Jakarta – When announcing the government's plan to launch a golden visa program, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said the policy would be a "game changer" in the efforts to lure more foreign workers and investment into the country.
The minister, who is reportedly seeking to run for vice president for the second time, is on point. The question at hand is whether the government will deliver on its promise.
Our stance on immigration has never changed: We support the migration of foreign citizens into the country for all the social and economic benefits that come with them, a more competitive job market, a more robust economy and a more vibrant society.
Details about the program are still sketchy, however. We know that the visa is meant "to attract quality talent in the field of digitalization, health, research and technology." It is also expected to bring in more "digital nomads and entrepreneurs to invest in Indonesia." But we know that the devil is in the detail, how attractive is the program for foreigners?
It offers eligible foreigners a stay permit of up to 10 years, a streamlined immigration service, eligibility to purchase assets in Indonesia and a fast-track route for citizenship, according to the Cabinet Secretariat website in April. This program, it says, is eligible for foreign investors, highly skilled workers and high-earning retirees.
However, it is unclear how much a foreigner needs to invest to be eligible for the program and be able to enjoy its benefits. Investment Minister Bahlil Lahadalia has suggested that the starting number for investments may be Rp 30 billion (US$2 million). It remains to be seen if that amount is attractive enough or too prohibitive for investors.
To put things in perspective, a smaller country like Saint Kitts and Nevis set its investment figure at $150,000, while the United States puts it at $1.05 million.
Regardless of whether it is a reasonable sum, we remind the government not to be fixated on the amount of money it can collect from the program. The benefits of a golden visa program go beyond fiscal advantages. It fosters cultural dialogue, transfers of knowledge and many other intangible benefits that will pay us tremendous dividends in the long run.
It only makes sense that the government should aggressively target foreign talent for this program, so more people can take part in it without having to pass the financial barrier.
Certainly, we need to put in place clear safeguards to anticipate abuses, such as tax evasion or money laundering. At the same time, we also need to ensure that red tape, for which our highly ineffective bureaucracy is notorious, will not derail the policy implementation.
It is worth noting that this is the second visa policy the government has launched in recent months. In October last year, it introduced the second-home visa program aimed at well-off elderly foreigners who were looking to retire to tourist destinations. This allows foreigners to stay for up to 10 years if they are able to provide proof of funds of either Rp 2 billion ($128,559) in an Indonesian bank account or proof of ownership of a luxury property in the country.
The policy, however, turned into a nightmare for existing expatriates who had long relied on renewable temporary permits (KITAS), which last up to a year, costing between Rp 750,000 and Rp 12 million, or less than $805, but who were required to transition to the program. The government later chose to ignore the transition policy.
The golden visa is certainly a good idea. But the government needs to carefully lay out its plan to ensure its success, or risk it turning into another missed opportunity.