Ruslan Sangadji, The Jakarta Post, Palu
Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi, which commemorated its 31st anniversary on Sept. 27, is still relatively young for a city. So much so, that it has had to set up various development programs not to be left behind other cities in Indonesia.
The 400-square-kilometer city has a population of 292,710, growing at 2.2 percent, 64 percent of whom are of working age.
Its 2009 budget amounts to Rp 485 billion (about US$48.5 million), an increase compared to its 2008 budget of Rp 460 billion, while the income generated at the provincial level (PAD) stands at more than Rp 45 billion, compared to Rp 40 billion in 2008, a significant increase compared to Rp 5 billion in 1999.
The local Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) lists Palu as one of 10 potential investment destinations, beside Makassar, Ambon, Manado, Palopo in South Sulawesi and Pariaman in West Sumatra.
Palu's agricultural, food crops and horticulture, plantation, livestock and fisheries industries are open for investment. Data from the Palu municipality shows that corn - the prime commodity in the food crop and horticulture sector that is currently cultivated over 903 hectares -has the potential to be grown across 3,943,298 hectares.
Another prime commodity is the local shallot, named the Palu shallot, which is currently cultivated over 194 hectares, and has the potential to be grown across 2,559.81 hectares. This commodity has been marketed in Jakarta, Surabaya, Manado and Makassar, as well as exported to Malaysia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Palu Deputy Mayor Andi Mulhanan Tonbolotutu said Palu was also home to other commodities, such as cacao, coconuts, guava, cashew nuts and coffee, not to mention its fisheries and marine resources. Palu is also a centre for the rattan industry in Indonesia.
Mulhanan said his office wished to turn Palu into a cacao and rattan industry and trade centre in 2010, and improve people's welfare in Palu.
"We will accomplish this through a motto that we have chosen, *Serving with our heart to achieve excellent services'," he said.
Mulhanan said his office had initiated 24 strategic programs called the Mayor's Agenda to determine Palu's development policies.
In the administrative sector, his office has cooperated with other provinces; deregulated licensing procedures; capitalized on information technology, law enforcement, security assurance and public order; worked with higher learning institutes, and revitalized the role of district and village administrations by decentralizing authority.
In the community improvement program, the Palu municipality has implemented a basic education program for every resident, encouraged inter-faith ties, improved its labor force, initiated community empowerment programs and encouraged the role of the media and non-governmental groups.
"With respect to improving its labor force, Palu has worked with PT Jababeka to provide scholarships to gifted students from senior high and vocational schools so they could continue their studies at the President University in Cikarang, Bekasi, West Java," said Mulhanan, adding that the municipality sent 20 students to the university each year.
The Palu municipality, which is working with the Industry and Trade Ministry, has formed the Palu Promotion Agency, based in Menara Mustika Ratu building in Jakarta.
"We can ensure investors that investment procedures will be made easier, so there won't be any confusing bureaucratic red tape," said Mulhanan.