Indonesia Facts

 

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Indonesia is a vast equatorial archipelago of 17,000 islands extending 5,150 kilometers (3,200 miles) east to west, between the Indian and Pacific Oceans in Southeast Asia. The largest islands are Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Sulawesi, and the Indonesian part of New Guinea (known as Papua or Irian Jaya). Islands are mountainous with dense rain forests, and some have active volcanoes. Most of the smaller islands belong to larger groups, like the Moluccas (Spice Islands).

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, is 86 percent Muslim—and the largest Islamic country, though it is a secular state. Indonesians are separated by seas and clustered on islands. The largest cluster is on Java, with some 130 million inhabitants (60 percent of the country’s population) on an island the size of New York State. Sumatra, much larger than Java, has less than a third of its people. Ethnically the country is highly diverse, with over 580 languages and dialects—but only 13 have more than one million speakers.

After independence from the Netherlands in 1945, the new republic confronted a high birthrate, low productivity, and illiteracy—areas in which progress has since been made. The government used a “transmigration” policy to address uneven population distribution by relocating millions of people from Java to other islands. Unity and stability are improving, although outer areas of the archipelago resent domination by Java. The Asian financial crisis hit Indonesia extremely hard. Public unrest, including violent rioting, forced President Suharto—in office since 1967—to resign in May 1998. One year later Indonesia conducted its first democratic elections since 1955.

The democratic government faces many problems after years of military dictatorship. Secessionists in the regions of Papua and Aceh (northwest tip of Sumatra) had been encouraged by East Timor’s (now Timor-Leste) 1999 success in breaking away after 25 years of Indonesian military occupation. A 2005 peace agreement with Aceh separatists led to 2006 elections and a cooling of the tension. Militants on Papua still engage in a low-level insurgency. Militant Islamic groups have become active in recent years, and religious conflict between Muslims and Christians recently flared in Sulawesi and the Moluccas. The island of Bali, a center of Hindu culture, suffered a terrorist bomb blast in 2002 that killed more than 200 people—mostly tourists. Three years later, in 2005, the country was hit by the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 220,000 Indonesians.

Export earnings from oil and natural gas help the economy, and Indonesia is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Tourists come to see the rich diversity of plants and wildlife—some, like the giant Komodo dragon and the Javan rhinoceros, exist nowhere else.

Population: 221,932,000

Capital:  Jakarta; 13,194,000

Area: 1,922,570 square kilometers (742,308 square miles)

Languages: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch, Javanese, and other local dialects.

More than 700 regional languages are spoken in Indonesia’s numerous islands. Most belong to the Austronesian language family, with a few Papuan languages also spoken. The official language is Indonesian (also known as Bahasa Indonesia) a variant of Malay, which was used in the archipelago. It borrows heavily from local languages such as Javanese, Sundanese, Minangkabau, etc. Indonesian is primarily used in commerce, administration, education and the media, but most Indonesians speak other languages, such as Javanese, as their first language.

Indonesian is based on the prestige dialect of Malay, that of the Johor-Riau Sultanate, which for centuries had been the lingua franca of the archipelago. It is the official language of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. Indonesian is universally taught in schools and consequently is spoken by nearly every Indonesian. It is the language of business, politics, national media, education, and academia.

Indonesian was promoted by Indonesian nationalists in the 1920s, and declared the official language under the name Bahasa Indonesia in the proclamation of independence in 1945. Most Indonesians speak at least one of several hundred local languages and dialects, often as their first language. In comparison, Papua has over 270 indigenous Papuan and Austronesian languages, in a region of about 2.7 million people. Javanese is the most widely spoken local language, as it is the language of the largest ethnic group.

Religion: Muslim, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist

Currency: Indonesian rupiah

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Economy

  • Industry: Petroleum and natural gas; textiles, apparel, and footwear; mining, cement, chemical fertilizers
  • Agriculture: Rice, cassava (tapioca), peanuts, rubber; poultry
  • Exports: Oil and gas, electrical appliances, plywood, textiles, rubber

Transportation

Road transport is predominant, with a total system length of 437,759 km in 2008. Many cities and towns have some form of transportation for hire available as well such as taxis. There are usually also bus services of various kinds such as the Kopaja buses and the more sophisticated TransJakarta bus rapid transit system in Jakarta. The TransJakarta is the largest bus rapid transit system in the world, boasts some 194 km and carriers more than 300,000 passengers daily. In addition, BRT systems exist in Yogyakarta, Palembang, Bandung, Denpasar, Pekanbaru, Semarang, Makassar, and Padang without segregated lane. Many cities also have motorised auto rickshaws (bajaj) of various kinds. Cycle rickshaws, called becak in Indonesia, are a regular sight on city roads and provide inexpensive transportation.

The rail transport system has four unconnected networks in Java and Sumatra primarily dedicated to transport bulk commodities and long-distance passenger traffic. The inter-city rail network on Java is complemented by local commuter rail services in the Jakarta metropolitan area (KA Commuter Jabodetabek), Surabaya, Medan, and Bandung. In Jakarta, suburban rail services carry 700,000 passengers a day. In addition, mass rapid transit and light rail transit systems are under construction in Jakarta and Palembang.

Sea transport is extremely important for economic integration and for domestic and foreign trade. It is well developed, with each of the major islands having at least one significant port city. Because Indonesia encompasses a sprawling archipelago, maritime shipping provides essential links between different parts of the country. Boats in common use include large container ships, a variety of ferries, passenger ships, sailing ships, and smaller motorised vessels. Traditional wooden vessel pinisi still widely used as the inter-island freight service within Indonesian archipelago. Port of Tanjung Priok is Indonesia’s busiest port, and the 21st busiest port in the world in 2013, handling over 6.59 million TEUs. To boost the port capacity, two-phase “New Tanjung Priok” extension project is currently ongoing. When fully operational in 2023, it will triple existing annual capacity. In 2015 ground breaking of North Sumatra’s Kuala Tanjung Port has been done. The port is an extremely strategic development that can accommodate 400.000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) per year, overtaking Johor’s Tanjung Pelepas Port and could even compete with Singapore’s port.

Frequent ferry services cross the straits between nearby islands, especially in the chain of islands stretching from Sumatra through Java to the Lesser Sunda Islands. On the busy crossings between Sumatra, Java, and Bali, multiple car ferries run frequently twenty-four hours per day. There are also international ferry services between across the Strait of Malacca between Sumatra and Malaysia, and between Singapore and nearby Indonesian islands, such as Batam. A network of passenger ships makes longer connections to more remote islands, especially in the eastern part of the archipelago. The national shipping line, Pelni, provides passenger service to ports throughout the country on a two to four week schedule. These ships generally provide the least expensive way to cover long distances between islands. Still smaller privately run boats provide service between islands.

As of 2014, there were 237 airports in Indonesia, including 17 international airports. Soekarno–Hatta International Airport is the 18th busiest airport in the world, serving 54,053,905 passengers, according to Airports Council International. Today the airport is running over capacity. After T3 Soekarno-Hatta Airport expansion was finished in August 2016, the total capacity of three terminals become 43 million passengers a year. T1 and T2 also will be revitalised, so all the three terminals finally will accommodate 67 million passengers a year. When finished, Soekarno-Hatta airport will be an aerotropolis. Juanda Airport in Surabaya and Ngurah Rai in Bali are the country’s 2nd and 3rd busiest airport.

Garuda Indonesia, flag carrier of Indonesia since 1949, was selected by Skytrax as “The World’s Best Economy Class” in 2013. In December 2014, Garuda Indonesia was awarded as a “5-Star Airline” by Skytrax and the eight best airlines in the world. As well as in June 2015, it also was awarded with “The World’s Best Cabin Crew”.

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