BATAM - Former president BJ Habibie, who played a key role in the development of Batam as an industrial region, has apologized to the island's entrepreneurs and the community in general for his negligence in completing the concept of Batam as a special autonomous zone through drafting appropriate regulations.
He said the carelessness had sparked a number of problems, such as a lack of clarity in determining protected forests and the ongoing dispute between the Batam administration and the Batam Free Trade Zone Management Agency (BP FTZ) previously known as the Batam Authority.
"Actually, it was very easy for me at that time [as president] to issue a law on Batam as a special autonomous region; however, I was too busy thinking about how the Indonesian nation could get out of its ongoing crisis," said Habibie in Batam, on Saturday.
"Therefore, I apologize. I was negligent on Batam because I had to work on so many other laws, including amendments to the Constitution," he added.
The former president was speaking to members of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) Batam and other elements of Batam society.
"When I was president, there were three to five new laws every day including Sunday," said Habibie.
Habibie said he was concerned about the current condition of Batam, particularly from the aspect of economic growth.
Since it first started to be developed in 1978 until 1998, Batam's economy grew by about 17 percent annually; however, after the reform era, the city's economy grew only by about 7-8 percent per year.
"In my plan, in which I had no personal angle, it was perfectly normal to envision these three regions - Batam, Rempang and Galang [Barelang] - becoming an autonomous region, a special region such as Aceh Nanggroe Darussalam, DKI Jakarta and Yogayakarta," said Habibie.
As an autonomous region, he said, Batam should be led by a governor instead of the head of the Batam Authority. "Hopefully Batam can compete against our neighboring country, Singapore," he said.