Jakarta. The Indonesian province of North Sulawesi stands to benefit greatly from the new Bitung Special Economic Zone, locally known as KEK, according to Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi.
Budi said on Wednesday (05/10) the government has spent more than Rp 3 trillion (US$ 230,000) to build toll roads and upgrade the Bitung Port to support the special economic zone, prepped to be the country's international seaport hub for Asia-Pacific.
"In the future, North Sulawesi will have a strong and developed economy," Budi told reporters after signing an agreement on development acceleration in the province's capital Manado.
The ministry has also earmarked Rp 400 billion to upgrade Manado's Sam Ratulangi Airport, calling on Governor Olly Dondokambey to help acquire land for the project.
"If we can finish the upgrades on the Bitung Port and Sam Ratulangi Airport this year, I think we will see significant improvement in the next three years," Budi, who became a minister in August, said.
The government has also completed construction on Indonesia's northernmost airport on Miangas Island in North Sulawesi to create better connectivity between the country's furthermost regions.
Budi added that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has also praised North Sulawesi for attracting 23,000 international tourists in only eight months after offering direct flights from China to Manado.
The minister hopes at least 15 international flights will be available at the Sam Ratulangi Airport in 2020, which are expected to bring more than 700,000 foreign tourists to North Sulawesi every year.
Budi also called on state-owned port operators Pelindo II and Pelindo IV to cooperate to make the Bitung Port the largest trading port in Asia-Pacific.
Bitung was named as one of the country's Special Economic Zones in 2014, creating more than 30,000 jobs in the area. Priority sectors in the area are logistics, herbal pharmacy, fish processing and coconut processing.