Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) (English: East Nusa Tenggara) is located in the eastern part of the Lesser Sunda Islands and comprises more than 800 islands. Of these the three largest are Flores in the north, Sumba in the west and the western half of Timor (West Timor) in the east. The provinces capital Kupang is located on West Timor. At the last census (2010) NTT's population was 4.6 million. The mix of religions in NTT is atypical of Indonesia with around 90% of the population Christian (the majority Catholic but with a large Protestant population), 8% Muslim, 0.6% Hindu or Buddist and 0.4% holding traditional beliefs.
Secondary school enrollment is only 39%, well below the Indonesian average of 80%. Compared to the rest of Indonesia, lack of clean drinking water, sanitation and health facilities mean the child mortality rate (71 per 1000) and child malnutrition rates (32%) are higher. Malaria is a cause of significant health problems in parts of the Provence resulting in a rate of infant mortality caused by malaria in recent years being the highest in Indonesia. Poor access to health facilities in isolated rural areas has led to high maternal an infant mortality. NTT suffers from high inflation (15%), unemployment (30%) and interest rates (22-24%) making it one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia.
Levels of poverty in the province compared with other parts are Indonesia are relatively high. In 2010, 23% of the population were classified as poor (using very modest poverty lines of around $25 and $17 per person per month for urban and rural areas respectively) compared to the all-Indonesia average of 13.3%. The numbers of street children in the province, for example, are relatively high. Localised food shortages are common. Around 50% of the children in the province suffer from stunting. The challenges of promoting development and lifting living standards in a rather isolated area of Indonesia such as NTT are considerable. The main problems of development include the following:
- Differences in living standards between urban and rural areas are large; rural poverty is widespread.
- Agriculture is underdeveloped with little use of modern technology or capital, and poor access to markets.
- Deforestation, which exacerbates problems of water management and access to water in the province.
- Infrastructure in the province is underdeveloped. Roads are often poor, especially in rural areas.
- There is relatively little electricity throughout NTT; electricity use in 2010 was at the very low level of around 90 kWh per capita compared to the all-Indonesia rate of around 630 kWh (and often over 10,000 kWh per capita in the main OECD countries).
- Access to water in a major problem. The province is dry for much of the year and in rural areas many of the villages must rely on unreliable and untreated local springs and other sources for water supplies. The percentage of households relying on spring water was around 40% in 2010, the highest for any province in Indonesia and well above the all-Indonesia average of 14%. Water shortages are thus a major local social and political issue in the province.
- Local education and medical facilities are poor and neglected. Although the numbers of schools and local medical clinics are adequate compared to other parts of Indonesia, the quality of services provided in these institutions is often poor. And in some areas, key facilities are absent; in mid-2014 it was reported that two districts (West Manggarai and East Manggarai) did not have general hospitals.
- Resources available to the provincial and regency governments are very limited so it is difficult for local governments to improve the supply of public services.
A main part of the economic activity in the province is subsistence agriculture. Important local crops include corn and some smallholder plantation crops such as coffee. In some places such as Sumba, the lontar palm(Borassus flabellifer) dominates local agricultural activities and is a very important part of the local economy. In these areas, the lontar palm provides timber and thatching as well as food in the form of fruits, and palm sugarwhich is obtained by tapping the fruit stems. The sugary sap can be used to make alcoholic drinks. In other parts of the province such as West Manggarai, the sugar palm (Arenga pinnata) has a useful role in the local economy. The degree of mechanisation in agriculture is low. Large animals (buffaloes, horses) are widely used throughout the province.
A significant part of the economic activity in the province involves the development of natural resources, including forestry and numerous local mining ventures. Some of the activity is controversial, however, because regulatory controls over the use of natural resources are not always effective. There have been disputes in some areas over the use of land. Manganese mining, for example, in the central part of the island of Timor has been controversial. Nearby, in the Mount Mutis area to the east of Kupang, amongst some local groups there is concern at the way local resources are being developed by mining companies. There is also significant activity in the informal mining sector. Across the province, villagers sometimes exploit localised opportunities to undertake unregulated mining or mineral-based projects. In West Timor, for example, in the South Central Timor Regency, villagers living near the south coast in the Kolbano area south of the town of Soe sometimes collect coloured stones which, in turn, are sold to companies which export the stones to countries such as Australia, China, Malaysia, Singapore, and elsewhere.