Indonesia to implement single time zone

Reactions to the plan to merge time zones across the vast archipelago are decidedly mixed.

By Yamko Rambe for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

July 30, 2012
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The Indonesian government is planning to merge the archipelago's three time zones into one in late October, using GMT+8 to create the new Waktu Indonesia Bersatu (Unified Indonesia Time).

  • People queue in front of the automatic teller machines of Danamon Bank in Jakarta on June 1st. Indonesian officials say the banking sector and the economy in general will benefit when the sprawling archipelago adopts a single time zone in late October. [Enny Nuraheni/Reuters]

    People queue in front of the automatic teller machines of Danamon Bank in Jakarta on June 1st. Indonesian officials say the banking sector and the economy in general will benefit when the sprawling archipelago adopts a single time zone in late October. [Enny Nuraheni/Reuters]

The idea is to synchronise Indonesian time with Asia's economic powerhouses such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. But the unifying move has elicited a diversity of opinions about its economic and religious impact.

Government feasibility studies have shown that establishing a single time zone will help the banking industry and business in general, and boost work efficiency, Coordinating Minister for Economy Hatta Rajasa told the media in May. Minister of Trade Gita Wirjawan has also said the change will benefit Indonesia by shortening the trade waiting time between the country's different regions.

However, former vice president Jusuf Kalla has rejected the unification plan as "illogical" and counterproductive for the country's 200 million people. He points out that other large countries including the United States and Australia have multiple time zones.

"Productivity has nothing to do with time zones," Kalla said, as quoted by Tempo.

Indonesia's land territory spans over 5,100km, which is approximately the distance from Paris, France to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Currently, the time difference between westernmost Aceh and easternmost Papua is two hours.

Andreas Prasadja, a Jakarta based somnologist – an expert in the study and treatment of sleep disorders – told Khabar Southeast Asia that the time adjustment will temporarily affect the sleep pattern of the young and elderly.

"Most likely there won't be any significant problems, but most people require one to two weeks to shift to a new sleeping pattern," Prasadja said, adding that long-term sleeping trouble, usually suffered by those who work on shifts, could cause spikes in blood pressure and increase the risks of diabetes.

The government plans to implement the new time zone on October 28th, "Youth Pledge Day" (Sumpah Pemuda), hoping to tap into the historical symbolism of the day in 1928 when youth across the archipelago declared their allegiance to "One Homeland, One Nation and One Language" to build support for one time zone.

Initially, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) claimed the unified time zone would result in the potentially confusing introduction of new prayer hours, but later changed its stance, saying that the change would not interfere with Islamic prayer rituals.

Professor Al Yasa Abubakar, an expert of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) at the Islamic University Ar-Raniry in Banda Aceh, said he agrees with time zone unification as long as it is advantageous and does not disrupt people's religious rituals.

"As an Indonesian Muslim, I agree with the plan of a unified time zone to improve the country's economy, social welfare, et cetera, but the government must ensure that the change would not disturb the religious aspects of people's lives," he told Khabar by phone.

Professor Abubakar also encouraged the government to unify the different methods of deciphering the beginning and end of the fasting month.

"Currently, Indonesian Muslims apply two different methods: Rukyat, which is based on astronomical cycle of the moon, and Hisab, which is based on observing the physical appearance of the crescent moon. I believe the government is able do something about this," he told Khabar.

The world's most populous Muslim nation was divided over the start of Ramadan this year, with millions beginning to fast on July 20th and others waiting until the government's official start date the following day.

Meanwhile, Thomas Djamaluddin, Research Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Lapan) in Jakarta, provided a different opinion.

"In a sociopolitical context, the country could benefit from the unified time zone. The central government can have better control of regional governments. However, in general, the new single time can cause work and business hours inefficiency," Djamaluddin told Khabar over phone.

According to Djamaluddin, applying two time zones in the country would be more efficient. Another solution, he suggested, would be simply to sync current business hours with those of Malaysia and Singapore.

The Indonesian Banks Association (Perbanas) has said that the new regulated time would greatly benefit the banking industry, noting that even branches in Papua would not be affected by foreign currency fluctuations.

However, Aples Numberi, the Deputy Chief of Papuan Native Business Development at the Papua Chapter of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin Papua), voiced pessimism that the time unification would benefit many in the easternmost province.

"I don't think there will be a positive impact from the plan. I sincerely hope that the plan could benefit Papuans, but what the central government can also do is to make equal business opportunities for native Papuans," said Numberi.

Reader Comments
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    • Pug Lam
      August 24, 2012 @ 01:08:47PM
    • Welcome Indonesia change to UTC+8 as China Standard Time.
    • EuroDude
      July 30, 2012 @ 05:07:23AM
    • So what happens when they make 5:30am just barely daylight to an hour earlier and people are getting up and leaving for work in the dark. Rapes and mnore robberies in the dark before work?
    • EuroDude
      July 30, 2012 @ 05:07:20AM
    • So what happens when they make 5:30am just barely daylight to an hour earlier and people are getting up and leaving for work in the dark. Rapes and mnore robberies in the dark before work?
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