Spare Some Change?
It is ironic that under the dictatorship of late president Suharto, Indonesia operated an open-door visa policy, one that permitted relatively free and easy access to tourists wanting to come visit this vast archipelago in Southeast Asia. Suharto’s fall in 1998 and the subsequent dawning of democracy brought with it a restrictive visa policy, and one that was no longer free.
Indeed, it was the daughter of Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno, who abolished freedom of access to Indonesia. In 2003, then-president Megawati Sukarnoputri, a woman with strong familial ties to Bali, decided to end decades of tourism-boosting, open-arms free visas to Indonesia and start charging for entry.
Since then, it has never quite been clear what happens to the many millions of dollars collected annually from visitors to our shores. All we can say with certainty is that Bali, where most of this money originates, due to its status as Indonesia’s main tourism destination, doesn’t enjoy any of it. That’s because it’s sent to Jakarta, where it’s anyone’s guess what it is used for.
In 2011, Bali provided the central government with US$56.4 million in visa on arrival fees, a nearly $6-million climb on the previous year, owing to Bali’s rising tourism appeal. (The average tourist pays $25 for a 30-day period.) At the same time, Bali is in desperate need of funding to improve its infrastructure to cater for those to come here. Yes, there are large-scale projects underway, such as a major expansion of Ngurah Rai International Airport and various road developments, but much more is needed beyond these token ventures.
Could Bali, for instance, have a workable public-transport system, one that would swiftly and comfortably whisk passengers to and from the airport, instead of having to continually argue with overcharging taxi drivers? Could we have investment in power-generation – possibly tapping geothermal resources – so that we’re not repeatedly plunged into darkness? Is it possible we could have greater development of the island’s road network to make getting around less of a chore?
We think all of this, and more, is easily possible. So can we have the funds, a large chunk of which we take in, to do it?