Report: Indonesia mulls leasing some of its thousands of islands to foreigners

JAKARTA, Indonesia

Indonesia is considering leasing some of its 18,000 islands to foreign companies to build luxury hideaways, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The plan could boost Indonesia's tourism revenues, which have taken a hit because of years of religious and ethnic violence, environmental destruction and terrorist bombings in the country.

Indonesia has more islands than any other nation, most of which are uninhabited.

Tourism ministry official Sapta Nirwandar said the Maldives allows foreigners to rent islands to build diving resorts and that Indonesia should consider doing the same, The Jakarta Post reported.

''Such destinations can attract affluent tourists,'' he was quoted as saying.

The plan might run into opposition from nationalist legislators.

Indonesia was colonizedby the Netherlands for more than 350 years, and many people do not like the idea of giving foreigners ownership or lease over land.

Tourism is the highest contributor to government coffers after oil and gas revenues.

Last year, some five million visitors provided about US$5 billion (euro4 billion) in revenues.
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