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Jokowi's reputation on the line over new capital city in East Kalimantan

CNN Indonesia - August 19, 2022

Jakarta – The construction of Indonesia's new capital city (IKN) Nusantara in East Kalimantan was again highlighted by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo during his State of the Nation address at the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) annual session on Tuesday August 16.

Widodo wants construction of the new capital to be continued saying that the project is not just for state civil apparatus (ASN) but also for investors. "The sustained construction of the capital city Nusantara must be safeguarded", said Widodo.

Budgetary limitations however, are one of the challenges faced by the government. Right from the start, a number of groups have questioned the funding scheme for the construction and transfer to the IKN. This is because the cost is fantastic – between 466 and 486 trillion rupiah.

The government is planning that funds for the new IKN will come from three sources, namely the state budget (APBN), public-private partnerships and the private sector.

The government has refused to budge on the issue and is continuing with the construction of the IKN. Widodo is even aspiring to hold the 2024 Independence Day celebrations at Nusantara – his final year as president.

Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) National Secretariat Research Manager Badiul Hadi believes that Widodo wants to leave behind his legacy through the IKN. It is because of this that the government has "closed its ears" and is pushing forward with the project despite opposition from the public.

"It's like President Jokowi wants to leave behind his legacy in the IKN which has not yet been achieved by his predecessors. Looking at his enthusiasm which is so big and the impression of being pushed through, at a minimum the presidential office will get built", Hadi told CNN Indonesia on Thursday August 18.

Hadi also highlighted the issue of funding the IKN project, saying he hopes that the government will not burden the APBN or rely on debt.

Al-Azhar Indonesia University political observer Ujang Komarudin meanwhile is of the view that Widodo's insistence on building the IKN is an endeavour to prove that he is the "Father of Infrastructure". According to Komarudin, Widodo wants to maintain his reputation.

"In my view if the IKN doesn't happen, then it will be a slap in the face for Jokowi and will degrade Jokowi. Because up until now Jokowi has been seen as building a lot of infrastructure, but if his IKN doesn't happen, then it will damage Jokowi's reputation as president", said Komarudin.

Meanwhile, Trisakti University public policy observer Trubus Rahadiansyah says that the construction of the IKN is a "face saving project" for the Widodo regime so that it is not seen as having failed.

In addition to this, there are business related reasons which are also motivating the government to pursue the project. According to Rahadiansyah, a number of government officials and businesspeople own land at the planned site for the IKN.

"Certainly the land there is conversion land, part of which is owned by government officials who are currently in office. So it's sitting government officials and or businesspeople that are currently behind the government on this at the moment. Most of the land is mining concession land if it's laid out", said Rahadiansyah.

Related to this, Rahadiansyah suspects that Widodo has secured a political agreement so that the IKN project will not end after he steps down from the presidency in 2024.

"At the very least an agreement has been reached. Although there are discussions about political deals, at the very least the IKN will be continued by the leader which is appointed", he said. (pop/tsa)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pertaruhan Reputasi Jokowi Wujudkan IKN Jelang 2024".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20220818153945-32-836126/pertaruhan-reputasi-jokowi-wujudkan-ikn-jelang-202