Aceh Agency to Be Model for Papua Development Plans

Jakarta Globe | January 12, 2012

De-emphasizing the much-criticized security approach in Papua and West Papua, the government has said it plans to make full use of a presidentially appointed body to coordinate development in the restive provinces.

Vice President Boediono said on Wednesday that the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) would act like the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR), which led rebuilding efforts after the devastation of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami that hit the region.

The UP4B, Boediono told journalists at his office, was formed by presidential decree and thus would not have the same strength and power as the BRR, which was formed by law. It would take the latter as a model nonetheless, he said.

The unit is expected to coordinate all projects from the central and provincial governments for Papua and West Papua so that “the impacts will be more effectively felt by people there.”

Retired military commander Lt. Gen. Bambang Darmono, heads the UP4B.

From 2002 to 2010, the government has poured Rp 28.1 trillion ($3.1 billion) from the state budget into Papua and West Papua to develop the provinces, but critics have said the fund has been ill managed and graft-prone, leaving most Papuans with little material improvement in their living standards or wellbeing. Most Papuans still live in poverty with limited access to health care, education, jobs and other essentials.

“The definition of ‘prosperity approach’ will be expanded,” Boediono said, adding that the increased scope would not only cover the provision of public facilities, infrastructure and services, “but also a sense of security and justice.”

He said the government was looking at ways “to win the hearts and minds” of the Papuan people.

Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa, speaking at the same occasion, said any development in Papua and West Papua “should be not only visible but concretely felt.”

The government’s new focus on the Aceh agency as a model for the development of Indonesia’s easternmost provinces is “to make sure that the [budget] funds are really rightly used,” said Hatta. He said use of the budget allocation for the provinces “should have the result that it enhances prosperity.”

Many Papuans accuse the government of unfairly distributing revenues from exploitation of the region’s natural resources, while a low-level insurgency has persisted for decades, fueled in part by recurring human rights abuses perpetrated by security forces.

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