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Erasing Disparaty in the Border Regions | Part 01

By 22 August 2019 No Comments

Maintaining the house yard is always more difficult than decorating the living room. Other than being difficult to reach, the appeal of a house yard is not as popular as the living room. No homeowners would want to serve their guests on the yard. That is why, the best artworks and displays are always placed in the living room, not on the yard.

On the other hand, the role of a house yard cannot be underestimated. In the eyes of the guests, a house yard is like a mirror, reflecting the personality of the homeowner. If it is filled with trash and dirt, then the interest to visit could be gone right away. On the other hand, if planted with many kinds of beautiful flowers, who wouldn’t want to take a glance?

However, decorating the house yard cannot be done in a random or careless manner. There needs to be three things, persistence, tenacity, and patience. Especially when the “house” is Indonesia—a country with the second longest “house yard” in the world after Canada.

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Since the era of colonialization, the country’s development has always started and focused on the “living room” called the Java Island. By relying on Batavia as the central point of government and economy, The Netherlands built various basic infrastructure required, such as ports, stations, or airports.

The discourse is then continued and practiced in the early era of independence. Moreover, when we entered the era of New Order, the Java-centered development became highly attached and was done massively. This process continued until the beginning of the Reformation period.

As a result, the fruits of the development is spread all over the Island of Java. From skyscrapers, kilometres of highway roads, big shopping centers, to a myriad of modern facilities can be seen on this island of 128.29 thousand km2.

As the saying goes, where there is sugar, there are bounds to be ants. The spread of population was concentrated on regions from Ujung Kulon to Banyuwangi. The Statistics Indonesia or BPS (2015) stated that there are about 145 million inhabitants, or more than half of Indonesia’s total population, living in the land of Java.

A centralized development on the Island of Java certainly has brought an impact on other regions. The border regions as the “house yard” are often neglected. This is proven by the Human Development Index (HDI) between the central regions and the periphery which becomes very unbalanced. Let’s look at the chart below.

The HDI scores in the border regions like Papua (60.06), West Papua (63.74), East Nusa Tenggara (64.39), and West Sulawesi (65.10) are far below the average score of HDI in the national scale (71.39). If compared to the capital city of Jakarta (80.06), the comparison with HDI scores in border regions are like night and day. It’s a stark difference!

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s natural resources are actually located in the “house yard”. For example, Papua. The region, which was once known as Irian Jaya, is filled with abundance of metals, fertile oil palm lands, and large regions of dense rainforest. Unfortunately, those various natural resources have not been able to be realized into a competent development, both in terms of infrastructure, support facilities, and the quality of human resources.

If we want to learn from history, the role of border regions is actually very vital. The stakes are not small either; the nation’s sovereignty. As an example, let’s take a look at the story about the dispute of Sipadan Island and Ligitan Island a couple of years ago.

At that time, we had to let go two islands located in Makassar Strait to separate from the nation. Exactly on December 17th 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a verdict that Sipadan and Ligitan Islands officially became part of Malaysia’s territories. One of the reasons is very simple. Ringgit is more widely used by the inhabitants for economic transactions, compared to Rupiah.

The story of Sipadan and Ligitan immediately became a hard wake-up call for all of us. The analogy used by the judges at ICJ is very clear: the higher a region’s level of trust towards a currency, the higher the interference from the currency’s owner towards the development of the region. In other words, we are not serious enough to unite and unify the “house yard” of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).

We certainly can no longer be negligent. The development in the border regions must be a priority for this country. Just because it keeps being left behind, we cannot let our perfect and beautiful house yard to separate from us. We must have that desire in our hearts to grasp the meaning of the well-known saying: “NKRI or die!”

Developing the Border Regions

It’s better late than never. We should be grateful that in the past few years, the government has made serious efforts in the developing the border regions. This is evident from the implementation of the Government Regulation No.78 of 2014, of which the technical aspect is regulated further in the Presidential Regulation No.131 of 2015.

From the regulation, we know the 6 criteria for the frontier, outermost, and remote (3T) regions that became the benchmark for the government. They are (i) the people’s economy; (ii) human resources; (iii) infrastructure; (iv) regional finance; (v) accessibility; and (vi) regional characteristics.

As a result, there are 122 regencies spread over 24 provinces categorized as underdeveloped regions. Of these, 94 regencies (77.05 percent) of which are in the Eastern Indonesia region (KTI), namely Papua, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Nusa Tenggara. When examined more deeply, Papua is listed as a province with the most underdeveloped regions, which is 26 districts (21.31 percent).

The data presented gives a clear guidance to determine the direction for the development acceleration in the 3T regions. Erasing high disparity in Eastern Indonesia, in particular Papua, must be put at the top of to-do-list if this nation wants to progress. The question is, who holds the highest responsibility to do so?

In building a nation, the government certainly cannot do it alone. There is a role or position held by the private sector and people that is no less important. Because in order to turn the wheels of real economy, companies and the community instead have the real control.

Then what is the most proper way to develop the underdeveloped regions? The first step is creating a new economic center that is synergyzed with local wisdom. That means the technology, expertise, investment, and resources distributed from outside of the underdeveloped regions must be synergyzed with the local workforce. Therefore, the quality of human resources that was left behind, can also progress and develop.

The next step is to ensure that the development result remains to be based in the origin area. When the economic center is built, the result of the development must be felt by the surrounding regions, and not to be entirely transported outside. There must be parts remaining, whether in the form of regional income, support infrastructure, social assistance, education, or public facilities.

Lastly, maintaining sustainability. If both steps above are done consistently, it’s just a matter of time before the regions leave the underdeveloped status. This is because constructions of large infrastructure such as highway roads, electricity, ports, and airports will be done in line with the needs of the citizens.

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