Building Bali

This island is fortunate in many ways; in many others, regrettably, less so. But in our governor there is a man who, ostensibly for the first time in Bali’s long history, positions himself as an enabler – of concrete progress.

Making cogent headway in this country – whether in the halls of power in Jakarta of here in Bali – is not a challenge for the faint-hearted, however. The path is strewn with vested interests – roadblocks in the form of officials more mindful of their own self-enrichment than of the larger welfare of the people who inhabit this island and come from around the world to see our natural treasures.

And so now, as Governor I Made Mangku Pastika attempts to push forward, we witness the same sorry scenario, of individuals lashing out at plans to – for instance – invest government funds to empower local people with opportunities not in the tourism sphere, and financial assistance for Balinese wishing to engage in premium-price organic-rice farming.

These are solid strategies that, if instigated, will help to broaden Bali’s economy away from the traditional tourism sector, which remains the island’s biggest earner, and therefore should be supported. Criticism of any government plan is in this vibrant democracy welcome; what is not is merely extending condemnation and offering no solutions or alternatives.

Bali will this year have received around 2 million foreign tourists, a new annual record despite the weak global economic situation that cut into early month arrivals and which still persists in some our markets. The governor thinks this figure should be at around the 12-million mark in a few short years. But daydreaming will not achieve this lofty target. Real work is required, producing tangible results – starting with building up Bali’s rare infrastructure and disintegrating facilities.

The cash-rich Badung government – overseer of most of the island’s tourism-related enterprises – has newly lavished upon itself a gleaming town of an administration centre that has cost tens of millions of dollars. As a start, let’s see the same kind of effort poured into the public arena.

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