Papua Living Costs Said to Be Key Development Issue

Papua Living Costs Said to Be Key Development Issue

, 23 November 2010
 

By: Camelia Pasandaran

 

Bringing down the high cost of living in Papua, which is paradoxically the country’s least-developed province, is a key factor in boosting development there, the government says.

The matter was raised on Tuesday at a meeting between Vice President Boediono and Gamawan Fauzi, the home affairs minister.

“We discussed how to make things cheaper there, such as cement and basic goods,” Gamawan said after the meeting. “Because the living costs there are high, we need to take steps to reduce them, while still abiding by the principle of regional autonomy.”

Despite being among the most resource-rich parts of the country and receiving the biggest allocation of all provinces from the state budget, Papua remains largely underdeveloped.

Many Papuans accuse the government of not fairly distributing the revenue from resources mined there, while a low-level insurgency has persisted for decades, fueled in part by the torture and ill-treatment of Papuans by the security forces.

Following international criticism of the situation, the government in October decided to accelerate development in the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Part of the initiative includes the establishment of what the government calls “economic clusters” in two plantation areas to directly address economic and social problems.

Gamawan said the government was also drafting a new presidential decree on the development of Papua, as well as planning the establishment of a new Government Unit to Accelerate Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) to oversee it.

Meanwhile, Yopie Hidayat, a spokesman for Boediono, said the vice president had also called for the National Development Planning Board’s (Bappenas) programs for Papua to be amended.

“There’s much that needs to be improved,” he said.