Bali Moves to Bolster Farming Sector

Shift of Focus Seen Protecting Island’s Culture

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times
With Bali Editor Rian Dewanto

DENPASAR ~ As the island’s key tourism sector gains ground and returns to the boom times of yesteryear, the Bali government is now turning its attention to other, somewhat neglected areas of the local economy, officials said this week.

The government wants to ensure that Bali’s economy becomes more robust and is supported by all sectors of industry, not solely relying on big-income earners like tourism, according to Sopyan Suganda, head of the Data and Program Strategy Department of the Bali office of the Investment Coordinating Board.

In an interview with The Bali Times this week, Suganda said that a change of focus was vital to ensuring the island’s fortunes remained robust.

“Bali’s economy depends a great deal on tourists, and we’ve learned that this is a critical situation because if tourism drops, it drags the economy down as well,” he said.

Another main consideration was to support Balinese culture, which itself is a main draw for tourists, said Suganda.

“Balinese culture has distinguished Bali from anywhere else in terms of tourism destinations. We have studied it and we know that the culture stems from the very basic level of society, right down at village level.

“Since most villagers are mainly farmers, we think that by bringing more investment into this sector, it will benefit both the people and their culture as well,” he said.

Other, related sectors were being targeted for investment, too.

“Since processed products are worth more money than plain-cultivated ones, we would like to involve investors in the refining process of primary products, such as coffee, seaweed and fish,” said Suganda, adding that foreign markets for such processed products from Bali were vast and largely untapped.

That, he said, would bolster the island’s revenues considerably in the years to come, adding to healthy returns currently coming from the tourism sector, which is currently enjoying record numbers of overseas visitors.

“For instance, Balinese coffee. The Balinese have long applied a traditional system in coffee plantation – for example, by using the Balinese calendar to determine the right season. A lot of traditional value is incorporated into the process … the demands for such products are unlimited,” he said.

The board’s head of investor licensing, Wayan Swastika, told The Times separately that that the shift in focus would result in greater equal opportunities for different regions of Bali, particularly those that are not chiefly involved in tourism.

“Up to now, investment has always been focused in Badung regency and Denpasar. Almost 60 percent of the value of investments in Bali is in those areas,” he said.

Most of Bali’s tourism is located in Badung regency.

Data obtained by The Times shows that investment thus far for 2007 in Bali amounts to Rp1.083 trillion (US$115.1 million). Of that, Rp1.019 trillion is for 46 projects in Badung and Denpasar.

Meanwhile, Rp64.221 billion is being invested in 13 projects in Gianyar, Tabanan, Buleleng and Karangasem. There are currently no investments planned for Jembrana, Buleleng and Bangli.

Swastika said the lack of infrastructure in regions other than Badung and Denpasar was seen as the cause of a lack of investment in those areas.

“There is infrastructure in other regions, but it’s not as complete as in Badung and Denpasar, which has good roads, an airport and harbor access.

“To draw more investors to other regencies, we have stopped granting licenses for new establishments in Badung and Denpasar, for hotels, travel agencies and spas, since 2001,” he said.

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