The future of Batam, Riau Islands, was spelled out loud and clear when President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo gave his final say in a Cabinet meeting last December: The mayor of Batam will be the ex-officio head of the Batam Indonesia Free Trade Zone Authority (BP Batam).
When asked by journalists if that the decision was intended to dissolve BP Batam, Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution replied, “More or less”.
Developing Batam as an industrial enclave was the vision of then-president Soeharto in the 1970s. He wanted to build an exclusive home for world-class industries to support Indonesia’s oil refining business.
With the development of infrastructure facilities in the 1980s and 1990s, Batam evolved into a major industrial site for Indonesia, as well as a centerpiece of the nation’s strategy to l...
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