July 17-23, 2009


A NEW LOCAL HERO: The Rp2,000 bank note introduced by Bank Indonesia

So, Now Can We Try To Get It Together?

THE latest late-save by the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (with national government help) of the huge Dubai-funded development of a tourism enclave in southern Lombok is, predictably, being used to encourage people (again) to believe the project actually will go ahead.

We hope it does. But what has been agreed to (again) is merely a further six-month extension of the joint venture, the latest in a string of such extensions made necessary by the inclement fact that the facts keep getting in the way of the preferred fiction.

That fiction is that everything has been bolted together and oiled and is ready to spring into action. It’s a familiar refrain in Indonesia, where the winner’s flag is often waved before the race has even begun. But to be fair it’s far from unique to Indonesia. Frenzied promotion of ground-breaking projects gets way ahead of the game in many places.

There is, of course, no substitute for actually doing the hard yards. For one thing it helps to manage complex relationships with business partners who, oddly perhaps, like to be sure they will make money and do so as easily as possible. Preferably the work should be done before holding any Roman-style Triumphs to celebrate your success.

Secure title to land is a prerequisite, for without it no sensible investor would shift a cent. It is especially important to clear these thickets in Indonesia, where land title has not been codified, where multiple claimants (often legitimate in the communal society that is a feature of Indonesian cultures) can appear years after “clear title” has been granted, and where local opinions about the monetary and social value of land – and its continued “ownership” after sale – make it a very tangled jungle indeed.

The BDTC is seeking to build new business for itself by capitalising on its record as developer of the Nusa Dua complex and is the Indonesian portion of the joint venture with Emaar of Dubai. It clearly needs to work on that. It could usefully do so in this instance by recognising that Emaar (and Dubai) are in a bit of economic strife at present and aren’t in the mood to waste time or money.

Lombok deserves its place in the tourism-development sunshine. It certainly doesn’t need another Bali-inspired roadblock in its way.

Food Police in Action

THERE was an interesting front page colour photo and article in the Indonesian language newspaper Radar Bali last Saturday. It was all about a raid by the food police on the Bali Deli where – horrors! – some foreign condiments were suspected of nestling on the shelves without benefit of a nice little sticker saying that the Indonesian authorities had worked out what they were.

It seems the offending articles were ones for which there is no recognised Indonesian distributor. According to Radar Bali, a similar search-and-seize operation was performed at Carrefour, that French-owned hypermarket a little further down Sunset Road.

The newspaper reported that the foreign country stock of interest to the food police came from Italy, China and London. We always thought Bonking Boris Johnson, now Lord Mayor of London but formerly captain of the British parliamentary nookie team, had special plans for his city.

Perhaps he declared it a country while poor Gordon Brown’s attention was focused on the political wreckage at Westminster.

On a New Note

BANK Indonesia has introduced a Rp2,000 note to replace the dog-eared Rp1,000 as the lowest denomination paper money in circulation. It features a new local hero – Pangeran Antasari, Sultan of Banjarmasin in the 1800s – on one side of the note and Dayak dancers on the back. It was launched last week, appropriately in Banjarmasin. See the images here. It’s a sort of blue colour, for ease of confusion with the Rp5,000 note, in the way that the similar red colours of the Rp10,000 and Rp100,000 were apparently designed to assist money-changing scams.
But as the central bank notes, not even parking costs only Rp1,000 a pop nowadays, so the utility of the old Rp1,000 note – worth around 10 cents US – is ever more marginal. It wants to repopularise coins for smaller denominations, it says, though in a country where hot-weather clothing limits pocket space that’s a tough call.

It would make more sense, ultimately, to knock off some zeroes and have a “new rupiah” that doesn’t make you a millionaire every time you draw cash out of an ATM, but that solution seems to be some way off.

They could, though, provide a Rp500,000 or even Rp1 million note. They could perhaps choose the images for these from Indonesia’s rich-list. It would be one way Jusuf Kalla could get his face right around the country.

And it would save a lot of wallets from a shortened lifespan due to over-stuffing.

Don’t Get In a Paddy

WISH we could have been there! We hear a large four-wheel-drive with Outrigger Panorama logos on its sides and a foreigner in the driving seat ended up in a paddy last Saturday morning (bet the driver did too!) on the formerly quiet country back road from Seminyak to Canggu.

Since this snaking country lane was turned into a paved road over the past couple of years, it has increasingly been used as a shortcut to Canggu by people driving to and from Seminyak and other places to the south. Road rage is becoming commonplace during increasing gridlock.

The road is not wide enough to accommodate side-by-side two of the plush and plainly ridiculous super-SUVs of the variety favoured by plutocratic Javanese and upwardly mobile foreigners with access to company funds to make the usurious lease payments. As a result there are frequent spills into the “nice ricefield views” that people pay big bucks to get a look at from their villas.

Once rural and pastoral, and quintessentially Balinese, Canggu is rapidly becoming yet another expat enclave. It is now home to an international school, a dreams-of-empire country club, and a deli. There are plans – by the Spanish football club Real Madrid – to open a soccer academy in the area, though these are yet to be visually realised.

But with new houses and villa complexes sprouting up on an almost weekly basis – and Tantric-tranquil Desa Seni’s village resort countryside vistas now being eclipsed by concrete walls on all sides – it seems the paddies most likely to be seen are the noisy ones resulting from tantrums and not those dedicated to the peaceful production of Bali’s staple food.

Servis Compris

BALI may be buying itself a lot of trouble attracting increasing numbers of French tourists – new figures show they have discovered us in droves – if a study of the global tourism industry is to be believed. Apparently they are the worst travellers of all: penny-pinching, rude and terrible at foreign languages.

The study by the global hotel industry in 27 countries, conducted last month and part of an annual series, says the Japanese are the best tourists. Oddly, if penny-pinching, rudeness and lack of foreign language skills are benchmarks, it ranks Australians sixth out of 27.

In the study, 40,000 hotels worldwide were asked to rank tourists on nine criteria, from their politeness to their willingness to tip. The Japanese, assessed as clean, polite, quiet and uncomplaining, came top for the third year running.

The French, whether travelling on holiday or for business, were the least open to new languages, ranked last for generosity and readiness to tip, and next-to-last for their overall attitude and politeness. They made up for it with elegance, discretion and cleanliness.

Camel Lights Out

THERE’S a line in an old Australian TV advertisement – for something or other; can’t remember what – that says “Those Aussies are weird.” That’s not a statement that would be at all controversial anywhere else in the world, or for that matter among many Aussies, even if it were advanced as a serious proposition rather than just as a joke.

After all, they keep demonstrating weirdness and actually seem to like being odd. Thus we were not surprised to read during the week that the organisers of the Camel Cup in Alice Springs, held last weekend, and unsurprisingly won by a camel, spent a little time on the hunt for their most prized dromedary, whose name is Charlie and who was apparently stolen.

It’s not clear why anyone would want a dromedary. They spit for one thing, a criminal offence in The Diary’s view. But Charlie is a special case. He’s a life-sized steel camel and is the mascot of the desert charity races, sponsored by the Lions service club.

Weirdly, he disappeared first on the Friday night before the races, returned for mascot duties, and then did a runner again. He was later found, it seems, after being spotted in several Alice Springs nightclubs. “I think he’s probably been led astray by a few people through a few different nightclubs in town and parties and everything else,” a spokesman for the camel race organisers told The Diary. “He’s probably feeling very sorry for himself.”

This year the Camel Cup drew a crowd of more than 5,000 to the central Australian town celebrated at one remove by the British writer Nevil Shute in his post-war novel A Town Like Alice.

Freudian Slip

FROM a Paradise Property website blurb about a place at Canggu on the market for $900,000:

“A pretentious Roman-style property located in the quiet neighbourhood of Kuwum surrounded by lush vegetation and naturally limited by a romantic river. The property still leaves plenty of opportunities for personalisation.”

Says it all, really.

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