Indonesian border areas need additional import quota: association

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or Kadin, has called on the government to increase the import quota for the country's outermost regencies, especially those bordering Malaysia.

The association said that the augmentation of the import quota for some basic commodities including rice, cooking oil and sugar would be urgently needed to curb growing prices, which have severely affected the living condition of the people living in the border areas.

"The local residents are not guaranteed to eat three times a day because the price of basic staples has skyrocketed," Kadin deputy chairman for Indonesia's central regions, Endang Kesumayadi, said during a press briefing in his Jakarta office yesterday.

Since the lack of infrastructure linking Indonesia's border areas drove up logistic costs, basic commodities from other parts of Indonesia are too expensive and out of reach of the locals. Kesumayadi argued that the government's policies of prohibiting border areas from importing from Malaysia had caused the staples to become unattainable by locals.

In some of the areas, the price of unsubsidised fuel could top 30,000 rupiah (US$3.1) per litre, exceeding the price set by the government, while the price of sugar could reach as high as 17,000 rupiah per kilogram, added Kesumayadi, who recently visited several border areas in Kalimantan with other Kadin executives and officials from the National Agency on Border Management (BNPP).

According to Kadin, the Trade Ministry had set the annual import quota of basic commodities that can be imported from Malaysia, including rice and sugar, at 17,500 tonnes exclusively for five regencies in the West Kalimantan-Malaysia border; Sambas, Bengkayang, Sanggau, Sintang and Kapuas Hulu.

Other border areas are unable to import from Malaysia as they were not given such a quota.

Kadin urged the government to bestow other border areas with the same privilege, arguing that there were at least 38 regencies whose local residents had been struggling with the exorbitant prices of basic commodities.

The chamber estimated that the 38 regencies would need at least 130,000 tonnes of import quota of basic commodities.

Indonesia, an archipelagic nation with more than 13,000 islands, has 12 provinces that border other countries, three of which have shared land borders with Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste.

Many locals residing in Indonesia's outermost areas are excluded from Indonesia's rapid economic development, partly because of the poor infrastructure that impedes economic activities there.

Due to the difficult situation and lack of employment in Indonesia's outermost areas, many of the locals residing there prefer to work in Malaysia, crossing the borders everyday to make ends meet, according to BNPP deputy for border area management, Agung Mulyana.

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