In many respects, Bali is ahead of Indonesia as an overall country that is still in developmental stage, still struggling to provide infrastructure and services to its people on a par with those enjoyed – and frequently taken for granted – in Western nations. That is largely because of this island’s success in international tourism which provides a solid base for its economy.
But while some sectors of society here have benefited from the tourism boom of recent years, others have remained mired in poverty and misery, those essential tourism dollars not reaching anywhere near their ramshackle homes. Our governor has gone to great lengths since his inauguration in 2008 to tackle Bali’s sizeable numbers of impoverished, and he told us in his year-end speech that the poverty level had been reduced by almost 23 percent, largely due to government schemes and assistance for those on the breadline. We expect this percentage to increase in the near future.
Also beneficial for Bali’s people has been the introduction, under the direction of Governor Pastika, of the Bali Mandira provision that allows those in need of healthcare to get it for free. And there are other tourism-fuelled bonuses for the Balinese, too, including the bolstering of education and tackling illiteracy.
It may all be short-lived, however, if far-sighted policies and programmes are not put into place to tackle the chronic difficulties the island is facing that are actually driving tourists away, as letters to this newspaper attest – a recent one from a group of Bali-loving Japanese saying they will now choose other destinations because they cannot get around gridlocked southern regions.
Above all, the central and local governments must place an emphasis on investing in an infrastructure – encompassing transport, road networks and tourism facilities – that is viable and long-lasting. The pitiful example of the cruise-liner port at Tana Ampo on the east coast, which cannot be used by cruise-liners because the jetty is too short and funds have run out to lengthen it to the size it was intended, is all too familiar here.