Design of state palace in new Indonesia capital is still under discussion, says planning minister

JAKARTA: The design of the new state palace in Indonesia’s future capital city in Kalimantan is still under discussion, said the minister of national development planning Suharso Monoarfa.

In a statement on Monday (Apr 5), he said there have been meetings with a number of organisations such as the Association of Regional and City Planners (IAP), the Association of Indonesian Architects Expert (IAI), and Green Building Council Indonesia (GBCI) to discuss the progress of the new capital development plan, including the design of the state palace which has been under the spotlight in recent weeks.

“I am very grateful for the inputs from fellow architects … and the wider community. We will think about the construction of the Garuda bird, in terms of architecture or security, we can discuss it,” said Mr Monoarfa, referring to the pre-design of the state palace.

Earlier, the government held an open contest for the design of the state palace and renowned Balinese sculptor Nyoman Nuarta was announced as the winner with his Garuda-inspired design. Garuda is a mythological bird that is Indonesia’s emblem. 

(ks) Suharso Monoarfa

Indonesia’s Minister of National Development Planning Suharso Monoarfa during a virtual meeting on Apr 5, 2020. (Photo: Indonesia National Development Planning Agency)

Mr Monoarfa posted the winning design on social media last month, sparking a lively discussion about the aesthetics of the project.

The social media post was subsequently removed. Last week, the planning agency said in a press release that the design of the new state palace is still in the early stage.

Last Friday, President Joko Widodo posted on his social media accounts a video of the planned new capital city, which included the pre-design of the new state palace. 

Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, has called on the public to provide inputs on the pre-design.

West Java governor’s Ridwan Kamil, who is an accomplished architect and has built several landmarks such as the tsunami museum in Aceh, also posted the winning design on his Instagram and asked people for their views.

In 2019, Mr Widodo said the country’s capital would move from heavily congested Jakarta to an area in Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kertanegara districts in East Kalimantan province by 2024. 

Mr Widodo said that new capital should be built as a smart city and a forest city that takes into account environmental restoration and protection.  

However, the government was forced to put the US$33 billion project on the backburner last year as it was grappling with COVID-19. 

Last month, Mr Monoarfa said that the development of the state palace will start this year. He also said that the target date for completion is on August 17, 2024, Indonesia’s Independence Day. 

READ: New Indonesian capital one year on – Land demand cools amid COVID-19, but speculators still hover

Over the weekend, environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar visited the new capital location, during which she reviewed the preparations related to land readiness, the environment and other technical issues.

(ks) Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia's environment minister

Indonesia’s environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar (centre) visits the location of Indonesia’s new capital in East Kalimantan on Apr 3, 2020. (Photo: Indonesia Environment and Forestry Ministry)

“PEOPLE DO NOT NEED THE NEW CAPITAL CITY”: ANALYST

Analysts interviewed by CNA have argued that amid COVID-19, it is not urgent for Indonesia to build the new capital. Instead, the focus should be on economic recovery, healthcare spending and social safety nets, they said. 

As of Tuesday, Indonesia has recorded more than 1.5 million cases and about 41,000 deaths.

Mr Bhima Yudhistira, an economist with Jakarta-based Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) said that according to a study, the impact of the new capital project on addressing regional development issues is relatively small.

Indonesia's new capital

Locals are betting on sub-districts straddling the border of Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kartanegara to be the new administrative capital. (Photo: Kiki Siregar)

INDEF’s research found that relocating the capital city to East Kalimantan will only contribute 0.0001 per cent to the national gross domestic product.

“Instead of building a new capital, focus first on national economic recovery … Fix that first with the existing budget constraints.

“Forced development will seriously disrupt the state finances because the tax ratio is only 8.3 per cent, the lowest in the last 8 years. Surely it will end up adding new debt,” said Mr Yudhistira.

He said if the country can grow at 2 per cent this year, after having contracted 2.07 per cent year-on-year in 2020, it would be a fortunate outcome. 

“My suggestion is to delay the development of the new capital. The government should focus on this problem. The stimulus given should be focused and don’t jump from one problem to the other.”

READ: New Indonesia capital – Land prices set to soar but not all locals thrilled

READ: New Indonesia capital – Indigenous tribes fear further marginalisation

Political analyst Ujang Komarudin from the University of Al Azhar Indonesia has a similar view.

“I think that the people do not need the new capital city, but they need jobs, food, healthcare, and education, which are more urgent.

“The new capital city is not a priority for the people. Therefore, amid this pandemic, it would be wise to divert the funds for the capital city to handle COVID-19,” Mr Komarudin said.

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