INDONESIA - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially inaugurated on Thursday the Kuala Namu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency, near Medan, North Sumatra. It was a significant moment for Yudhoyono, as he approaches the end of his two terms as the country's sixth president.
The plush Kuala Namu airport, offering the most sophisticated passenger terminal in the country, is one of several successful infrastructure projects built during Yudhoyono's era. During the inauguration ceremony, Yudhoyono said the airport marked an important milestone toward a more prosperous North Sumatra in particular and Indonesia in general.
At the ceremony, the President also announced the completion of expansion projects at commercial airports Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau, and Raja Haji Fisabilillah in Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands, as well as smaller airstrips in Muara Bungo in Jambi, Pekon Serai in Lampung and Pagar Alam in South Sumatra.
President director of state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) II, Tri Sunoko, said the construction of the new airport was part of the government's Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI).
The new airport will also become part of Yudhoyono's legacy before leaving office following the presidential election, which is set to take place in July.
The President, who according to the Constitution, cannot run for a third term, is a key supporter of the construction of the 29-kilometer Sunda Strait Bridge, connecting Merak in Banten, West Java, and Bakauheni in Lampung, on the southern tip of Sumatra.
Due to technical and financial setbacks, the construction of the mega bridge has faced a series of delays and will not begin before the end of Yudhoyono's term.
Tri said there was every hope that Kuala Namu airport, which had taken six years to build, would become the country's main gateway for visitors traveling from China, Europe and the Middle East.
The airport operator invested Rp 2.2 trillion (S$242.7 million) to construct everything in the landside area, while the government allocated Rp 3.39 trillion from the state budget to construct the airside area.
Kuala Namu has capacity to deal with 8 million people a year. However, just a few months after its operations began, the number of passengers had reached 8.3 million.
Tri said AP II was currently preparing for the airport's second phase of development, to increase passenger traffic capacity to 25 million per year. He said the company expected to start construction by next year.
"In mid-2015, we will begin the second phase of Kuala Namu airport's construction, with a total budget of at least Rp 2.4 trillion for the airport's landside development," he said.
AP II has allocated Rp 130 billion this year to further develop the airport, which began operating in July last year.