Thursday, April 15, 2010

Riau Islands told not to worry about visa-on-arrival single tariff

Fadli , The Jakarta Post , Batam | Tue, 02/09/2010 1:44 PM | The Archipelago

The Riau Islands' businesspeople and provincial administration have been told to stop criticizing the government's new visa-on-arrival tariff, and to drop their demands for special treatment in the matter.

Visitors applying for visas on arrival have to pay US$25 which allows them to stay for 30 days, with the possibility of a 30-day extension for another $25.

This new single tariff policy has been in effect since Jan. 26, and applies to visitors from 64 designated countries

Businesspeople at the Riau Islands, especially those in Batam, Bintan and Karimun - known as the BBK economic zone - claim the new policy was forcing them to pay unnecessary extra costs and demanded that either the tariff revert to the old system, in which they could pay $10 for the first seven days, or incorporate a daily charge.

I Gede Widiharta, head of the provincial Justice and Human Rights office, said the new tariff was part of the central government's prerogatives in foreign policy.

He added the central government could not easily revert to the $10 tarrif.

"The new policy prevails in every part of the Indonesian territory. Do not interpret regional autonomy disproportionately," Widiharta told The Jakarta Post, over the weekend.

However, Governor Ismeth said the Justice and Human Rights Minister had given BBK a green light to implement the old tariff.

Speaking to the media during the officiation of a swimming event on Friday, Ismeth said that the possible reversion had been conveyed by the minister on the sidelines of a meeting between governors from across the country and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Cipanas Palace on Tuesday.

"The minister has approved the implementation of the old tariff in Batam, Bintan and Karimun, which is $10 for a week stay and not $25 for a month stay," he said, adding this only applied to the Riau Islands.

Riau businesspeople argue the new policy has badly affected their businesses, predicting a potential loss of Rp 500 billion a year due to possible decrease both in the tourism industry and business sectors.

Widiharta, however, said based on the data at his office, which also oversees the immigration affairs in the province, there had not been a significant drop of foreign tourist visits following the implementation of the new tariff in the province.

He added that most of the 1.5 millions of tourists visiting the province came from Singapore and Malaysia, which require no visas.

Only a small number came from Korea, Japan, Taiwan and India, which are included among the 64 countries.

He said an evaluation on the impact of the new tariff would be conducted three months after its implementation. He expressed confidence in the new policy's effectiveness and merit.

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