Indonesia’s President Says New Capital On Track, Despite Resignations

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Indonesia’s President Says New Capital On Track, Despite Resignations

Joko Widodo said yesterday that the new city is on schedule to host this year’s Independence Day celebrations on August 17.

Indonesia’s President Says New Capital On Track, Despite Resignations

In this photo released by the Indonesian Presidential Palace, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, inspects the presidential palace construction site at the new capital city Nusantara in Penajam Paser Utara, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

Credit: Vico/Indonesian President Palace via AP

Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said yesterday that he plans to start working from the country’s new capital city next month, seeking to allay concerns over the future of the project following the resignations of the top two officials overseeing its construction.

Speaking to journalists during a visit to the site of Nusantara, as the $32 billion city will be known, Jokowi said that the city would be officially inaugurated during Indonesia’s Independence Day celebrations in August, as previously announced. He also said he would begin working from the new presidential palace as soon as the water supply is connected.

“I am very optimistic about the office. We are still waiting for one more thing, the water, in July,” he told the press in front of the construction site for the city’s Presidential Palace, The Associated Press reported.

During his visit to the new capital, Jokowi is inaugurating several construction projects, including a water reservoir, AP said. He is also attending groundbreaking ceremonies for schools and universities.

Nusantara lies in the hills of East Kalimantan, some 1,300 kilometers from the current capital Jakarta, which is overcrowded, polluted, and rapidly sinking. According to OIKN, the capital will be a smart, green city that utilizes renewable energy sources and has environmentally-friendly waste management. Construction of the city began in mid-2022.

Jokowi’s comments came shortly after the unexpected resignation of the top two officials of the body overseeing the construction of the capital. Bambang Susantono, the former World Bank official who headed the Nusantara Capital Authority (OIKN), and his deputy Dhony Rahajoe did not explain why they stepped down. But despite the swift announcement of interim replacements, the pair’s resignations have prompted some to question the viability and direction of the capital project, as Jokowi’s second and final term nears its terminus in October.

Since ground was broken two years ago, the Indonesian government has struggled to attract the private investment that it hopes will fund some four-fifths of the cost of the capital’s construction. Whether to continue the Nusantara project was even a subject of debate in the run-up to this year’s presidential election, with candidate Anies Baswedan questioning whether the eye-popping cost was worth it. There have also been a number of delays to construction, albeit not drastic ones.

Speaking in the half-formed capital yesterday, Jokowi batted away concerns about the OIKN resignations, which he said were due to “personal” reasons, and said that the city’s underlying infrastructure was around 80 percent complete, and that its airport will be finished in August. The Indonesian government previously announced that it aims to relocate the first batch of 12,000 civil servants to the city in September.

President-elect Prabowo Subianto, who will take the reins from Jokowi in October, has promised to continue the project through to completion, though his public comments on the project suggest that he may make alterations to the city’s scope and design.