Indonesia’s civil servants wary of ‘compulsory’ move to new capital

“As a civil servant, I support this plan. But it’s a shame that the discussion always revolves around ‘duty’ and ‘compulsory relocation’", one said.

Deni Ghifari

Deni Ghifari

The Jakarta Post


A computer rendition shows a plan for the new capital city, Nusantara, to be built in East Kalimantan.(Courtesy of/Public Works and Public Housing Ministry)

February 27, 2023

JAKARTA – Arguably the most aspiring of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s many ambitious goals is his plan to build a new capital city in Kalimantan in a relatively brief time frame and have some 11,000 civil servants move there next year.

Some of the officials who would be required to leave Jakarta are wary of the arrangement, in which they do not have much say even though it would completely change their lives.

“As an Indonesian citizen and a civil servant, I support this plan. But it’s a shame that the discussion always revolves around [the jargon of] ‘duty’ and ‘compulsory relocation’ and no one ever talks about the rights of the employees getting relocated,” a civil servant at the Home Ministry, who will be called Jodhie for this article, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

A letter issued by the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry in December details which working units of which ministries and institutions are to be moved to the Nusantara Capital City (IKN) in 2024, and Jodhie’s department is penciled in as first in line.

Jodhie said there had been no talk about increasing workers’ take home pay, adding that living in Kalimantan was “even more expensive” than living in Jakarta.

“This is too hasty. If [the government] is serious about it, it should’ve been carefully planned since the incumbent [president]’s first term,” said Jodhie.

Gaffar, a 24-year-old civil servant with a ministry, concurred, telling the Post on Tuesday that the plan was “too hasty” and placed many young civil servants in a dilemma.

Property prices in Jakarta were exorbitant, Gaffar said, and younger civil servants would “not have enough capital to purchase a proper house” there, given the low wages they received.

“Property may be cheaper in IKN […] which may motivate young civil servants to move to IKN,” Gaffar continued, “but they understand full well that this relocation may bring bad results to Indonesia in the future because of its haste.”

Nurwahini, a 47-year-old civil servant archivist working at the Secretariat of the House of Representatives took a more optimistic view, while being uncertain whether she would be among those required to move next year.

“[IKN or Jakarta], for me it’s all the same,” said Nurwahini, after opining that the new city would be a good solution to take the pressure off overcrowded Jakarta.

“No one needs to be afraid. From what I’ve seen [in the meetings with the IKN Authority], the city will have a good urban plan and be more sophisticated than Jakarta,” she added.

Both Nurwahini and Jodhie said that irrespective of their personal preferences, civil servants could not refuse the mandate to move, due to the contracts they had signed before taking the job, which stated their willingness to be posted anywhere in Indonesia.

The head of data, communications and public information at the administrative reform ministry, Mohammad Averrouce, confirmed this on Thursday, adding that the requirement was to be followed unconditionally, including in a mass exodus to IKN.

“There are ethics and responsibility,” Averrouce told the Post, adding, “Much like any other job, the civil service has rules that must be heeded.”

He said civil servants “must be ready” to relocate, because the arrangement had been set in stone under Law No. 3/2022.

Averrouce noted that discussions on an extra relocation allowance were ongoing.

“It’s okay to have an opinion, but rules are rules,” he said.

Jodhie said he was ready to move anytime but suggested that the government was moving hastily just for political gain.

“I don’t mind moving in if the city is actually ready in 2024, but if it’s only ready by 2025, then don’t push it to 2024,” he said.

Both Jodhie and Gaffar were somewhat skeptical about the execution of the plan, saying the next administration would shoulder most of the burden.

“The success or failure of this project relies heavily on the political will of Jokowi’s successor,” said Gaffar.

All three civil servants agreed that certain public facilities had to be ready by the time the migration took place. Basic infrastructure such as public transportation, housing, hospitals and schools had to be built before they would “gladly move”.

Responding to that, IKN Authority secretary Achmad Jaka Santos Adiwijaya told the Post on Thursday that every detail of the IKN construction was in conformity with the master plan stipulated in the law, which defined all the basic facilities and infrastructure needed.

“We are still confident so far. Of course, it will not be easy, but realizing all the demands is a positive challenge for us,” said Jaka.

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