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State and Welfare in the Late Colonial Period: The Madura Welfare Fund (1937–1941)

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At the end of the 1930s, the government of the colonial state, the Netherlands East Indies, instituted the Madura Welfare Fund. The government intended for this fund to raise the standard of living among the population of the island of Madura, one of the poorest areas in the country. It was a historic event. Never before had the colonial administration devised a welfare plan for a specific region. The history of the Madura Welfare Fund elucidates the factors that the colonial authorities saw as the main causes for the stagnation or deterioration of the economic position of the indigenous population - seen as a separate category of inhabitants with distinctive characteristics - as well as what the colonial administration thought was good for their elevation. The fund, it appears, was not only created out of ethical considerations. The measures taken to further regional welfare were accompanied by a radical reorganization of the insular salt industry, which proved very disadvantageous for the population at large. As often occurred during the period of the so-called Ethical Policy, involvement and opportunism were inextricably entwined.


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