The central government will likely back dividing North Sumatra into four smaller provinces without regard to administrative, technical and physical concerns, an official says.
The government has included a proposal for dividing North Sumatra in its plan for regional realignment, Velix Wanggai, a presidential special staff member on regional development and autonomy, said in Medan on Saturday.
“The government has expressed the national interest in its grand design on the establishment of new provinces in the future. In this context, we have put North Sumatra in the grand design,” Velix told The Jakarta Post after visiting the Khairul Imam integrated model school in Medan on Saturday.
Velix said that the government was still fixing an ideal number of new provinces, regencies and cities under the proposed division.
Deliberations, according to Velix, have taken into account the large number of regional administrations resulting from previous divisions.
Indonesia has created 205 autonomous regions over the last 10 years, comprised of seven new provinces and a host of new regencies and cities, he said.
Velix said that the Home Ministry’s deliberations on the proposal would be placed on hold until amendments to the Law on Regional Divisions were passed.
The North Sumatra legislative council previously told the Home Ministry that local legislators would back the division of North Sumatra into four provinces: a smaller North Sumatra province and three new provinces: Tapanuli, Southeast Sumatra and Nias Islands.
Under the proposal, the new Tapanuli province would be comprised of six disadvantaged regencies in western North Sumatra with majority Christian Bataknese populations: Humbang Hasundutan, Toba Samosir, Central Tapanuli, Sibolga and Samosir.
The proposed Southeast Sumatra province would be comprised of five disadvantaged regencies with majority Muslim Bataknese Angkola populations: Padang Sidempuan, South Tapanuli, Mandailing Natal, Padang Lawas and North Padang Lawas.
The proposed Nias Islands province would consist of the remote Christian-majority regencies of Nias, North Nias, West Nias, South Nias and Gunung Sitoli.
Jhon Tafbu Ritongan, the dean of North Sumatra University’s economics school, said that according to his research the proposed division was feasible and would promote economic development in the new administrative regions.
For example, Jhon said, there were all-around increases in gross domestic product, per capita income and human development indices after Serdang Bedagai was separated from Deli Serdang regency.
“In general, I measured the composite ratio using six variables. The results showed that the new regency recorded a 0.32 percent increase, as compared to only 0.06 before the division. The main regency also registered an increase of 0.14 percent. That’s why many regencies and cities in North Sumatra are demanding autonomy,” Jhon said.
After Riau was divided into Riau and Riau Islands provinces, the gross domestic product of the area increased 7.98 percent in 2008, up from 6.83 percent in 2004, Jhon said.