'Interesting prospects' for Batam, Bintan and Karimun

Nagoya Hill shopping centre in Batam seen in a photo taken in 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

JAKARTA • New opportunities may be beckoning in Singapore's backyard, on the nearby islands of Batam, Bintan and Karimun - collectively known as the BBK special economic zone.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters on Wednesday there had been talk about cooperation between Indonesia and Singapore on aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities in the area.

While her Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan declined to go into details on this, he yesterday said "interesting prospects" are opening up in the BBK. Singapore has long been engaged in the area, he said, adding: "I'm glad to see that there's renewed interest."

While further regulatory reform is needed within Batam and Bintan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has assured that this is well under way, said Dr Balakrishnan. He added: "We think this would present opportunities, new investments, new services to be developed, and because we are so close, and in a sense integrated with Batam and Bintan, we will work closely with Indonesia on these emerging opportunities. So, watch that space."

President Joko, who is keen to revive the sluggish economy in BBK, has made a serious push to tackle regulation-related problems and ease foreign investment in the area.

Indonesia is also set to start work next year on a 7km bridge linking Batam and Bintan - an idea that has been floated for more than a decade - in a bid to boost growth and trade in the region.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline 'Interesting prospects' for Batam, Bintan and Karimun. Subscribe