Property Rights, Citizenship and Development Issues in Indonesia

This chapter aim so enlighten how land grabbing could be seen as a key to Indonesian ‘development’ that led to many social, political and economic transformations. In the recent decades there has been a rush for Indonesian farm land and areas for mining, which has led to dispossession of farmers in many places of the country and disruption of the ‘social contract’ between state and citizens, where the state is obliged to protect its citizens. This is done through Indonesian law, which is written in a way, that makes the state the highest authority over land and resources. These laws undermine Indonesian customary laws, the adat, that are essential for people in rural areas.

Keywords: Land grabbing, property rights, development, Indonesia, peasant rights, forest laws

The research aims to analyse land-grabbing in Indonesia from the perspective of citizenship, access to claiming rights and rights to property. Indonesia was chosen as a case to explore this issue and to analyse Indonesia as a part of the commodification process (McCarthy; 2010). Since the democratic transition in the late 1990s, Indonesia has overcome many challenges to become one of the world’s most promising economies. It is now the biggest economy in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and a part of the G20. In the past decade, Indonesia has reduced its poverty rate by more than 50 percent which is a remarkable accomplishment. To achieve such successful economic growth, Indonesia has opened their market for a worldwide demand for land.

The growing population all over the world leads to higher consumption of natural resources. As a result, there is a rise in the volume of cross-border large-scale land deals. According to Land Matrix, Indonesia is one of the top targeted countries for land deals in Southeast Asia. Many of these land deals are driven by transnational corporations and almost always in close partnership with the government and local elites. Now, Indonesia’s goal is to become a high-income country and following this issue, the Indonesian government continues to amend key legislation, with an aim to attract more investments and become among the top ten global economies by 2025 (Legal Guide to Investment in Indonesia, 2014). They are building infrastructure, signing new trade and investment agreements, revising regulations and entering into new “public-private partnerships” that facilitates private sector investment in agriculture, including farmland acquisitions (Grain, 2016).

The framework of the chapter will focus mainly on citizenship in relation to property rights. Moreover, it concerns how Indonesian economic development and the pursuit of foreign investment affects the concept of social contract that relies on a mutual recognition of legitimacy between the state and the citizens. From this framework the aim of the chapter will be to examine the issue of how the Indonesian government’s notion of development is challenging the relation between the state and the citizens of Indonesia?

In the quest to answer the question, first, the chapter will briefly map the literature from a few key scholars on the issue of land grabbing and citizenship in Indonesia. All the authors are mostly concerned with cases of palm oil plantations as their departure of analysis. Second, a more in-depth summary of the theoretical frameworks will be introduced to get a grasp of the concepts which will be deployed in the chapter. The most significant theories will be those of social contract, frontiers, access and developmentalism and its critiques. These will allow for a thorough analysis of the cases that have been chosen. Third, a mapping of the very significant historical aspects and development of Indonesia will be explored in the light of complex juridical aspects of the Indonesian forestry laws. Furthermore, the pluri-legal system of state government vs. adat communities will be included to understand the precarious situation faced by the rural peasants. Fourth, a brief overview of the cases that have been chosen will be followed by an analysis of these in the light of the theoretical frameworks mentioned above. Fifth, social movements in Indonesia and their part in the debate of land grabbing and citizenship will be discussed. Furthermore, development as a term will be contested in a discussion to encourage future studies in how the term is being used, not only by NGOs and development agencies, but also by state governments, such as the Indonesian.

We argue that ‘development’ in Indonesia has a daunting effect on not only the distribution of wealth and the lack thereof. But also how development agendas assist the active engagement of the Indonesian government to disrupt social orders and the mutual recognition in the social contract in favour of foreign and domestic investment in lands where rural peasants cultivate the fields.

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