Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh – The former chairman of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) team, Pieter Feith, has said that Aceh administrations have not yet been able to take full advantage of the abundant budgets available to them following the peace deal 10 years ago, which has caused the reintegration process and economic development in the province to remain stagnant.
Feith said the undeveloped economy had created some weaknesses that could disturb the hard-won peace in Aceh.
"Reintegration of the combatants in Aceh is still an issue. The Aceh and Jakarta administrations have to work hard to overcome this," he said on Thursday evening, adding that the government had the resources and money to do so.
Feith was in Aceh together with Juha Christensen, a mediator of the Helsinki memorandum of understanding that ended the conflict and an AMM special advisor, to monitor the development of peace in the region. They were also scheduled to join the ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of Aceh's peace on Saturday.
Feith blamed the situation on the fact that the Aceh administration did not yet have a blueprint for planning economic development and ensuring the welfare of the people, as well as for reintegration.
As such, he said, Aceh's development was not focused and did not have identifiable priorities over the last 10 years, despite the province's abundant budget of Rp 12.8 trillion (US$984 million) and a special autonomy fund of Rp 7 trillion for this year alone.
Feith suggested that the Aceh administration should evaluate how to make better plans so it would be able to improve people's welfare and create job opportunities for both former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) combatants and the public in general.
He said a good economy was vital for thoroughly completing the reintegration process because all former GAM combatants needed sound economic foundations after undergoing 30 years of conflict. "Economic development is the key to maintaining peace in Aceh," Feith said.
Feith also said that the central government was slow in formulating a number of derivative regulations for the Law on the Governing of Aceh (UUPA).
The emergence of new movements by former GAM combatants, like the one in East Aceh led by former combatant Din Minimi, according to Feith, was a sign that there were still problems in reintegration.
Separately, Juha Christensen said that security and political stability were very important factors for investment in Aceh. Investors, he said, would think twice about investing in Aceh if there are still problems there.
He also suggested that the local authority starts getting locals to invest in the province before trying to attract investors from other regions to follow suit.
The stagnant economic conditions in Aceh have reportedly also caused employers, including local ones, to cease operations because they considered the wheels of its economy to be moving extremely slow.
"I've been perplexed in running my business here. My capital is restrained because my clients mostly could not pay for their debts," said Oelga Galinggin, a photocopy machine seller in Banda Aceh.
Oelga said he planned to move his business to another city after considering that the purchase power of the Acehnese was very low. "Let alone getting profits, to get our investment returned is difficult here," Oelga said.
He blamed the situation on the lack of economic development in the province, arguing that the bylaws issued by the local administrations did not directly touch the people-based economy.