Thursday, May 17, 2007

Vanishing islands

A couple of days ago Reuters carried an interesting report that Indonesia has so many islands it has not been able to count them all and is having a hard time finding names for them.

Officially there are about 17,000 islands, but the report said that number may drop as one minister fears hundreds of islands might vanish because of rising sea levels from global warming.

The report said the issue has become a hot topic after Indonesia upset neighbouring Singapore recently by banning sand exports to the city state, blaming sand mining for literally wiping some of its islands off the map.

Another way to capitalise on the problem is to sell some of the islands, most of which are uninhabited any way. Land-scarce but cash-rich Singapore will almost definitely be a keen buyer if Indonesian nationalism doesn't get into the way. Of course, most Indonesians will object to such a proposition due to nationalist sentiments.

But Indonesia should have sold some of the less strategic islands at the height of the regional financial crisis, instead of turning to the International Monetary Fund for help. The IMF bailout probably cost more to national pride than the loss of a few atolls.

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