Infrastructure Development in Papua, Why is it Important to Do?


When it took office in October 2014, Indonesian President Joko Widodo explained that one of the domestic policies is to develop and build infrastructure throughout Indonesia. The President believes the program to build toll roads, railways and infrastructure will improve the local economy and improve people's lives in remote areas.
One of the most prioritized is infrastructure development in Papua and West Papua provinces. Although rich with natural resources, this region lags behind with other provinces. The population lives below the poverty line of 25 percent of the population. Twice more than the national figure of 10.7 percent (BPS, March 2017).
"If the infrastructure is good, roads and harbors are good, then Papua's economy will grow faster because the logistics distribution for goods and people increases," he said during a visit to Papua in 2015.
Among Jokowi's ambitious development plans is the Trans Papua highway, which is expected to start operating by 2018; full electrification in Papua and West Papua by 2019 (currently 47 percent); and build seaports that are part of its ocean toll program. The amount of government spent on this program is significant. Last year, Jokowi allocated Rp85.7 trillion to fund development projects in Papua and West Papua.
In July 2017, Jokowi reiterated the importance of the program for Papua and West Papua, and called on the cabinet and local government to accelerate infrastructure development in both provinces. "Such great potentials (in Papua and West Papua) should be utilized as much as possible for the welfare of the people," said Jokowi.
There are also challenges. Not everyone supports the full development in Papua and West Papua. Some experts and conservationists argue that Jokowi's infrastructure boost will damage the protected areas of the region and benefit large businesses at the expense of local communities.
During the transitional period before the inauguration of Jokowi three years ago, a working group called Pokja Papua was created to fulfill the promise of development in the two provinces. The team is led by Judith J. Dipodiputro, an experienced public relations expert in the public and private sectors, as well as civil society organizations.
Previously, Dipodiputro served as vice president of public relations for the oil and gas giant Total Indonesia, and quit in 2012. Previously, he worked as an expert advisor to the Kutai Kartanegara district government in East Kalimantan, and was previously part of the PR team of the Ministry of the Environment. Prior to the Pokja Papua, Dipodiputro was also involved as an important part of organizations such as the Javan Gibbon Foundation and the economic empowerment group of Yayasan Rumah-Indonesia.
Mongabay recently met with Dipodiputro to discuss the progress of presidential development programs, environmental impacts, and government solutions to challenges in Papua and West Papua.


Mongabay: Pokja Papua was originally created by Transition Team Joko Widodo. Why do you agree to head it up?
Judith J. Dipodiputro: At that time, our job was to fulfill the promises made by Mr. Jokowi during his campaign. But after it was inaugurated, the transitional office was disbanded and we were asked by the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises to continue on unfulfilled promises, especially in Papua, starting from the mama market [a micro business program for women].
Our task is more to ensure that local people can be escorted, to be involved in development. Development takes place in different areas, especially in remote areas, and in the border areas that are usually the poorest.
The problem is that development is being done, roads are built, bridges are built, but economic benefits are not immediately felt by the poorest of the poor. So, our job is to accompany and help them be included in this ongoing development.
Why do you agree with that?
Actually, it takes a strong enough commitment, not just from me, but from everyone who has been involved early on to try to work Jokowi's pack to become president.
I was actively involved with being one of the volunteers, and at the time we were discussing and I said to [pak Jokowi], "If we have a chance, and God gives us the way to win [election, red] to do [Father] being a clean, honest, competent president, loving the people, and also supporting the unity of Indonesia, please remember that we carry the mandate of building prosperity for the people, which means 253 million Indonesians. "
So this is really a deep commitment that we are not leaving anyone, and we are embracing people who have been feeling left out.
Why is Papua a priority in the president's infrastructure development plan?
Papua is not the only priority of infrastructure development. All border areas, all disadvantaged areas are now a priority. Papua is one of them. Pak Jokowi not only went to Papua, he also went to all other areas simultaneously.


 And why is Papua a priority for infrastructure development?
Because in fact, infrastructure is needed for Papua. You can not do like chicken and eggs - which one should start first? You can not wait for the community to flourish and then we start building infrastructure.
We must really trigger, become a catalyst, therefore infrastructure must be a catalyst. We know that today and over the years the biggest challenge is reaching [isolation] from one village to another.
The local tribes worked hard for Pak Jokowi as president, which meant that they chose a leader whom they believed would guard him. So I think it's fair if now they demand proof.
And if you look, the infrastructure being built in Papua is not just about roads and bridges, but also about improvements and solutions. Our electricity is improving its quality, health infrastructure, educational infrastructure, all being repaired or repaired, or even adjusted. Make infrastructure more adaptable for the community.
Papua presents its own challenges, such as geography, and socio-cultural conflicts including separatist movements. How do you see the government solve these challenges while ensuring that the development continues?
The paradigm of this cabinet is very different, and most come from non-governmental backgrounds. Most ministers today are truly professionals, and or from the private sector. So this mixture makes it possible to have a complete picture. That's my observation. They have a picture of all the problems from different angles. This allows them to integrate all the challenges into finding solutions.
Personally I have been involved as an environmental observer, since the 1980s. For me, environmental issues are definitely a very important issue. But we must also understand that we need to develop Indonesia fairly for every Indonesian.
I do not think, and I do not want my government to say, "Well, because you are in a remote area, and your village is less than 30 families, we do not help you for transportation access." This is common in Papua. Now, we can not do that anymore. I see there is tremendous effort in accessing the right solutions, which you can also see from the overall structure of the team.


In the Papua provincial spatial plan for 2013-2033, there is a vision to maintain 83 percent of the province as "undisturbed natural habitat". The Indonesian government also has a pledge to reduce 29 percent of carbon emissions by 2030 at INDC under the Paris agreement. How does this commitment affect development in Papua?
I think something is not fair. Because today, the language used is because Papua is building bridges and roads, infrastructure in general, it seems as if it will open the forest on a large scale. I do not think so.
If you compare the percentage used for infrastructure, compared to the size of the island, even compared to the existing open area, not so great. I think people should start measuring and counting.
So you are convinced that the green commitment by the Papuan and Indonesian governments will be upheld when building infrastructure in Papua?
In 2015, West Papua declared itself a Conservation Province. My understanding, from discussions with some people, the province of Papua will also announce, or is in the process of studying the possibility of expressing itself, if I am not mistaken, as a Green Economy Province.
How do you see the development of Papua happen if Indonesia has a new president in the next few years?
I do not like to talk politics. I'm just talking about logic and I'm sure, as long as Indonesia exists, then Papua will always be there.
Government is a system that works. We have a very strong bureaucracy. Sometimes very complicated. We have seen [presidential change] in the last 20 years, and I think this model continues to improve.
Whenever we have a new leader, the latest leaders learn from the mistakes of past leaders, instead they also adopt the lessons of the past. So I'm not worried about that because it's a commitment.


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