For whom the infrastructure in Papua truly is?

Many people might think that there is a great mistake since the beginning of this Republic on what Central Government has ever done to Papua and its peoples. Something like stereotyping Papuans as a “primitive” society, over-reducing the problem of the Papuan people always on just economic matters only (ahistorical approach), and overgeneralizing problems in Papua with just one treatment are seen as just a view of its examples. Those things reflected on how Central Government implement Papuan Development Scheme which was so similar with other area of Indonesia, especially Java, instead of being different. Thus, creating a “Javan Papua” as the result.

Began in the authoritarian New Order regime, with its development plan stated in the Five Year Development Plan (REPELITA). Catching up economic growth is the main objective of this regime. Opening investment is seen as the answer for all problems exists. Started by granting mining work contract license to PT. Freeport in Timika, the establishment of a fishing company in Sorong, and timber exploitation in Jayapura Forest from around year 1967 to 1980. Furthermore, the development planning stage is achieving self-sufficiency in food (rice). The program was accompanied by bringing in transmigrants from other parts of Indonesia, specially Java. In this case, unlike Javan People, Local Papuans certainly do not have the ability and experience to work in the rice fields to be competitive. These circumstances leads to the portrayal of Papuan as a society that does not comply with The New Order development needs.

The Development Plan of Papua after the New Order, was built upon Special Autonomy Law (Otsus) No 21, released by Indonesian Government in 2001. The direction of development is focused on four priority sectors, which are education, public health, economy empowerment and infrastructure development. The flow of Special Autonomy funds in Papua have been distributed since 2002, and in West Papua since 2007. As per 2018 Province Papua had received Otsus funds numbers as much as 75.3 trillion, while West Papua Province had received about 29.8 trillion, which continue to rise every year 1[i]. [1]Although These numbers are huge, it still can’t help rose the Index Human Development (HDI) in the two provinces from the bottom rank. Even until 2018, Human Development Index in Papua and West Papua was still below the Indonesian average (71.39), with just 60.06 and 63.74, respectively (BPS, 2018) thus made Papua as a province with lowest HDI in Indonesia.

After three presidential reigns since the beginning of Reformation Era, the baton of Papua development had passed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and President Joko Widodo administration. The development of Papua in both regimes wasn’t much different with what that of The New Order. characterized with intense top down management, centralized orientation, and imbalance approach in economic growth pursuit. Started from MIFEE (Merauke Integrated Food & Energy Estate) in the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI) during the reign of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), on until National Strategic Project (PSN) in the era of Joko Widodo administration. Although it has different name, but the project development approach carried out by these two regimes was actually the same. It is dominated by land grabbing (land grabbing) for land acquisition projects development driven by both state and private companies. Those conditions, raised several important question as follow: For whom The National Programs in Papua truly done? What social and environmental impacts did it bring? Does the Papuan People really need that? And, what the Papuan people would actually get?

Papua in National Development Scheme

Aforetime, Papua long known as a place for harvesting resources without infrastructure improvement. Today, as the road construction throughout the island commenced, Papua become one of major infrastructure development priority in Indonesia. This is inseparable from the current global phenomenon of infrastructure developments that really prioritizes connectivity across islands, countries, or even continents as a strategy in order to boost the economy. In national development, the scheme set forth in the form of Indonesia’s economic corridor (Figure 1). Where is the source based investment project natural resources, development of special areas, up to with the creation of new economic centers will be connected to the infrastructure created. The goal is none other than creating growth and markets so that the capital turnover is getting higher and the risk faced getting lower.

Papua with its very rich natural resources was one important node among the common economic chains throughout Maluku Islands. The direction and strategy of economic development in Papua and Maluku Archipelago Economic Corridor, was focused on five main economic activities, which comprise of food agriculture, copper, nickel, oil, gas, and fisheries. In the future, according to the 2020 RPJMN 2024, Papua Island has been targeted as destination of investment through green growth concept. The division of seven culture regions was even predicted as the basis for determining the corridor development in the area 2[1]. As is Figure 2, each development corridor designation has been determined based on reliable commodities.

Others, as shown in Figure 3, several new airports have been constructed at several Development Planning locations. Complete with three central points for the National Strategic Area (PKSN) on the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea in order to implement the connectivity development trend.

Seeing these condition, following questions rises: where does the infrastructure development plan actually came from? Is it entirely derived from local villagers or from parties other than them, who holds a special interest in the island? This brings infrastructure development program in Papua into a very questionable position, whether it is being prepared for the villagers or to attract investment from certain parties, solely purposed to pile up their wealth alone.

West Papua: Tambrauw development and surrounding

West Papua in Papua development scheme divided into two cultural areas, which is Domberay and Bomberay. In the 2020-2024 RPJMN, West Papua was enlisted in top priority for major development project, with two major development projects comprises of new Sorong town area and the Domberay cultural area. The development direction of the area is divided into several focus is the development of an economic area based on agricultural commodities (cocoa, livestoack, horticulture), tourism, port infrastructure and trans roads Papua, as well as basic services for access to health and education. The development locations are scattered within several points as shown in Figure 4.


[1] The division of these 7 (seven) cultural areas is a classification that was used by Dutch researchers and anthropologists to tribal communities in Papua-West Papua.

[1] Exposure to Otsus data material. Ministry of Internal Affairs. 2018


For whom the infrastructure in Papua truly is?
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Published: October 27, 2020

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