Tomini Bay Development: Central Sulawesi
At a time when poverty remains prevalent in almost 200 out of over 450 regencies and municipalities in the country, Tomini Bay has been introduced as a future hub of economic growth in East Indonesia, following in the footsteps of Batam in the West. Long before regional autonomy shifted into full gear on the heels of the fall of New Order regime in 1998, the government had named Batam in Riau Islands, Tomini Bay and Bone Bay in Sulawesi, and Sabang in Aceh as the engines of economic development for their respective neighboring areas.
Batam’s rapid economic growth of over 8 percent per year has had an impact on nearby areas, including Bangka-Belitung province, and Karimun and Natuna islands according to Erwida Maulia.
State Minister for Development of Disadvantaged Regions Lukman Edy says the government is trying to revive the dormant plan to develop the growth hubs. Development of Tomini Bay will take place first because it already has supporting infrastructure and the government has done enough study on the area, says Lukman.
The development of Tomini Bay and later Bone Bay as growth hubs is expected to cut the number of disadvantaged regions in East Indonesia.
“This year we’ll finalize our plan and next year, I hope physical development can commence,” Lukman said after witnessing the signing of a joint agreement to develop the bay on Togean Islands in Tojo Una-Una regency, Central Sulawesi, last week.
The six regents signing the agreement were from Tojo Una-Una, Banggai, Banggai Islands, Poso, Parigi Moutong regencies in Central Sulawesi and Pohuwato regency in Gorontalo.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and the Office of State Minister for the Environment will provide assistance to the regents, who had met to discuss development of fisheries and tourism as the prime sectors in Tomini Bay.
The bay is rich in fish and other marine resources, and stands a great opportunity of emerging as a popular tourist destination thanks to its biodiversity and beautiful nature. Dozens of enchanting small islands dot the bay.
However, nine of 10 regencies across Tomini Bay alone are among the country’s disadvantaged regions, with most residents working as fishermen and living under the poverty line.
Central Sulawesi deputy governor Achmad Yahya said Tomini Bay has 587,670 tons of fish reserves. It is also home to a large number of coral reefs that form the bay’s rich biodiversity.
The development of fishery and tourism, however, has been impeded by the region’s lack of qualified human resources, supporting infrastructure, especially transportation, and investment, said Yahya.
The latest data issued by the Office of State Minister for Development of Disadvantaged Regions revealed that 68 percent of the disadvantaged regions are located in East Indonesia.
The government aims to remove 40 disadvantaged regencies and municipalities from poverty by 2009.
“We’re using the hub-growth approach to develop these regions,” Lukman said.
Lukman said the government was considering a special authority which would involve several ministerial offices and the private sector to facilitate Tomini Bay’s development.