President Jokowi spent two days on the site of the planned Presidential Palace in the new capital in East Kalimantan. Photo by Laily Rachev/Biro Pers Sekretariat Presiden.

In late February, President Joko Widodo’s official social media feed showed him conducting the affairs of state from a small hut set amongst a forest of trees. This was his second overnight stay on the site of the future Presidential Palace in the yet to be built new capital city (Ibu Kota Negara, IKN). Since announcing the move from Jakarta to East Kalimantan in 2019, this has become a pet project for the second-term president, which many interpret to be his final legacy before he steps away from the top job in 2024.

The idea to move the capital away from Jakarta is almost as old as the nation itself. The megacity of over 30 million is over-crowded, choked by traffic and famously, sinking. However, with the project’s first milestone to deliver accommodation and services in the forest capital just over a year away, many questions remain. These include outstanding concerns about the highly ambitious design itself and the viability of its implementation. But also, who will pay for the projected cost of more than US$35 billion? With Indonesians already looking towards the 2024 presidential election, many speculate that the project may not survive past Jokowi’s leadership.

If it is successful, the new capital stands to be a showcase of sustainable design and Indonesian progress. The question is, can these high design standards and ambitions be reached? And what are the risks if it fails?

Dr Jemma Purdey chats to Associate Professor Eka Permanasari, from Monash Art, Design and Architecture, about these issues and more, in the latest episode of Talking Indonesia.

In 2023, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University, Dr Jacqui Baker from Murdoch University, and Tito Ambyo from RMIT.

Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or listen via your favourite podcasting app.

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