Thursday, April 15, 2010

Businesspeople cry foul over policy on single tariff visa

Fadli , The Jakarta Post , Batam | Fri, 02/05/2010 10:54 AM | The Archipelago

Businesspeople in Riau Islands are up in arms about the new visa-on-arrival (VoA), claiming it has led to increased operational costs.

Companies at the economic exclusive zone in Batam, Bintan and Karimun have to pay more for corporate meetings, machine services and after-sale services, said General Manager PT Bintan Inti Industrial Estate (BIIE) Jamin Hidayat.

The new policy, which has been in effect since Jan. 26, adopts a single tariff of US$25 for the first 30 days in Indonesia, to visitors from 64 countries. There is no longer a seven-day visa-on-arrival for $10.

The new regulation stipulates that Indonesia will provide a 30-day visa-on-arrival, with a possible 30-day extension.

Jamin, who chairs the Indonesian Entrepreneurs Association of Bintan, said top-level managers mostly came to Bintan for one-day meetings, and did not need 30-day visas.

“The same applies when companies deal with overseas buyers who come to check after-sales services.”

PT BIIE has 21 foreign investors with a total investment of $500 million, and employs 11,000 workers.

Jamin said there was a high rate of travel between Bintan and Singapore with many top-level managers making the island state their home base while working at companies in Bintan, Batam and Karimun.

“We have sent a letter to the government, in this case, the coordinating economic minister, asking for a special tariff at the border zones where we operate.”

Jamin suggested either a return to the old tariff or a daily charge.

“Those foreigners are not visiting for a holiday. They are here for two days at the longest. They do not need 30 days. This [VoA] tariff is not prudently implemented. It lacks socialization and has jolted us.”

Tourism, tour and travel businesses are reported to be affected.

Robert Iwan Loriaux, head of the Tourism Office of Riau Islands, said they had sent a letter of complaint to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

“There used to be 500 golfers visiting every weekend. The number has dropped by more than half.”

The Jakarta Post’s previous reports cited tour and travel company PT Andika VIT as saying the new policy caused it to lose an order from a group of 38 tourists from India, who cancelled their visit to Batam through the Harbor Bay ferry port on Thursday.

Robert said the policy was unfair compared to the government’s fiscal policy, in which Indonesian travelers who hold a Taxpayers’ Registration Number do not have to pay fees to the immigration office.

“For Indonesians who spend money overseas, the government exempts them from taxes while foreigners who enter Indonesia and spend at least $100 must go through complicated bureaucracy.”

Like Jamin, Robert supported a special policy for Riau Islands.

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