The West Papua currency has had three changes in the record of the province’s history. The changes correlated to the region’s official name and the ruling administration at that time.
During he Dutch East Indies colonial administration era, West Papua, also known as Nugini Belanda or Nederlands-Niuew-Guinea, used Nederlandsche Nieuw Guinea Gulden.
After the Dutch administration ended, the region changed its name to West Irian. Irian stands for Ikut Republik Indonesia Anti-Netherland. In English, it means Join the Republic of Indonesia Anti-Netherland. The authoritative officials replaced the currency with West Irian Rupiah.
Then, prolonged inflation hit Indonesia’s economy in the mid-1960s. Facing economic woes, the ruling Indonesian Government issued new and valid banknotes and coins as the only legal currency throughout Indonesia.
Thus, the previous legal tender was no longer in effect and had to be withdrawn. The new banknotes and coins were Indonesian Rupiah. The money that we know today.
These three changes did not come as a mere means of payment. Changing currency was also an act to establish sovereignty over the land of Papua.
The Dutch Indies needed to unite hundreds of tribes, and so did Indonesia Government. Besides language, religion, and culture, a common legal means of payment could do the job because economic activity always occurs regardless of region.
As long as the people want to fulfill their basic needs, a form of currency, even bartering, would be demanded by the people to have a fair exchange. Now, let’s learn more about each legal means of payment in West Papua history.
The History of West Papua Currency
Nederlandsche Nieuw Guinea Gulden
The first is Nederlandsche Nieuw Guinea Gulden (hereafter, Dutch Gulden), issued by the Dutch Indies colonial administration. They printed the money at Johan Enschede en Zonen, Haarlem, on March 30, 1950.
Then, it was circulated by the Dutch commercial bank called Nederlandsche Handel Maatschappij (NHM). This currency lasted until 1963.
The first form of the Dutch Gulden was coins divided into quarters, dimes, stuivers, and cents. Then, they changed the form into banknotes because banknotes were deemed a more secure form of currency against counterfeiting.
The money came into circulation in 1957. They did this to support the economic activity in Nugini Belanda.
West Irian Rupiah
The second West Papua currency is West Irian Rupiah or Mata Uang Rupiah Irian Barat (IBRp). The value of 1 West Irian rupiah was equivalent to 18.9 Indonesian Rupiah. This particular currency was unique to the region and valid between 1963 and 1973.
During this period, Bank Indonesia in West Irian issued three forms of money. They were coins, the government notes, especially for West Irian, and Bank Indonesia notes, especially for West Irian.
The coins were 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. At the same time, the West Irian Rupiah banknotes had the image of the first Indonesian president, Soekarno. The banknotes that were printed came into circulation in 1960.
The government notes differed from the Bank Indonesia notes, especially for West Irian. The former had the words “IRIAN BARAT” with a serial number in the format of “IBx999999”.
Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Since its independence, Indonesian Rupiah has been the country’s official currency as the only valid monetary unit and legal tender. The money circulation is issued and controlled by Bank Indonesia.
On May 31, 1971, the Indonesia Government ordered a withdrawal of West Irian banknotes and coins corresponding to the Presidential Decree No. 27 of 1965. Since then, West Papua has been using IDR as the legal means of payment.
The three changes in West Papua currency accompanied the province’s history of colonization. However, it was confirmed that they needed common money to support the province’s economy.