Indonesia touts island economic zone

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, May 16, 2013 - Page 4

Indonesia’s efforts to establish Morotai, one of its northernmost islands, as a special economic zone, could come to fruition by the end of this year, Indonesian Representative to Taiwan Ahmad Syafri said on Tuesday.

Establishing an economic zone on the remote island would provide a range of incentives to Taiwanese investors, including tax benefits, and would help Indonesia develop its infrastructure and marine, agricultural and fisheries sectors on the island, Syafri told the Central News Agency.

A meeting is set to take place in Taiwan next month to decide on issues ranging from regulations and incentives, to land use and the environment, Syafri said.

He said the economic zone is expected to boost trade ties between the two nations and could become a “gateway” for Taiwan and Indonesia to sell products to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Taipei and Jakarta signed a memorandum of understanding in December last year to jointly develop Morotai — the largest island in the Maluku Archipelago — which is known for its abundant natural resources.

Indonesia and Taiwan will also focus on the development of the island’s ecotourism, logistics and forestry sectors, said Dina Setiawati Boediman, director of the investment department at the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office in Taipei.

Syafri said island officials are also planning to build an international harbor and airport to make it into a regional transportation hub.

Morotai, which lies about 2,600km from Taiwan, has a population of 50,000 and covers about 2,400km2.

Meanwhile, Syafri said that talks between Taiwan and Singapore on a proposed economic partnership agreement could serve as a model for other countries, including Indonesia, who want to reach similar pacts with Taipei.

He said that increasing economic cooperation between Taiwan and Indonesia would benefit both sides given the complementary nature of their economies.

When asked about Taiwan joining the planned Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), in which Indonesia plays a major role, Syafri said it would take at least until 2015 — when RCEP negotiations are expected to conclude — before Taiwan’s participation can be discussed.