New province will attract newcomers

Waterways: A long boat glides along the Sekatak River in Bulungan regency. River passage is the main transportation choice in North Kalimantan, as the new province still lacks good roads. JP/Prodita Sabarini
Waterways: A long boat glides along the Sekatak River in Bulungan regency. River passage is the main transportation choice in North Kalimantan, as the new province still lacks good roads. JP/Prodita Sabarini

People move far and wide to find their fortunes. In Indonesian; there’s even a word for it: merantau. Jakarta has long been the destination for migrants looking for social mobility. Now, a new province, 1,500 kilometers away across the Java Sea, offers fortune seekers a new destination.

North Kalimantan, around 70,000 square kilometers of forests and large winding rivers carved from the northern part of East Kalimantan, holds a host of business and work opportunities, according to leaders here.

Bulungan Regent Budiman Arifin said that the creation of the province would increase the region’s annual economic growth rate, tipped at 5.63 percent in 2010, by 2 percent.

Officials are not the only ones excited. Liliek Krisnamurti, a migrant from Surakarta, Central Java, says that he has found his place in North Kalimantan and is optimistic that others would feel the same.

It was earlier this month when Liliek was traveling for business from Malinau regency to Tanjung Selor, the new provincial capital. It was a bumpy four-hour journey in a rental car. Infrastructure is meager and affordable public transportation is rare in North Kalimanatan, Demand is growing, however, resulting in, for example, the emergence of several rental car businesses.

Liliek runs an up-and-coming printing business, supplying a host of customers, from lumber mills seeking invoices to schools seeking textbooks. He moved to Samarinda in 1998 after finding that there was nothing for him in Java. At the time, he was an itinerant street singer. “I’ve tried Solo, Yogyakarta and Bali,” he said.

He then tried his luck in Kalimantan, starting off as a janitor at a print shop, where he learned the trade and soon was offered a better job. Four years ago, he moved north, to Malinau, then the largest — and poorest — regency in East Kalimantan.

Liliek said he was optimistic on the new province’s prospects. “I think it’s really good that North Kalimantan is its own province. This region has a lot of potential,” he said.

He said that Malinau, the regency he now calls home, will attract a lot of investors.

Three major coal companies currently operate in Malinau — Bara Dinamika Muda Sukses, Mitra Bara Adi Perdana and Kayan Putra Utama Coal — that produced a total of 1.89 million tons of coal valued at US$133.92 million in 2010, according to the Malinau administration.

Liliek, however, said that business and work opportunities would develop outside the extractive industries. He declined to reveal how profitable his business has been, saying that over the last four years he has been able to build a house by a river that cost him more than half a billion rupiah.

Budiman said that not long after the formation of the new province was announced, automobile dealers arrived looking for land to build showrooms in Tanjung Selor.

The regent said that North Kalimantan would definitely attract new migrants from other parts of Indonesia.

Agus Tantomo, a former East Kalimantan councilor however is skeptical that North Kalimantan regions would be better off as its own province. He said that regions in North Kalimantan would lose their share of dividends from the East Kalimantan’s southern regions extractive industries.

According to law, the central government receives 70 percent of share of income from oil and 30 percent goes to the producing region. For gas, from the 30 percent, six percent goes to regencies and cities within the producing province. Meanwhile for oil, regencies and cities from the producing province receives 3 percent of
the income.

As the regencies and the city in the new North Kalimantan produce less than East Kalimantan’s southern regions, their budget would be smaller, Agus said.

Budiman however is optimistic and claims that the province has plenty of natural resources. The Bulungan Mining Agency has issued 87 mining permits (IUPs) covering 400,000 hectares between November 2009 and February 2011, to the ilk of environmental activist. Only one of the companies is in the producing stage, the rest are still exploring.

Budiman said that officials had required companies to follow environmental standards.

“If companies don’t comply then we send warning. We can even rescind their permits.”

The regent said that he was focusing on agriculture and working with the central government to open 50,000 hectares of farmland in the Delta Kayan Food Estate. He said that 50 percent of the farmers would be local residents of North Kalimantan and the rest migrants from Java, Lampung and West Nusa Tenggara.

“They are given 2 hectares of land and an 18 month living allowance. School and health facilities are available too,” he said.

The number of migrant farmers was capped to ensure that original residents of the area were not marginalized, he added.

Meanwhile, in Jakarta, Ichsan Malik, the head of the Peace-Building Institute, said that the prospects for peace in North Kalimantan were good, despite the ethnic conflicts that have emerged in other regions where migrants have settled down far from home.

“The people are heterogeneous and the economic gap between different ethnic groups is not that wide. There is no problem with injustice,” he said.

The dominant ethnic groups in the region are national-majority Javanese, Bugis and Dayak. Ichsan, known for his peace-building work during the communal conflicts in Maluku, said that the Dayaks in the province still faced challenges. In 2010, riots between ethnic Tidung and Bugis ethnic groups erupted in Tarakan.

As a new province, the government, from its beginning, should pay more attention to the Dayak people,” he said adding that an affirmative-action was required to ensure their rights.

Meanwhile, some of those who lived in the province before its inception say that the formation of North Kalimantan will be a good thing only as far as it affects their lives for the better.

Yohanes, the village leader of Sekatak, Bulungan said many young local Dayaks have not received
the same work opportunities compared to migrants, while the land they live off has been given away for mining or timber concessions. These companies, however, have not been recruiting young Dayaks for good jobs, Yohanes said. “They take Dayaks to be security guards but not as staff.”

In the long run, with more migrants coming in, Ichsan warns that these discontents should be addressed to prevent future conflicts.

Prodita Sabarini and Nurni Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post, Bulungan | Reportage | Mon, January 28 2013

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