Located in Southeast Asia, the Republic of Indonesia is set on an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands astride the equator. The principal link between the Indian and Pacific oceans, the islands command vital sea routes. Eight islands comprise 90 percent of Indonesia: Borneo, Kalimantan, Sumatra, Irian Jaya, Sulawesi, Java, and Madura. Most of the islands are hot and humid throughout the year. Indonesia has the largest number of active volcanoes in the world, and the lava’s residual ash contributes to soil fertility and plant growth.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, but it represents only 14.7% of the country’s gross domestic product. Nearly 47% of the population works in agriculture. Indonesia’s natural resources include a wealth of petroleum, tin, natural gas, timber, bauxite, copper, fertile soils, coal, gold, and silver. Cash crops, grown mostly on large estates, include rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice, peanuts, casava, and copra. Currently Indonesia is transitioning to democratic government following four decades of authoritarianism. Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese, and coastal Malays comprise the majority ethnic groups, and more than 580 languages and dialects are spoken. Bahasa Indonesia is the official language; English also is spoken.
Indonesia faces many socioeconomic development problems. The current administration is tasked with alleviating widespread poverty, implementing reforms of the banking sector, addressing charges of cronyism and corruption, holding the military and police accountable for human rights violations, and resolving armed separatist movements. An estimated 17.8% of the population lives below the poverty line.