Free lunch budgeting ‘clearer’ than President Jokowi’s Nusantara project, Prabowo adviser says

Prabowo's economic adviser has touted the president-elect's flagship free school lunch project for its budget planning, thereby implicitly criticizing President Jokowi's legacy development project to relocate the nation's capital to East Kalimantan.

Aditya Hadi

Aditya Hadi

The Jakarta Post


Students line up on March 5, 2024 to take part in a free school lunch pilot program at SMPN 1 Darul Imarah state junior high school in Aceh Besar, Aceh. The program budgeted a production cost of Rp 15,000 (92 US cents) per portion. PHOTO: ANTARA/ THE JAKARTA POST

July 4, 2024

JAKARTA – The economic adviser of Prabowo Subianto’s expert team has said he prefers the president-elect’s free school lunch program over the Nusantara Capital City (IKN) project of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, as the former had “clearer” budget planning.

“As an economist, I cannot lie that I prefer the [free] nutritious meal program, because I know it can be implemented immediately. We have calculated the costs in detail, as well as the eligible [recipients],” Soedradjad Djiwandono, who is also Prabowo’s brother-in-law, said on Tuesday, as quoted by Kontan.

On June 24, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said an estimated Rp 71 trillion had been allocated for the free school lunch program in the 2025 draft state budget and that the fiscal deficit was projected to fall between 2.29 and 2.82 percent of GDP, below the 3 percent legal cap.

The program is estimated to cost between Rp 400 trillion and Rp 500 trillion through to the end of Prabowo’s five-year term in 2029.

Soedradjad added that he was not opposed to relocating the nation’s capital from Jakarta.

But he also noted that the IKN project lacked the careful cost calculations it required, especially as regards state budget support, which was reflected in problems related to the clean water supply at the site of the new capital being developed in East Kalimantan.

“Now, do we want to keep borrowing money? Do we want to build a new capital with debt?” Soedradjad said.

Read also: Uncertain demand makes investors queasy about new capital city: Apindo

Soedradjad, who served as Bank Indonesia governor in 1993-1998, said the government needed to learn from the experience of other countries in relocating their capital cities, some of which had succeeded while others had not.

“Malaysia was able to relocate its capital with really good results. However, Cambodia established a new capital in the middle of the jungle, erecting several buildings, but no one wanted to move there,” he said.

The IKN megaproject has met with criticism over several problems, including its slow progress in infrastructure development, lack of foreign investment and local investors’ demand for high returns.

Read also: Prabowo, Gibran to be inaugurated in Jakarta, not IKN: MPR

In early June, just two months ahead of Nusantara’s planned inauguration on Independence Day, the head and deputy head of the IKN Authority resigned simultaneously.

The positions were immediately filled by the President appointing Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono and Deputy Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Raja Juli Antoni as the authority’s respective interim head and interim deputy head.

Another blow to the project came on Friday, when People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Deputy Speaker Ahmad Muzani said the inauguration ceremony for president-elect Prabowo and vice president-elect Gibran Rakabuming Raka would be held at the Senayan legislative complex in Jakarta, contradicting the government’s earlier announcement that the pair would be sworn in at Nusantara.

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