Development: Children drink water from a leaking pipe in the Mulia district, Punjak Jaya, Papua, in this file photo. The central government has issued a regulation that will only allow companies owned by native Papuans to bid for government tenders for infrastructure projects in the region worth less than Rp 500 million (US$52,000). (Antara/Andika Wahyu)
The government has issued a regulation that will allow only native Papuan businesspeople to make bids on government construction, part of a strategy to accelerate development in the country’s easternmost province and improve prosperity in the region.
Presidential Decree No. 84/2012 stipulates that all state-owned companies as well as private firms doing construction projects in Papua and West Papua provinces must seek active involvement from Papuan businessmen in the procurement of goods and services needed.
Article 2 of the decree, for instance, requires companies from outside of Papua to partner with local businessmen to procure goods or services worth up to Rp 5 billion (US$518,835).
It further exempts local businessmen from qualifications required to participate in such procurement, in an effort to give opportunity for local business to thrive.
The new regulation also gives sanctions to companies that fail to actively involve Papuans in their daily operations.
Sanctions will also be given to local businessmen who subcontract their projects to non Papuans.
“Such a presidential decree will undoubtedly improve the life of Papuans economically, which will gradually bring peace to the land,” Amiruddin Al Rahab of the government’s Special Unit of Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) told The Jakarta Post recently.
Amiruddin highlighted that the issuance of the decree would open the door for Papuan businessmen to join the massive infrastructure project of building at least 909 kilometers roads in Papua and another 803 kilometers in West Papua, which the government targets to finish by 2014.
The decree is the latest on the long list of initiatives made by UP4B.
Others include a scholarship program for Papuan students to enroll in 32 state-owned universities nationwide as well mobile health services aimed at reaching out to the province’s remote areas and agriculture projects that include the opening of sago plantations and pig farms.
However, many are skeptical about whether the efforts and the disbursement of Rp 30 trillion of the special autonomy fund in the past 12 years could help improve the life of Papuans.
Former regent of Merauke, John Gluba Gebze, said the fund has failed to accelerate development in Papua and West Papua because the central government was clueless about what it should do in Papua.
“The central government thinks that money will take care of everything. I think that the government should come up with a clear and comprehensive plan on what to do, and prepare necessary human resources, before transferring the money,” John told the Post.
He added that the fund has also largely been misused.
An audit by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) revealed that at least Rp 3.34 trillion of the total Rp 28.84 trillion of special autonomy fund allocated for Papua and West Papua between 2002 and 2010 has been misused or embezzled.
The BPK has found that around Rp 28.94 billion has been earmarked for fictitious projects such as the construction of housing for teachers in Boven Digoel Regency worth around Rp 112.7 million, while around Rp 27.17 billion was stripped from the fund to pay for a third party.
John said the only way to better deliver prosperity in Papua was to divide the region more.
“Even a small island like Java has six provinces while Sumatra has 10 provinces. How can Papua, whose territory is almost as sizable as Sumatra, only have two administrative regions?” he said.
So far, the House of Representatives has received 33 proposals for the setting-up of new autonomous regions in Papua, comprising three provinces, 29 regencies and one municipality.
A source close to Commission II told the Post that the commission has set to approve at least three new provinces in Papua next year, including one in the western territory, one in the Pegunungan Tengah area and another one in the south.
In October this year, the House also approved two new regencies in West Papua — Manokwari and Arfak.