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Economy and development

In 1824, the Treaty of London finally settled that the islands south of Singapore are Dutch Territories. Bintan was again under the control of the Dutch. Bintan's power and central role disappeared with the regional political changes and the island's past fortune was now overshadowed by neighbouring Batam and Singapore.

Following its founding by the British in 1819, Singapore became a new regional trading centre. Due to its limited size, Singapore initiated the Sijori Growth Triangle in 1980 and 1990s, and signed agreements with the Indonesian government to invest in Batam and Bintan.

The economy of Bintan island is centred on tourism, given its close proximity to Singapore. In the year 1990, according to a Presidential Decree (25 July 1990), a coordinating team was set up for the Riao Province Development with the mandate to plan and develop development projects within the framework of Indonesia-Singapore cooperation. Investment plans, similar to that of Batam, were evolved with basic intention to provide leisure space to Singaporeans on the white beaches of Bintan and this approach also conformed to the Indonesian Policy of declaring the 1990s as the "decade of Visit Indonesia". In 1991, Bintan Management Resort for establishing a resort with intent to develop resorts, industrial parks and water projects was planned. In December 1994, partial opening of Bintan Resort Development was agreed under a Memorandum of Understanding signed by trade ministers of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. As per the Master Plan prepared for Bintan, the emphasis was on tourism, industrial projects and agricultural products, all under private sector initiative, involving formation of a consortium of the Singapore Technologies Industrial Corporation, Wah Chang International (whose specialisation is development of resorts), the Keppel group and the local banks.Thus, the once wild and deserted Bintan island has now become an industrial "hinterland" for Singapore and a special investment zone for world industrial companies, also attracting thousands of workers from the entire country. This industrial estate agreement is in partnership with Batamlndo Industrial Park. The Bintan industrial estate has been allotted 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) and is designed as a "One stop investment centre" providing all services essential for the investing companies to devote exclusively towards production. It targets industries such as textiles, garments and wood processing, unlike the Batam industrial estates. This functions as a supplement to Singapore's economy by way of manufacturing low-value goods here.

Earlier, Singapore's Batam Industrial Park had signed an agreement with Indonesia to lease its northern coast and develop it into a resort ("Bintan Resort") for Singaporeans. An area of 23,000 hectares (57,000 acres) had been allocated to this project, which was further divided to 20–30 projects – 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) for hotels and resorts and sports facilities. Further, the Bintan Lagoon and Beach Resorts, designed exclusively for wealthy tourists, has been planned with "two 18-hole championship golf courses with superlative accommodation". This resort area has exclusive approach from Singapore that bypasses the capital city. It has modern facilities of museums, handicraft shops, artists villages and other eco-tourism related attractions.

The agribusiness venture planned under the Master Plan for Bintan envisages pig rearing for export to Singapore and sea food processing plants. Fishery cultivation of grouper fish, napoleon, kakap and Bream are also planned in the island.

Under the industrial sector, the identified fields for development are mining of Bauxite (Bauxite reserve is 15.88 million tons), kaolin, granite, white sand and tin. Government of Indonesia has also planned the petroleum industry with its subsidiary industry of manufacture of plastics in Bintan.

Bintan Eco-Tourism Venture Project has been launched to generate better income avenues for the low-income families. The eco-tourism destinations identified are all within approachable distances that could be covered in about 30 to 90 minutes from the starting point by car. Village handicrafts made from the local pandanus plants is a popular attraction during the eco-tour to villages in Bintan.

The Integrated resort management is highly dependent on the International tourism industry. Tourist foot falls, as recorded till 2004, have been reported to be on the increase.

Thus, the massive and ambitious economic development plan envisaging "10 golf courses, 20 hotels, 10 condominiums, three village clusters, a township, several marine and eco-tourism attractions" launched in 1995 with a gestation period of 20 years, was according to the leisure industry analyst of Singapore: "Bintan has better prospects because of the people behind its development. They are big names who will have to maintain their reputation.

In 2010, 300,000 tourists visited Bintan Island and most of them came from Singapore, Korea and Japan. 75 percent of foreign tourists came by ferry from Singapore, while domestic tourists mainly came by airplanes. A new airport is planned to be built at Lobam industrial area to accommodate Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s for one million tourists predicted come in 2015. The new airport is 35 minutes from Bintan Resort, whereas the current Tanjung Pinang airport is 90 minutes away.
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