By H. W Dick
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The islands of Sulawesi, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara and Irian Jaya represent about half the nation’s area of land and sea but a mere 8% of the economy. Its only substantial city is Makassar, formerly Ujung Pandang, the gateway to Eastern Indonesia but also the exit. Lying on the western edge of the region, it is too remote and too small to transform so poor and fragmented a region. This core–periphery structure is reflected in regional income per capita. 1 gives current rupiah income per capita for each main island in 1996, the year before the Asian crisis.
The crisis of the late 1990s may turn out to have been a historical watershed. The downfall of Soeharto released popular frustration with overcentralisation of government and associated political repression. Like the former colonial state, the New Order state turned out to be remarkably fragile for want of broad-based institutions that embodied popular consent in that system of government. In May 1999 radical new laws were introduced to facilitate much greater regional autonomy. In June 1999 there were the first popular parliamentary elections since 1955.
The movement of goods still relied on human porterage, pack animals, and prahu; wheeled carts were as yet uncommon. After 1830 under the Cultivation System, much labour was mobilised to improve roads and build bridges for transport of export crops by cart, usually to the nearest landing place on the river or coast. The first section of railway was opened in central Java in 1867. By 1880 lines had been completed into the interior from the main north coast ports of Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya, and by the mid-1890s had become a linked network.
The Emergence of a National Economy: an Economic History of Indonesia, 1800-2000 by H. W Dick