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Indonesia rolling out new plan to lift growth in Papua

Jakarta Globe - February 16, 2011

Camelia Pasandaran – The government has announced that it would issue new guidelines next month on boosting development in the restive provinces of Papua and West Papua.

The implementation of the guidelines, to be issued in a presidential decree, will be coordinated by the new Government Unit to Accelerate Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), the vice president's office said on Monday.

Yopie Hidayat, a spokesman for Vice President Boediono, said the new policy was expected to "gain optimum results through centralized planning."

The decree will call for, among other things, affirmative action for Papuans in certain sectors, integrating central and regional government planning and considering social and political factors in development programs.

Of Indonesia's 33 provinces, Papua and West Papua receive the most money from the budget.

While the government allocated Rp 30 trillion ($3.3 billion) on developing the region last year, local activists claim much of that money was lost through corruption within the local administration.

Yopie said that under the new decree, graft would be eliminated by getting the Papua and West Papua governors directly involved in policy formulation. "They'll serve as checks on one another," he said. "The spending will also be better prioritized to provide greater benefits for Papuans."

Beside managing the budget, the UP4B will also work to address other challenges, Yopie said.

"It will take social and political problems in each region into account when formulating development policy," he said. "So it won't just be about business or project distribution, but also addressing development on a regional basis."

The decree will also call for affirmative action for native Papuans, who have long complained about the favorable treatment afforded to migrants from other parts of the country.

However, the decree will not call for an end to transmigration, as demanded by activists.

Despite being resource-rich and receiving the biggest allocation of all provinces from the state budget, the region remains largely underdeveloped.

Many Papuans accuse the government of unfairly 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 security forces.