Indonesia Since Independence – Peace and Progress

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Despite these and other problems, The 1970s and early 1980s have been characterizes by relative political stability

The tenor of Suharto regime and its supporters is well caught by the slogan, “Develpoment yes, politics no!” Opposition political parties have been restriced and closely supervised, managing to poll only 40 percent in the 1971 election and even less in subsequent elections.

The big winner, meanwhile, has been the government’s political “functional” group, Golkar, consisting of representives chonsen from various profesional religious , ethnic and military constituencies.

Yet politics refused to go away entirely. A proposed secular marriage law brought an angry respone from Indonesia’s Muslim majority in 1973 and had to be dropped. And pressure has mounted for the government to provide for a greater distribution of the wealth and benefits of economic growth, to curb the level of foreign debt, to contain inflantion and to eradicate corruption. Frustration, particularly over economic matters, has erupted in the past, notably on the occasion of Javanese Prime Minister Tanaka’s visit to Jakarta in 1974, when teh capital was rocked by two days of violent student demonstrations.

Among the influence middle class, however, opposition has beenb muted by the very prosperity the ” New Order” has helpef to generate. Most Indonesians consider themselves better off today than ever before – there are far more cassete players, motorbikers, cars, telephones, televisions and other consumer goods around than there have ever been.

Striking advances have also been made in the vital areas of population control and agriculture. In 1980, Indonesia’s population was 147 million. In the early 1990s, that figure has risen to over 190 mollion. Java and Bali are the most seriously overcrowded island, representing only seven percent of Indonesia’s total land areas, while housing two thirds of her people eguivalent to the entire population of the United States occupying the state of California.

The government first attempted to ease the pressure with transmigration – the resettlement of Javanese and Blinese villagers to the sparsely populated island of Sumatera, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Transmigration has proved slow and costly, though, and since 1970 has been complemented by an intensive family planning campaign, that has menaged to reduce the birth rate from over two percent to around 1.8 percent per annum.

Directly linked to the populatiion situation is the challenge of food production. The highest priority has been given to rice, Indonesia’s staple food. The introduction of new high-yield palnt strains, multiple croppings, better irrigation, chemical fertilizers and pesticides has resulted in a spectacular 50 pecent increase in rice production between 1974 and 1984. A government rice stockpiling and distribution network has also reduced the threat of famine, stabilized prices and provided prices and provided credits and subsidies to farmers.

The problem has not yet been solved, however. Bad weather and insect infestations caused serious shortfalls in 1977, forcing Indonesia to import one third of the world’s surplus rice. Since the, the introduction of a new pest resistant rice strain and further intensification has raised average yields by 21 percent, making Indonesia virtually self-sufficient in rice. Whether levels of production can keep pace with the rapidly increasing demand is the central question. The weather, of course, remains a key variable, though  increased irrigation is reducing some of the uncertainty.

Other food and export crops have not fared so well. Production of vital crops such as rubber, copra, peanuts, oil palms, soybeans, cassava and maize has remained virtually stagnant over the past decade, and in some cases has actually declined.Sugar has been the notable exception, and is a posibble model for future governmental intervention in other areas. Whereas Indoensia spent US$700 million on sugar importars in 1981, increased  cultivation and higher price incentives reduced the figure to US$261 million in 1982 and Indoensia is now a nett exporter of sugar.

On the intensely cultivated island of Java, it is estimated that only a quarter of the population own land. And as the population expands, so agriculture absorbs a progressively smaller percentage of the total labour force. In 1960 the figure was over 75 percent, while today only about 55 percent of Javanese are engaded in food production. This has crated a massive unemployment poblem, in which millions of landless labourers have moved into the cities to see work. Some of these migrants have been absorbed into the budding  manufacturing sector. Yet despite the priority afforded the development of a urban industrial base in the government’s second five-year plan, Repelita II, job oppurtunities in industry have not managed to keep pace with a labour force that is growing by 1.4 million a year.

As a result, these young people lead a hand to mouth existence in the cities – driving pedicabs, peddling noodles and fried bananas, selling cigarettes, shining shoes and scavenging from garbage dumps. Their plight represents one of the major challenges facing Indonesia today.

Unfortunately, the world economic recession and oil glut of the early 1980s has created financial circumstances which have temporarly pushed all other problems to the rear. Indonesia has recently been forced to cut back oil production and to reduce prices significantly. The resulting drop in oil revenues exacerbated by the declining value of other key exports and reductions in foreign industrial invesment, has led to a shortage of foreign exhange and a drop in the economic growth rate.
The guiding principles of the government’s present economic strategy are export promotion and import substitution – selling more abroad and importing less. Oil refining is one area in which signifivant advances have been made towards the goal of self-sufficiency. Indonesia now boasts eight state-run refineries, the largest of which are in Central Java and Kalimantan, and refining capacity is now supplying all of the domestic demand for kerosense and gasolene.

Significant savings have also been realized through domestic fertilizer production. Indonesia’s first plant was opened at Palembang, South Sumatera, in 1964 with a capacity of 100,000 tons per year. Fed by abundant supplies of local natural gas, the state-owned plant has over the years developed into the world’s largest urea producing complex, now turning out more than 1,6 million tons 1 year.
In the realm of export, Indonesia’s most promosing source of revenue is natural gas. Massive reserves totalling over 73 trillion cuic metres were discovered in east Kalimantan and in Aceh, northern Sumatera, in 1971.

Since then, liquid natural gas (LNG) plants have been set into operation at both sites, and Indonesia now ranks as the world’s number one exporter of LNG. Yet another industrial priority has been cement production. In the past two decades the number of plants has more than treble, and production has risen twelvefold.

Indonesia’s other manufacturing industries are more embryonic. Almost 90 percent of those employed in this sector work in small-scale cottage industries, producing basic items such as salt, coconut oil and furniture. Larger factories more dependent upon imported machinery and capital have had some succes in supplying consumer goods for the local market in recent years. The government has pinned its future hopes on labour-intensive, export-oriented manufacturing and they are predicting an industrial “take-off” for Indonesia during the early 1990s.

It is hoped that this will provided jobs and economic prosperity for a population that is expected to reach a hefty 212 million by the year 2,000. Considering the recent pace of development in the cuntry, there is good reason to be optimistic.

–> For More Details : Read Also : Indonesia Since Independence

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