Logic Takes a Holiday

Our island is one of translucent contrasts: opulent residences line the streets and outside middle-aged women and young children and infants beg for cash. Travellers from around the world come here to experience untainted natural beauty yet spend much of their time sitting in dense traffic that casts a distorting pall over pollutant-clogged environments that are becoming increasingly hazardous to human health.

These, and more, are the products of the marketplace, but also of a lack of adequate foresight and planning – and in the case of beggars, a failure to develop areas that are not congested into broader tourism destinations with jobs for many; for example in east Bali’s arid Karangasem regency, Bali’s poorest, from where the destitute stream into southern parts to seek alms.

On a wider front, there are starker and even more troubling contrasts.

We’re all aware that tourism is the main industry in Bali and that big-spending foreign tourists are what provide people who live on this island a steady income. But tourists battle to get into Bali. We’re aware, too, that instead of being broadly welcomed upon arrival, as they should be, they are plunged into an enervating and undignified debacle that leaves them lining up for hours at understaffed immigration counters. This creates exasperation rather than exhilaration at arriving on one of the world’s most idyllic islands. Just where is the logic?

Meanwhile, the Bali government has commendably extended free healthcare to all but one regency in Bali (Jembrana opted out of the provincial scheme, but has its own). However, the biggest health threat to the people roams free on the streets unchecked, despite a government directive that dogs are not allowed to stray but must be kept under strict control, as in confined on the family premises.

The death toll from the rabies outbreak is creeping towards 50 since the disease broke out in late 2008; yet few residents really care. A poster from an unwitting local on a Bali street this week read “It is forbidden to kill dogs in Bali,” referring to the government’s initial attempt at curbing rabies by culling strays, a programme that has since, like its dog-vaccination attempt, died a quick death following an initial bout of enthusiasm.

And so in all of this, it seems, logic is on permanent holiday.

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