TANJUNG BALAI (Karimun) • Governor Nurdin Basirun of the Riau Islands, which are also known as Kepri, has promised to make it easier to do business in the province.
Tasked by Jakarta to transform the sprawling archipelagic region into a vibrant economic centre, he said he will host a gathering of foreign envoys from Jakarta in October and take them around the islands to explore investment opportunities in areas such as tourism, services and the maritime sector.
Yesterday, he met Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in Batam, where they discussed ways to expand cooperation between the two sides in areas such as tourism and the digital economy.
Mr Nurdin had told The Straits Times at his residence in Tanjung Balai, Karimun Island, earlier this month that he is looking to Singapore to help bring in the dollars.
"Why travel so far away for holiday when Kepri is just nearby?" he said. "We have many great islands which even Maldives can't beat. The waters in Natuna, Anambas and Lingga islands are so clear."
Land is aplenty and labour costs are lower too, he added.
The 60-year-old said he will propose to President Joko Widodo to build an international airport for direct flights from abroad to the province. Most of the flights to Kepri now are domestic ones.
Some businesses in Batam, Bintan, Karimun, a decade-old free-trade zone collectively known as BBK, have raised concerns about the dualistic administrative authority there- one for the management of free trade and the other for the administration of the province.
"It's like having two captains on a boat. The administrative processes become slow," Indonesian businessman Andi Kusuma, who runs Black Diamond satellite and cable TV services, told The Straits Times.
Mr Nurdin said the government has been "tweaking the processes that obstructed investment".
"Singapore has progressed significantly, and so must Kepri." he added.