Mon, 23 Oct 2000

Batam fate in locals' hands

JAKARTA (JP): The government will not have a say in determining the future status of the industrial-bonded zone of Batam island, Riau, when the autonomy law goes into effect next year, former finance minister Mar'ie Muhammad has said.

"When the law is enacted, the ones who can decide Batam's fate are the regional legislative council and the business community," Mar'ie, who is the chairman of the Indonesian Transparency Society (MTI), said in a meeting with former members of the Association of Islamic Students (HMI) on the island.

Batam, one of the country's largest industrial-bonded zones, has offered several incentives to lure foreign investors.

But Minister of Industry and Trade Luhut Panjaitan said recently that the existing incentives were not enough. He proposed the island's status be changed to a free trade zone in a bid to lure more foreign investors to invest on the island.

"When the autonomy law goes into effect, the government can no longer interfere in the fate of regions except in security, political, and currency matters," Mar'ie said.

However, Mar'ie warned that more freedom could lead to a different kind of collusion, corruption and nepotism, and said that Batam would need to find a clean and committed leader to avoid it. (10)