Developing Papua I: An Economic Development Perspective

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 Development as practice is multi-faceted programs, therefore its implementation in Indonesia’s most eastern provinces, Papua and West Papua, involves several fields. One of them is economic development, one aspect of development which often becomes the top priority in Papua. The reason economic development gets the most attention is that it has an important role in tackling poverty and economic inequality.

Do you know why economic development is undertaken in West Papua? There are apparent goals in doing every development program, but generally, the goal is to bring prosperity to Papuans. In term of economy, prosperity means that Papuans can get a higher income, more job opportunities, or access to the economic resource. Being economically prosper also means that they can compete in the economic sector, such as in their personal career development.

Many stakeholders participate in the process of economic development in West Papua, such as the central and local government, nongovernmental organizations, private companies, and civil society—the Papuans themselves. Learn about their strategies in implementing economic development in West Papua below.

Building Infrastructure

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Infrastructure is a backbone of economic development. Without building the necessary infrastructure, it is less likely to achieve any economic goal, particularly in Papua in which each area or community is hardly connected to each other due to nature. The topography of Papua, which consists of mountains, rivers, and forest, makes it difficult for Papuans to move from one city or regency to another. This explains why building infrastructure is highly necessary for West Papua.

Understanding the importance of infrastructure in developing the local economy and attracting more investors, the government has been building many infrastructures in West Papua. One of the most notable infrastructure development is Trans Papua, a highway which connects Sorong and Wamena. The 4,300-km length highway is expected to boost economic growth in Papua since its presence makes the distribution of logistics and people’s mobility easier. This project is estimated to finish by the end of 2019.

Another notable infrastructure project is the Wariori Dam in Manokwari Regency. This dam is expected to irrigate 1,400 ha existing rice fields and another 3,450 potential fields. It is not the only dam in the regency since there is also the Oransbari Dam which can irrigate up to 3,016 ha fields. Other infrastructures built in Papua are public facilities such as a hospital, school, and library.

Creating More Jobs

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Another strategy to do economic development in Papua is by creating more jobs. Since the residents of Papua increase—because of birth and migration—the needs of works also increase. The development of infrastructure is expected to support job creation since better infrastructure means more effective business.

Moreover, Papua is known for its amazing tourist destination. Tourism is an important sector which can boost economic development. It has been proven by the growth in the tourism area like Raja Ampat. The presence of this internationally well-known tourist attraction has opened creative work opportunities, such as making and selling souvenirs, offering guide service, or selling foods.

Another strategy which aims for more job creation is making Information and Technology (IT) more familiar to Papuans. IT is important in developing today’s business so, with the knowledge, businessmen in Papua can grow their business even faster. As for individual level, IT knowledge will be a ‘weapon’ for their career advancement.

Tackling Economic Inequality

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Creating more opportunities is a means of eradicating poverty in West Papua. However, the strategy does not adequate in tackling economic inequality. One may have income above the poverty line, but it does not guarantee they will get the same chance to get a better life as their richer neighbors do.

The government tries to tackle economic inequality in Papua by creating more opportunities to get a better life particularly for the poor. The commitment to create the opportunities has been shown by the central government. In 2017 alone, in addition to usual general and special allocation funds (DAU and DAK), the central government transfers IDR 59.5 trillion to the two provinces in Papua. It is called special autonomy and additional infrastructure fund.

Using the fund, local government can implement some pro-poor, such as direct cash-aid, scholarship for poor students, or housing for the poor. The exact program depends on the regency-level local government, but generally, the fund from the central authority is given for this purpose.

Development is a continual process; therefore, you cannot expect Papua to become a prosper society right away. Instead, you can see the progress made by the development process.

One of the most important points of economic development is the percentage of poor people in West Papua. Regarding this matter, the economic development in Papua has shown a progress. Poverty count decreases gradually from 54.75% in 1999 to 27.76 in September 2017. Compared to national poverty count, which is at around 11%, poverty in Papua is still so high. Nevertheless, the progress still can be seen, which clarifies why economic development matters in achieving prosperity in Papua.