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Tarakan Sets Its Sights On Becoming ‘Little Singapore’

Nurni Sulaiman. Over the last seven years, Tarakan city has prospered remarkably, despite its location at the northern end of East Kalimantan far away from the central government in Jakarta.

According to Tarakan Mayor Jusuf SK, the implementation of regional autonomy has greatly influenced the city’s rapid development, thanks largely to the effective management of autonomy funds since 2001.

“”I was astounded upon hearing that the budget allocated for Tarakan amounted to Rp 200 billion (US$22.2 million). It is a fantastic figure compared to the sum we received before the autonomy era of only Rp 25 billion,”” Jusuf told The Jakarta Post at his official residence.

Jusuf said previously regional leaders were nothing more than guardsmen.

“”When I was appointed to my position on March 1, 1999, Tarakan was just a small backward kampong. We had no money or clout. Regents and mayors were just like caretakers. The situation is much different in the autonomy era,”” Jusuf said.

With more authority at his disposal, he has begun to envision Tarakan as becoming a “”miniature Singapore””.

However, he admits this will be no easy task.

To realize Jusuf’s vision, Tarakan would have to take a lead in every development sector, including in education, infrastructure and transportation.

Since the implementation of regional autonomy, Tarakan has begun to rise from the darkness.

Infrastructure development has been encouraged, such as lighting up the streets, enhancing the city’s parks and building community health centers.

“”Tarakan is slowly beginning to brighten up,”” said Jusuf.

The city has undergone many improvements, such as deregulating the local basic electricity tariff, making Tarakan the second city in Indonesia after Batam in the Riau Islands province to have a surplus of power.

The Tarakan municipality has also improved the welfare of educational staff by providing them with monthly incentives of Rp 725,000 for teachers, Rp 875,000 for school principals and Rp 925,000 for education supervisors.

Principals and supervisors are also provided with a motorbike each.

Visitors to the city are often surprised when they witness improvements made to education facilities. The city even sports several international schools, such as the three-story international SMPN 1 Tarakan state junior high school, which is equipped with state-of-the-art labs.

Other policies include the cross subsidy program, in which poor families are exempted from education and health expenses.

“”We will even pay for the schooling of gifted students from poor families to the highest level of education,”” said Jusuf.

Progress in the education sector in Tarakan is regarded as one of its greatest achievements in the regional autonomy era.

The city received the 2006 Autonomy Award in the Special Category for a Region with a Leading Innovative Breakthrough in Education Services, granted by independent institution The Jawa Post Institute of Pro-autonomy.

“”We built the best schools to ensure effective learning and teaching processes. We want to provide a paradise for students and teachers, a place people can rely on for their children,”” Jusuf said.

He said the city had only spent 28.2 percent of its budget on administration since 2006, while the remainder had been used to build infrastructure, such as docks at the port. This is in contrast to previous years when routine spending was higher than capital spending.

Jusuf said another development strategy used was to respect investors.

“”We roll out the red carpet for investors. We fully support investors,”” he said.

Encouraging investors to do business in Tarakan, he said, has considerably expedited the poverty alleviation program and reduced unemployment levels.

“”We don’t follow the BLT government-sponsored cash assistance program to alleviate poverty. It won’t resolve the problem.

“”We facilitate investors and make them feel safe to invest in Tarakan so they will open up their doors widely for the local workforce, therefore minimizing unemployment,”” he said.

In line with economic growth, the per capita income of Tarakan residents has risen from Rp 8,195,473 in 2000 to Rp 15,795,721 in 2006.

The city budget’s regional initiated income this year amounted to Rp 40 billion, an astonishing amount compared to Rp 2 billion before the regional autonomy period.

The service sector contributes the most to the city budget. Tarakan is the second biggest stakeholder in the East Kalimantan Regional Development Bank (BPD), with assets of Rp 12 trillion.

“”One method is to help investors thrive so they will pay taxes on time,”” said Jusuf.

Source : The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Mon, 09/03/2007 2:09 PM

June 12, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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