The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo has finally signed a new Presidential Regulation that would make a policy to waive visa fees for 30 countries official, despite an immigration law stipulating that visa exemptions could only be made on a reciprocal basis.
The Cabinet Secretary website www.setkab.go.id broke the news on Friday saying that Jokowi had signed the 2015 Presidential Regulation No. 69 on Visa Exemption on June 9.
'The visa-free policy is granted to foreign nationals of certain countries and governments of special administrative regions with regard to the principle of reciprocity and principle of benefit,' according a quote from the website that came from Article 2 of the new regulation.
The 2011 Immigration Law stipulates that visa exemptions can only be made on a reciprocal basis and on principle of benefit, a provision that appeared to have put a stumbling block in the way of Jokowi's visa policy as the planned exemption was initially set to be imposed in April.
Contacted separately, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya did not give details about whether the new regulation would resolve the legal problems posed by the 2011 Law, and only said the visa-free policy would come into effect in July, bringing the total number of countries enjoying the visa-free policy to 45.
Arief only said that his ministry would soon promote the new presidential regulation to citizens from the 30 countries so that they could visit Indonesia without having to pay the US$35 visa-on-arrival fee.
'Singapore is home to around 1.7 million expatriates. We are planning to promote this regulation to places with large expatriate communities like Singapore, in addition to formally announcing this regulation to the 30 country representatives,' Arief said on Friday.
Under the new regulation, as quoted from the Cabinet Secretariat website, permits will be given for a 30-day stay in Indonesia, which cannot be extended or converted into any other type of visa.
It also stipulates that only immigration units located at five airports and four ports are allowed to issue visa exemptions. The units are located at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, Hang Nadim International Airport in Batam and Juanda International Airport in Surabaya. The seaports are Sri Bintan Pura International Port and Tanjung Uban International Port in Riau Islands as well as Sekupang International Port and Batam Center International Port in Batam.
The government, Arief said, hoped to attract between 500,000 and 1 million additional tourists this year as a result of the new policy.
'We expect to attract 1 million following the implementation of the policy, or at least 500,000 additional tourists, since the plan was delayed for months,' Arief added, saying that an additional 1 million new foreign tourists will give an additional foreign exchange income of around $1 billion.
The government announced the policy ' which was initially set for only four countries Indonesia considered its prime tourist market: China, Japan, South Korea and Russia ' in mid-March in an effort to boost the country's foreign exchange income from the tourist industry, as Jokowi broadened the size of his economic package to support the ailing rupiah.
The government has previously said it would keep pushing the 30 countries subject to the free-visa policy to also adopt the same policy for Indonesia, at the same time playing down potential violations of the Immigration Law with the introduction of the free-visa policy.
Despite Friday's announcement on the Cabinet Secretariat website, a number of senior government officials, including Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno and the Immigration Directorate General, remained tight-lipped.
Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto said that Arief would officially explain the policy on Saturday in Bali.
Other than the four prime tourist markets, Canada, Mexico and the US are among the 30 countries.
Also included on the list are European countries such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, in addition to South Africa and Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Visas without fees will also be provided to tourists from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macau Special Administrative Region, Chile, Morocco, Peru, Vietnam, Ecuador, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
New Zealand is also on the list, but not its close neighbor Australia, whose relationship with Indonesia has recently deteriorated following the executions of two Australian drug convicts.