Reducing time zones in Indonesia to improve business opportunities and unite ethnic groups

Indonesia is currently discussing reducing the country’s time zones from three to one:

The government has been promoting since May a plan that aims to put all parts of the sprawling archipelago nation into the same time zone as many other Asian countries. Under the plan, all of Indonesia—which stretches 6,400 kilometers between India and Australia—would be eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, meaning the country’s capital city would shift one hour ahead of its current time.

The government says the move is expected to boost business transactions between Indonesia and the regional financial hubs such as Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Airlines could also profit through simpler flight schedules, increasing their productivity, it says…

While the time-zone idea isn’t seen as critical by many investors, it is popular among some who would find it easier to do business in the country. Russia in March reduced its time zones to nine from 11, while Brazil is considering cutting to one from three.

And it isn’t only monetary gains that Jakarta has in mind by abolishing the clock divisions—it also hopes to foster closer ties among the country’s more than 1,128 ethnic groups. With the country split into three zones, the thinking goes, it’s easier for groups to view themselves as part of different regions than as Indonesians first…

The business argument makes more sense to me. (Still: in an era of fast globalization, does a one or two hour time difference really matter?) However, I’m skeptical of the ethnic/cultural argument. Being on the same time zone really brings people together in a meaningful way? Perhaps fixing the time zones is an easier “fix” than other possible measures…

I remember going through a time zone while living in northern Indiana. At the time, our part of the state was on Eastern time half of the year and on Central time the other half of the year. This was somewhat confusing but I think the bigger issue was that a good portion of the northwestern part of the state wanted to be on the same time zone as Chicago for business purposes. But, I don’t recall any debate over whether these people in a different time zone were any less Hoosiers for this choice. (However, I could imagine something similar goes on in Indiana as it does in Illinois: people near Chicago think that is where all the action is…and isn’t downstate all about corn and farming?)

Another note: the 24 time zones match up with the rotation of the earth. So what does it mean when we put multiple time zones together for political, business, and cultural purposes? Is this a prime example of humanity running roughshod over nature?

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