Means to Boost Economy for Indigenous Ethnic in Papua and West Papua

Ethnic Papua

As we all know, people of ethnic Papua in Papua and West Papua mostly rely on natural resources for their livelihood, including to make a living. Thirty-four-million-hectare forest lies across the region. The forest is said to be the third-largest tropical forest area in the world. Relying heavily on nature, sustainable economic development strategy is the number one priority for people of Papua and West Papua. These are the means to boost the economy, which are in line with the aspiration of the Papuans.

Green investment


Ethnic Papua

To boost the economy for indigenous ethnic Papua without harming their source of livelihood, the central government has launched the concept of green investment—an investment concept that goes hand in hand with natural sustainability—in Papua and West Papua in February 2020.

In the early stage, the green investment will be encouraged for the cultivation of agricultural products, such as cocoa, coffee, nutmeg, seaweed, as well as for aquaculture and developing ecotourism.

The products of agricultural cultivation, fisheries, and forestry in the West Papua region have contributed IDR 8.32 trillion to the 2018 Gross Domestic Product. However, the growth in the sectors above remains low, 2.87 percent. Therefore, Green investment is hoped to boost those sectors. To facilitate investment licensing, the West Papua provincial government has provided a one-stop integrated service (PTSP).

Special Economic Zones (KEK) Sorong

Ethnic Papua

The program aims to boost the economy of the people of West Papua. The government has officially inaugurated an area as large as 523.7 hectares as the Special Economic Zones (KEK) in Sorong regency, West Papua province, through Government Regulations No. 31/20016. There are two factors why Sorong becomes the chosen regency:

  • Geo-economics

Sorong is located near Sele Strait with high potential in fisheries and waterways, and it is strategic for the logistics industry, export processing, maritime tourism, agriculture, and mining.

  • Geostrategic

Sorong regency is located in the international trade route between the Asia Pacific and Australia.

KEK is expected to attract investment of IDR 3,1 trillion for regional development and IDR 32,5 trillion from the investment made by business players. The main activities of the KEK are nickel processing industry, palm oil industry, products of forest and plantation (sago) industry, logistics, area development and management, the provision of regional infrastructure. It is expected to boost the economy of Sorong regency by increasing in Gross Regional Domestic Income of around Rp 10,64 trillion in 2030.


The Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3I) is the central government’s plan to speed up development in Indonesia. The masterplan elaborates on a development plan consisting of three stages to become a developed country by 2025 and ranked 9th as the country with the biggest economy.

MP3I focuses on accelerating economic growth by relying on investment coming from the private sectors and creating a supportive investment climate by putting regulations that hamper projects to an end. There are eight programs in the masterplan: mining (bauxite, nickel, coal, etc.), energy (oil and gas), marine, agriculture (oil palm, rubber, cocoa, etc.), industrial, telecommunication, tourism, marine, and the development of strategic areas. Papua—Maluku is being developed as the ‘ fisheries, food, energy, and center.

There are seven economic centers in Papua-Maluku:

  • Maluku and North Maluku Provinces: Ambon and Sofifi
  • West Papua and Papua Provinces: Manokwari, Sorong, Jayapura Timika, and Merauke

Based on the potential natural resources in the area, it is appointed as the location for developing the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) as one of the key economic activities.

Other areas and their potential natural resources include Timika (copper), Sorong and Bintuni Bay (oil and gas), Halmahera (nickel), as well as Ambon and Maluku (fisheries). The plan is not without challenges, such as low regional GDP levels, inter-regional discrepancy, lack of productivity in the agricultural sector caused by several factors such as lack of irrigation facilities, low investment levels, low number of infrastructure projects, low mobility of people, and sparse population, especially in Papua.

Therefore, infrastructure from different sectors is needed to support the plans. The infrastructure projects are Trans-Papua road construction, building airports and ports, coal-fired power plants in Timika and Jayapura, geothermal power plants, and networks supporting ICT.

Customary approach

This approach is initiated under the leadership of Papua Governor Lukas Enembe and based on indigenous territories. There are five prioritized programs: human resources development, renewable natural resources management, oil and mineral resources management, area development, and provision of infrastructure and institutional governance.

The five indigenous territories and their commodities are:

  • Saireri (fisheries and tourism)
  • Mamta (cacao, coconut, Sentani Lake tourism spot, and electricity)
  • Meepago (coffee and mining)
  • Lapago (coffee, red fruit, and honey bee)
  • Anim Ha (integrated plantation, fisheries, rubber, and sago)


Improving the people of ethnic Papua’s welfare is important. Still, we also have to integrate them with local wisdom and take a rather different approach—customary approach—to do so. Only when men and nature join hands, both parties be benefitted.