Oil Palm Plantations Prevents “Ghost Town”

After the logging era, East Kalimantan changed from a “ghost town” into one of the largest oil palm centers in Indonesia

In regional economic terminology, it is known as a ghost town. The term is used by Western economists to describe the death of economic life after the exploitation of natural resources both mines and other natural resources. After the mining products (petroleum, minerals) have been exploited, what remains behind is the former oil wells, mine pits and uninhabited old buildings and economic activities fade.

The exploitation of natural resources economy is generally exclusive and there is almost no surplus reinvestment in the regions, making the economic wheel go slower after the mining closed.
The same conditions also happen in several regions in Indonesia such as the post-tin mine in Bangka Belitung. This has almost, and also occurred in ex logging areas such as Kalimantan and Riau. In East Kalimantan, for example, massive and intensive logging activities from the 1970s to the beginning of 1990 that were exclusive and there was no reinvestment of logging in East Kalimantan. This had made East Kalimantan a “ghost town”. At the end of the 1990s, the only things left in East Kalimantan were damaged forests, shrubs, ex-logging roads, ex-log ports, poverty of local people and dead small towns.

Dr. Awang Faroek Ishak was one of the few people who were persistently spoke up in the mid-1990s about how East Kalimantan had become a “ghost town” after the logging. In the multi-crisis period that hit Indonesia (1997-2000), he talked a lot about how East Kalimantan had become a “ghost city”. The era of logging had used up the forests of East Kalimantan and capital drain happened in East Kalimantan. The impact of this is not only not recovering the economy, but the only things left behind are logging barracks, poor people and dead villages /cities.

When Dr. Awang Faroek was appointed as the first Regent of East Kutai District in 1998/1999, he built a “door” to get out of the trap of “ghost town” through the Regional Movement for Agribusiness Development (Gerdabangagri). With Gerdabangagri, Dr. Faroang Awang actively promotes the entry of oil palm plantations in East Kalimantan, especially East Kutai.

As the result, 15 years later East Kalimantan succeeded in transforming from a “ghost town” to one of Indonesia’s centers of oil palm plantations and even projected to be the largest province of the Indonesian palm oil industry. Through oil palm plantations, both during the construction period and especially the production period, the economic wheel of East Kalimantan is increasingly spinning fast and expanding. The palm oil economy that is inclusive, attractive, and actively promotes the economy of East Kalimantan is now developing.

Dr. Awang Faroek, who is now the Governor of East Kalimantan, would love to see East Kalimantan avoid the trap of “ghost town”. As a native son of East Kalimantan, he followed his call and has succeeded in transforming the economy of East Kalimantan from non-renewable resources based to the renewable resources based on the palm oil industry.

Now the people of East Kalimantan are increasingly confident towards their future. Luckily, East Kalimantan has Dr. Awang Faroek, who has a vision far into the future, freeing East Kalimantan that used to be a “ghost town” to oil palm plantations in which produce “oil on the ground”, before we run out of “oil beneath the ground”.

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