Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Officials from East Kalimantan and Malaysia have agreed to boost cross-border bartering of goods and produce to give residents of the remote border region easier access to items they would otherwise have difficulty sourcing.
Yaya Sabian Noor, head of the provincial investment coordinating body (BPPMD), said on Monday that the program was one of several agreed to at a meeting of the Malaysia-Indonesia Social and Economic Working Group in Bali earlier this month.
“Part of the agreement was that we would boost the barter trade between the two countries along the shared border between East Kalimantan and the Malaysian state of Sabah,” he said.
Yaya, who also chairs the working group, said that under the program, residents of Nunukan district would be able to trade their agricultural produce and fish catches to their Malaysian neighbors in exchange for basic goods.
The agreement will also allow residents of Nunukan’s Sebatik subdistrict to buy newly hatched chicks from Sabah, then raise them and sell them back to the Malaysians as broiler chickens.
“There were a lot of points that were agreed to in our meeting, but the most important is the emphasis on barter trade,” Yadi said. “It is this that will allow our citizens on the border a market for their agricultural and maritime produce.”
He said that in an effort to ensure the policy was not abused by people seeking to trade illicit or prohibited goods, Malaysian officials would build border posts.
“Under the barter trade program, citizens of both countries won’t need a passport to travel across the border or be subject to customs and excise duties for the goods that they trade,” he said.
“So we’re allowing them to barter freely, while at the same time still keeping an eye on the trade.”
The program is part of a wider effort to boost economic welfare in Indonesia’s largely underdeveloped border region with Malaysia.
Residents of Krayan subdistrict in Nunukan have been particularly affected by the isolation, forced to depend heavily on trade and food from across the border to meet their needs.
The lone road from the subdistrict on the border with Malaysia to the district capital can only be traversed during the dry season. In the rainy season, it remains flooded for months.
The terrain is more forgiving on the 15-kilometer road to the border, meaning that 90 percent of the goods coming into Krayan are from Malaysia, residents say.