Saturday, March 7, 2009

New Focus Placed On Development In E. Kalimantan

Vice President Jusuf Kalla and East Kalimantan Governor Awang Faroek Ishak met on Wednesday to discuss the speeding up of infrastructure projects aimed at boosting the economy and creating jobs in the resource-rich province.

After the discussion in Jakarta, Awang said Kalla had scheduled a meeting on March 13 with the concerned ministers to discuss the projects.

He said Kalla had expressed a willingness to tap into all possible fund sources to assist in the development of the country’s largest province by total area, which at about 245,237 square kilometers is one and a half times larger than Java and Madura islands.

Awang said funds for the projects would come from the central and provincial budgets, the private sector and state-owned enterprises, and would be used to develop roads, the power network, railways, airports and seaports.

“We in East Kalimantan are rich in natural resources like coal and natural gas, but ironically, we are short on electricity,” he said.

Awang said his meeting with Kalla had been timed to coincide with this week’s World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta, at which East Kalimantan signed a memorandum of understanding with RAS Al-Khaimah, a company from the United Arab Emirates, on the construction of a 150-kilometer single-track railway linking Wahau and Lubuk Tutung in the province.

'We in East Kalimantan are rich in natural resources like coal and natural gas, but ironically, we are short on electricity'

Awang Faroek Ishak, governor

“The track will carry coal from rural areas for export,” Awang said. The $900 million project is scheduled for completion in 2011.

He said East Kalimantan’s administration also planned to upgrade Balkipapan’s Sepinggan Airport, the country’s fourth-busiest airport.

Meanwhile, Awang said the central and provincial governments would continue to monitor Kalimantan’s forests to ensure the proposed development of economic zones along the 2,000-kilometer border between Malaysia and Kalimantan did not have a negative impact on the environment.

The Defense Ministry said on Monday it had proposed the government build a railway along the border. However, the proposal could be complicated by the joint “Heart of Borneo” declaration Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei entered into in 2007 with the aim of managing the conservation of more than 220,000 square kilometers of equatorial rainforest on the island.

Nongovernmental environmental organization World Wildlife Fund for Nature said on its Web site the declaration, signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, formally ended plans to create the world’s largest palm oil plantation along Indonesia’s border with Malaysia.

The country’s most senior ministers on security and defense affairs earlier this week insisted the government was still committed to the multilateral agreement.

However, Widodo AS, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, told the Jakarta Globe the country already had enacted a law mandating that the government establish an independent body to manage borders — including in Kalimantan.

“All points of agreement [dealing with the environment], including those in the Heart of Borneo, would be carried out through this body,” Widodo said.

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