THE new international airport in Batam is expected to stimulate economic development and tourism on the island which is just 20 kilometres from Singapore. Batam's Hang Nadim International Airport, which will open later this year, has been upgraded to international standard. Only 20 years ago, Batam was a sleepy fishing community. But it has been transformed since offshore oil exploration started. Its proximity to Singapore - a 45-minute hydrofoil journey away - has helped fuel the island's economic boom. Development was given further impetus when the island was given bonded zone status, making it a duty-free port in 1978. There are 32 deluxe hotels and resorts, two marinas and five world-class golf courses on the island. Increasing numbers of tourists are going there from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. 'Tourism is booming at a rate of nearly 25 per cent a year,' said Muzakiri Yanto of the Batam Tourism Promotion Board. 'In 1985, there were only 60,000 visitors. Last year, we welcomed 960,000 tourists and, this year, the figure is expected to exceed one million.' Industrial development, sparked by generous incentives, has also gained momentum. 'Investments reached US$5 billion last year,' said Soeryodai Djatmiko, chief executive of the Batam Industrial Development Authority (BIDA). 'Our infrastructure is being improved daily to keep pace with the influx of industrial and commercial investments.' Overseas investors are allowed 100 per cent ownership of ventures on the island. Multinationals from the United States, Europe, Japan and Singapore have established enterprises. Just over half of all investment has been in industry. Tourism attracted 17.75 per cent, real estate 16 per cent and trade/services 11.6 per cent. The most prominent project to date is the self-contained and self-sufficient Batamindo Industrial Park (BIP), a show piece which grew out of an Indonesian-Singaporean government pact. In just five years, BIP has developed into an international manufacturing base. It has also enabled numerous Singaporean manufacturers and multi-nationals to expand. The first factory was developed in 1990 and, today, BIP is a fully-fledged industrial township with more than 60 companies employing 35,000 workers. Of those, 21,000 live in the industrial park. Last year's exports were worth more than US$700 million. By 1997, there will be a total of 175 factories in the park. More industrial parks are being developed, including a joint venture between Indonesia's Citramas Group and the Netherlands Development Finance company. Called the Kabil Industrial Estate, it is adjacent to the deep-water sea port, AsiaPort. Giant residential and leisure developments are also going ahead. One of the biggest is Waterfront City, which has been designed by an Australian consultancy along the same lines as marina projects along Queensland's Gold Coast. It incorporates a marina and golf club with several housing estates and a new town. A 24-hour ferry service is due to link Waterfront City and Singapore by the end of this year. There are plans to develop the complex with another 1,500 apartments and condominiums. A three-star business hotel, the Batam Trade Centre, an amusement park and an indoor ski slope will also be incorporated in those plans. One of Batam's advantages is abundant labour, with the island having become a destination for migrant workers from other parts of Indonesia. Wages on the island, like the price of land, are among lowest in Southeast Asia. In 1985, the work force stood at just 6,389. By 1991, that figure was up to 23,000 and, currently, it stands at 70,000. For expatriates and tourists, immigration procedures have been simplified - which means entry granted on arrival. But the island has a long way more to go in its development. The projected population by 2006 is 700,000 and Batam is to be linked by bridges to the neighbouring islands of Tonton, Nipah, Setoko and Galang Baru which are keen to share the area's prosperity.