ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Indonesia officially opened on Wednesday its longest bridge, one of the few major infrastructure projects to be completed in Southeast Asia's biggest economy since the crisis of the late 1990s, reported Reuters.
The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is seeking a second term in elections in July, has been struggling to push forward plans to overhaul Indonesia's poor network of roads, ports, airports, power supply and other infrastructure.
The shoddy state of Indonesia's infrastructure is considered a key impediment to attracting more foreign investment.
The 5.4-km Suramadu bridge, which connects the islands of Java and Madura, cost about 4.5 trillion rupiah ($450 million) to build with about half the funds loaned from China.
The bridge is the first to link two of Indonesia's bigger islands.
A business leader welcomed the launch of the bridge, but said a lot more needed to be done.
"All these infrastructure problems are what makes this a high cost economy in Indonesia," said Sofjan Wanandi, chairman of the Employers' Association of Indonesia (APINDO).
"They (the government) need to build highways, address the tolls, the airport and what people really need is clean drinking water. These are basic things that are needed urgently."
President Yudhoyono said at the opening ceremony in Bangkalan, the capital of Madura, that he hoped the bridge would boost the economy of Madura.
Previously it took 30 minutes by ferry from Madura to Indonesia's second city of Surabaya in East Java province. The time has now been cut to 5 minutes.
A 2008 business survey by the Asia foundation and a private Indonesian body on regional autonomy (KPPOD) found that companies felt poor roads and unreliable electricity were the top constraints for doing business in Indonesia.
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