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Indonesia’s plan for ‘10 new Balis’ offers vast opportunities for S’pore investors

SINGAPORE — Holding up Indonesia’s strong economic potential and improved business environment, the country’s officials yesterday underscored how its plans to create “10 new Balis” will open up vast opportunities for Singapore investors in tourism and infrastructure projects.

Borobudur is among the 10 destinations that the Indonesian government has earmarked for development under the '10 new Balis' blueprint. Photo: Reuters

Borobudur is among the 10 destinations that the Indonesian government has earmarked for development under the '10 new Balis' blueprint. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — Holding up Indonesia’s strong economic potential and improved business environment, the country’s officials yesterday underscored how its plans to create “10 new Balis” will open up vast opportunities for Singapore investors in tourism and infrastructure projects.

Under the “10 new Balis” blueprint, the Indonesia government has earmarked 10 destinations for development: Lake Toba, Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Lesung, Kepulauan Seribu & Kota Tua Jakarta, Borobudur, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru, Mandalika, Labuan Bajo, Wakatobi and Morotai. It projects that, by 2019, these places will draw 10 million tourists in total annually.

In tandem with the expected growth, 120,000 hotel rooms, 15,000 restaurants, 100 international recreational parks and 100 diving operators will be added to the destinations, said Indonesia’s Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, who was speaking at the Singapore-Indonesia Investment Forum. Other infrastructure will also be built, such as solar facilities to boost the power sources, said Mr Yahya.

In total, the Indonesia government is seeking US$20 billion (S$26.8 billion) in investment for the initiative, with half of it going to public infrastructure investment. Urging Singapore businesses to invest in Indonesia, Mr Yahya said that more than 90 per cent of the tourism industry will welcome foreign direct investment.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Rosan Perkasa Roeslani added: “At this juncture, the Indonesia government is actively encouraging the development of the 10 tourist destinations, including the development of related industries such as hotels, transportation, recreation, and more.”

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) chairman Teo Siong Seng, who also spoke at the event, noted that investments from Singapore into Indonesia has been increasing. Last year, the figure hit US$9.2 billion, an increase of 55 per cent from 2015.

There will be “potential business opportunities” for Singapore investors arising from the “10 new Balis” initiative, he said. Citing the findings of a recent SBF survey, Mr Teo said that Indonesia was the overseas market with the highest interest among the Singapore business community. “This is not surprising, as many economic indicators are pointing to Indonesia’s positive gross domestic product growth and huge market potential,” said Mr Teo. “There is also a strong push by the Indonesia government to improve the investment environment for foreign investors.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who was in Singapore on a two-day visit that ended yesterday, gave a speech at the forum, which was also attended by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In the opening remarks, Mr Lee spoke about the strong bilateral economic links and the areas for future collaboration, among other things. In particular, he noted that there was great potential to grow tourism between the two countries further.

Mr Widodo said in his speech that Indonesia has become more business-friendly in recent years. For instance, under the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, Indonesia jumped 15 places to the 91st spot between last year and this year. Last year, Indonesia was also ranked first in a Gallup survey on public trust in government. All three major international rating agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s — have also rated Indonesia as investment grade.

Nevertheless, Mr Widodo acknowledged there were still challenges in doing business in Indonesia, but he pledged to address them. “Doing business in Indonesia is still far too frustrating, too many rules and regulations. They are constantly changing, and too often poorly designed ... We will continue to push and continue to find new ways to improve investment and business climate in Indonesia,” he said.

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