During his visit to Malang, East Java, on Sunday, Kalla expressed confidence Indonesia would not suffer from a food shortage as has been forecast by some analysts.
“I’ve already seen and checked personally. I’m convinced we will not suffer from any food shortage in years ahead,” Kalla said at a ceremony for the harvest of hybrid rice at Tanggung village in Turen, Malang.
Kalla said he had just visited a number of rice production centers in West, Central and East Java, Lampung and Sulawesi, where farmers were optimistic about raising their rice production.
He further said farmers’ current production of 4 to 5 tons of unhusked rice per hectare could be raised with the assistance of modern technology.