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Jakarta Post

Businesses see more uncertainty in Batam leadership change

  • Marchio Irfan Gorbiano and Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Batam   /   Tue, January 15, 2019   /   10:27 am
Businesses see more uncertainty in Batam leadership change Hundreds of job seekers flock to the Batamindo Industrial Park in Mukakuning, Batam, Riau Islands, in this photo file. (Tribun Batam/File)

When the government announced late last year its plan to place the Batam Industrial Development Authority (BP Batam) under the Batam administration, businesspeople welcomed it as an effort to cut down on red tape and end the dualism in the island’s leadership.

But Makruf Maulana, chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce’s (Kadin) Riau Islands chapter, said the appointment of a new transitional BP Batam head revealed a lack of certainty on the government’s part, particularly as the transition period could potentially stretch beyond the presidential and legislative election held on April 17.

He was referring to Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution’s recent decision to inaugurate Edy Putra Irawadi, formerly his special staffer, as BP Batam chief. The move effectively ended Lukita Dinarsyah Tuwo’s 15-months leadership in BP Batam.

Darmin said Edy had been tasked to lead the transition period in the merger between BP Batam and the Batam city administration, as under the plan, the Batam mayor would act as ex-officio BP Batam head in a move to abolish the dualistic authority of the island-city.

The move was decided by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during a cabinet meeting on Dec. 12. Darmin said the transition period was expected to go on until April 30, the deadline for the government to amend Government Regulation No. 46/2007 to serve as a legal basis for the appointment of the Batam mayor as ex-officio BP Batam head.

“There will be a presidential election in April. This means that the next decision [from the government] is still unclear,” Makruf said recently, highlighting the political uncertainty in the period close to the election, particularly if there was to be a regime change.

Batamindo Batam Industrial Zone general manager Mook Sooi Wah added that the government had frequently changed BP Batam’s leadership. Therefore, he said, the latest move would add confusion for the island’s business community.

“A change [in BP Batam’s leadership] would not be a problem if the government was consistent with its policy. But too many changes would confuse investors,” Wah said. “We do not know what the government will do in April, whether it will still be consistent with its policy or change it again.”

Under the administration of Jokowi, BP Batam has had three different leaders. The government appointed Hatanto Reksodiputra as BP Batam head on April 5, 2016, replacing Mustofa Widjaya, whose leadership dated back to April 2005 – when BP Batam was still the Batam Authority.

In October 2017, the government gave the post to Lukita Dinarsyah Tuwo, who was formerly the secretary to the coordinating economic minister.

Former Riau Islands governor Ismeth Abullah, who was also former Batam Authority head, criticized the central government’s chop and change of BP Batam’s leadership, which he said ignored local officials.

“In the three changes, not even one local figure — be it from BP Batam or the Batam administration —was placed in the BP Batam leadership board,” said Ismeth. “The government seems to overlook our local human resources, even though it is the local people who know the problems of Batam, not [people from] Jakarta.”

Darmin argued that Edy’s appointment as BP Batam head would smoothen the transition period.

He further assured that the planned appointment of the Batam mayor as ex-officio BP Batam head would not violate Law No.23/2014 on regional administrations, which bars regional leaders from holding double positions in other government’s institution. He added that the position of BP Batam head did not fall directly under the government. (bbn)