28 May 2018

Decentralization and Development: The case of Talaud Islands Regency, Indonesia, 2004-2007

Johannes Aldrin Timbuleng
Flinders University

Abstract

The correlation between decentralization and development has long been investigated by various scholars. Despite some disagreements, they tend to argue that decentralization can be useful for promoting development if it meets several criteria. In Indonesia, most of the studies suggested enhancing the capacity of local government if decentralization is to have positive impacts and improve the quality of life of the majority living in regional areas. This project seeks to examine the progress made by Talaud Islands Regency after being granted power and resources under the decentralization system. This regency has certain characteristics that could be useful to see the links between decentralization and development. Talaud is a border area, an island area, a less developed and isolated area as well as an area vulnerable to natural disasters. It is also a predominantly rural area. Given such unique characteristics, this study has tried to find out the extent to which decentralization has helped Talaud’s government to design and implement its development programs and projects to facilitate development. In more specific terms, it has also tried to find out the impact of such programs on the wellbeing of the local people.

The study was mainly based on secondary sources of information, and it used a combination of descriptive and simple statistical analysis methods. It has found that the development projects initiated under decentralization scheme have generally positive but limited impacts on the welfare of the people. This was due mainly to the fact that the development projects initiated by the government have focused on improving physical infrastructure which, though necessary, are of little benefit to the people, the majority of whom are in low income households. The study has also identified several obstacles faced by decentralized Talaud in accelerating development. Two of them figure prominently, capacity constraints and budgetary constraints. Therefore, the study suggests that the leadership in Talaud needs to pay serious attention to capacity building, review development strategies and adopt more participatory methods of development.

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