It is not a secret anymore that human resources in both Papua and West Papua Provinces are currently left behind in Indonesia. That is an irony as the island is rich in natural resources. That’s why West Papua’s economic development has to be accelerated, and the key to achieving that is by improving human resource.
This has been proven by the Human Development Index (HDI) that indicates a region’s human resource development as measured with the level of education, health, and a decent living standard. West Papua Province is the second-lowest among all 34 Indonesia’s provinces.
A data in 2018 reported that West Papua’s HDI was only 63.74 in the figure. It is far below the national average in the year, which was 71.39. Meanwhile, Papua Province was the lowest with the figure of 60.06. The other provinces in Indonesia with the lowest HDI were East Nusa Tenggara (64.39), West Kalimantan (66.98), West Sulawesi (65.1) and West Nusa Tenggara (67.3).
The fact about the province’s low HDI should be a motivation for the government to improve the quality of Human Resources (HR) since it is the key to advancing Papua Island as well as accelerating economic development and infrastructure.
What can be done?
Billy Mambrasar, the Special Staff of the President of Indonesia as well as a member of Papua’s Inspiring Youth (Papua Muda Inspiratif/PMI) conveyed his thoughts about advancing Papua Island in a webinar titled “Prosperous Papua: Human, Economic and Infrastructure Development” in early August 2020. He explained the importance of investing in Human Resources (HR) in Papua because the human factor is the key to the development of Papua in all aspects.
He stated that one of the efforts that can be done is to improve the quality of education and competence of human resources. So far, it has been a huge challenge to obtain scholarships to continue education in other areas of Indonesia outside Papua.
In addition, investors who run their businesses in Papua and West Papua are also expected to be able to apply three main business principles: direct (employing local Papuans), proper, and correct (not destroying any existing natural resources). Billy added, through PMI, he and all the Papuan youth will carry out a mission to develop and advance Papuan communities—especially on social and economic development.
The Government’s Program: Sorong Special Economic Zone
To accelerate economic development in West Papua, the government has taken many efforts, including the Sorong Special Economic Zone (Kawasan Ekonomi Khusus/KEK) which takes place in Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, starting from October 2019.
The program’s inauguration was carried out by the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Darmin Nasution. This program was established through the Government Regulation (PP) No. 31 of 2016 and operated on an area of 523.7 hectares.
The main activities include the nickel processing industry, palm oil processing, forest and sago plantation products as well as the construction of logistic warehouses. It is expected that the program can hire at least 15,024 workers.
To make the existence of the KEK-Sorong program more successful, it requires the active involvement of the entire local community. Therefore, in terms of knowledge and skills, there will be more schools opened majoring various vocational education and cooperative training. The local government will also open opportunities for investors as long as the business is done in the right way (not destructing existing natural resources).
Why Infrastructure should still be a Priority
Speaking of human resource and economic development, infrastructure is actually what should come first. Logically, society can and will develop if infrastructure is constantly running. The biggest challenge in improving West Papua’s HDI is the lacking access among the remote villages in the province.
Fortunately, the infrastructure is currently being built in West Papua—not only in the forms of roads and bridges but also airports, ports, and other buildings. Moreover, electricity is improving in quality as well. Not to mention health and education facilities that have also been improved by both the central and regional governments.
Advancing West Papua with Special Autonomy Funds
Developing West Papua means building the whole country. On the eastern end of Indonesia, all levels of government continue to prioritize development of Papua Island—especially economic development. Particularly, it has been implemented since the Presidential Instruction No. 9 of 2017 regarding the Acceleration of the Whole Welfare Development in both Papua and West Papua Provinces was released.
Special Autonomy (Otsus) funds for both Provinces which come from the General Allocation Fund of the State Budget should be ended in 2021, based on the Law No. 21 of 2001. Thankfully, the Audit Board of the Republic of Indonesia (Badan Pemeriksa Keuangan/BPK) has extended the period. Therefore, any developments in the region can reach sustainability.
Last but not least, it is also important to increase the local Papuans’ productivity with advanced information and communication technology. Local indigenous Papuan people are supposed to be educated on how to improve their economy by utilizing means of technology. Thus, any commodities can be sold online, and it eventually will also improve community welfare—including their economic development.