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IKN, Jokowi's most problematic inheritance, expert says

Tempo - October 30, 2023

Moh. Khory Alfarizi, Jakarta – Yusuf Wibisono, an economist and director of the Institute for Demographic and Poverty Studies (IDEAS) claimed that the Nusantara State Capital (IKN) is President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's most problematic inheritance. This notion started way before the development of this giant project began.

"This will heavily burden whoever is elected as the next president," Yusuf said when called on Monday, October 30, 2023. Currently, three registered candidates are running for presidency in the upcoming general elections; Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar, Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud MD, and Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

According to Yusuf, IKN's biggest issue is the way this project was planned and executed. This idea of new capital was brought by Jokowi in 2019 without any public consultation. In addition, after the declaration of its status as the government's main project, IKN was immediately marketed to investors.

At the beginning of 2020, the Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan even claimed that the Japan-based company Softbank would invest US$100 billion in IKN. Alas, this plan fell through in 2022 when the company withdrew from the project. "Disregarding the polarized public opinion on this highly important program," Yusuf said.

The government was also too hasty in submitting the State Capital Bill at the end of 2021 to the House of Representatives. The preparation seemed rushed and perfunctory, despite the status of this megaproject that will affect Indonesia economically, socially, and politically. Moving a State Capital requires a long time and an enormous amount of budget.

"They should have discussed the issue deeply and carefully, [instead] in just 43 days, the State Capital Law was issued in January 2022," he said. "And after a year, in October 2023, the law is revised, not to accommodate public aspirations, but to appease investors."

The cherry on top of this already not-quite democratic project, Yusuf said, is the local government of IKN, the IKN Authority, which will not be democratically elected but is appointed by the president. "The irony of calling it the state capital," Yusuf said.

According to Yusuf, as one world's biggest democratic states, Indonesia has a long-held tradition of facilitating public aspirations, with Jakarta at its center. Jakarta is the center of public aspirations articulation, a witness of several historical democratic events such as the information.

"The residents of IKN are way below Jakarta and surrounding areas in terms of quality and quantity. Thus, they won't be able to represent Indonesian citizens as a whole," he added.

Considering this fact, Yusuf remarked, it seemed that the government is trying to distance people from decision-makers to avoid a quality public debate. "Instead of encouraging equal development as they claimed," Yusuf said.

The circumstances of IKN reminded Yusuf of Myanmar, the state that previously moved its state capital from Rangoon to Naypidaw in 2005, citing national security and new national identity as the reasons. "Empirical evidence showed that it was instead based on the regime's disdain of the revolutionary nationalism that is steeped in Rangoon," Yusuf explained.

Therefore, resuming IKN development will become a historical burden for any future president, staining them as the forerunner that will stray Indonesia from democracy. "The running candidates must seriously think it over whether they want to continue IKN development," he concluded.

As information, Tempo's investigation found that the only running candidate to abstain from mentioning IKN development in their published vision-mission campaign is Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar, differing from the two candidates, Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud MD, and Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka who mentioned IKN development explicitly.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1790302/ikn-jokowis-most-problematic-inheritance-expert-say