About Batam Island Before and Now


Batam is a vigorous, sprawling island city of some 1.2 million people situated simply 20 kilometers (less than thirteen miles) across the water from Singapore - the crossing takes lower than an hour by newest fast ferry and there are around one hundred crossings each day.

Batam City comprises an area of 715 sq. km and has trans-formed itself into one of the most developed and prosperous cities in Indonesia. Initially, Batam was only 415 sq. km. but elevated investment and demand for space led Batam's boundaries to be expanded with the inclusion of Rempang and Galang islands inside its jurisdiction. These three islands are together known by the acronym Barelang for short. They're linked by the Trans- Barelang highway, which incorporates six distinctive bridges.

Batam is without doubt one of the fastest growing regions in Indonesia, with annual inhabitants growth currently estimated at near 10% and reaching 11% a yr. over the inter-census period to March 2010. The population increase is being pushed by speedy industrial development spurred by Batam's status as a Free Trade Zone and its being designated as part of a Riau Islands Special Economic Zone by the Indonesian and Singapore governments in June 2006. Manufactures contribute about 60% of the city's economy.

Apartment, office and hotel towers, and trendy shopping facilities are rising alongside traditional Asian shop houses and Hawker Avenue stalls

Despite its steadily growing sophistication, Batam retains a spirit of being young, brash and new, and has lots of the components of a contemporary "Gold Rush" (or should that be "Oil Rush") town. As not too long ago as the early Eighties, the inhabitants were fewer than 50,000 people. On-going development pressures imply constructing and improvement works are persevering with, and much of the island inevitably seems to be unfinished, unkempt and messy.

Many people choose to reside in makeshift squatter camps because lodging is in demand and land and home prices are comparatively excessive in contrast with elsewhere in Indonesia. Typically, these areas are cheek by jowl with up-market suburbs.

Authorities have struggled to keep up with infrastructure services. Consequently, many businesses set up back-up generator sets and supplementary fresh water supplies. Municipal companies, like the upkeep of public areas and refuse collection, remain deficient. Heavy industry and construction traffic (plus periodic tropical downpours) imply most of the roads typically are damaged up and in a seemingly perpetual state of disrepair.

Briefly, Batam continues to be rising from a "third world" look and feel and sometimes experiences interruptions to energy, water, telephone and Internet services.

But, increasingly more areas of leafy suburbs and substantial public buildings are rising, offering a hint of the Batam of the future, significantly in established downtown areas.

Apartment, office and hotel towers, and trendy shopping facilities are rising alongside traditional Asian shop houses and Hawker Avenue stalls, offering fascinating contrasts (and a few great picture opportunities).

Long-time Western residents and returning visitors invariably comment on the fast improvements over the previous five to 10 years and sometimes draw comparisons with the Singapore of 20 or 30 years ago.

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