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Background Information

Basic Indicators

Population 189 million
Pop. Growth 1.47% p.a.
Land Area 1,811,570 sq km
Life Expectancy 63.50 yrs
GNP per capita $US 880


Indonesia is the largest archipelago-state in the world, made up of approximately 3,000 islands. The most important are Borneo (Kalimantan), Sumatra, Java, Celebes, Bali, the Moluccas, Western New Guinea and Timor. Lying on both sides of the equator, the island group has a tropical, rainy climate and dense rainforest vegetation. The population, the fourth largest in the world, is unevenly distributed: Java has one of the highest population densities in the world, 640 inhab. per sq km, while Borneo has fewer than 10 inhab. per sq km. Cash crops, mainly coffee, tea, rubber and palm oil are cultivated, along with subsistence crops, especially rice. Indonesia is the tenth largest oil producer and the third largest tin producer in the world. Like neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia has suffered deforestation due to the expansion of the paper and lumber-exporting industries.


Peoples: 90% of Indonesians are of Malay origin, half of whom belong to the Javanese ethnic group. There are also Chinese and Indian minorities. Religions: Mainly Muslim; about 10% are Christian, around 3% are Buddhist and Hindu. Languages: Bahasa Indonesia (official), similar to Malay, is the official language. The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to gradual language unification based on Melayu, the common mother tongue. Javanese, native language to 60 million of the countrys inhabitants. English, the language of business and commerce. 250 regional languages. Political Parties: A presidential decree of January 1960 allows the president to dissolve any party whose ideology runs counter to official policies. The governing party, the Sekretariat Bersama Golongan Karya (Sekber Golkar Party), was created in 1971. Supported by the armed forces, the Sekber Golkar is a coalition of various professional and interest groups. President Suharto is chairman and president of the partys Advisory Board. Civil servants are mostly affiliated to the National Association of Civil Servants (KDRPR), part of Sekber Golkar. Opposition parties organized by the government in 1973 include the United Development Party (PPP), conservative and Muslim-based, and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), which caters to Christians and old nationalistic groups from the Sukarno era. The Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) which, until the 1965 coup, was the third largest Communist party in the world, has been outlawed and since then has gone underground. In 1990, the Free Aceh Movement and the Aceh National Liberation Front, made up of insurgents from the northern region of the island of Sumatra, started attacks on the government, but they were virtually crushed by the Army. Repression has also characterized the response to liberation movements in East Timor and West Irian. Social Organizations: All-Indonesian Union of Workers (SPSI), founded in 1973 and renamed in 1985.


Official Name: Republik Indonesia. Administrative Divisions: 26 Provinces (excluding East Timor). Capital: Jakarta, 10,000,000 inhab. (1992). Other cities: Surabaya, 2,500,000 inhab; Bandung, 2,000,000 inhab.; Medan, 1,700,000 inhab. (1990). Government: General Suharto, President since March 1968, re-elected for the sixth time in March 1993, left office in late 1998 following widespread civil unrest and replaced by President Habibe. Legislature, single-chamber, made up of 500 members, 400 elected by direct popular vote, and 100 designated by the president. National Holiday: August 17, Independence Day (1945). Armed Forces: 276,000 (1994). Paramilitaries: Police, 215,000, Auxiliary Police, (Karma), 1.5 million, Auxiliary Armed Force, in regional commands (Wanra).

Source: World Guide 1997-98, courtesy of New Internationalist

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