SEMINYAK ~ One of Hawaiiâ€™s most prominent politicians and businessmen is seeking to invest heavily in developments in Bali, an island not dissimilar to his own but one he says has enormous potential.
â€œI believe my years of government service and experience qualifies me to compare and say that Bali has much to offer. I hope to use my many of years of experience, both in and out of government, and apply it to the projects we are allowed to go forward with,â€ former senator D.G. â€œAndyâ€ Anderson told The Bali Times at the end of a visit here this week â€“ his third since first arrived last November and he is due back again next month.
By William J. Furney
The Bali Times
â€œWe want to and are going to invest in Bali and her future,â€ said Anderson, adding that although local government officials had warmly welcomed him to Bali, he was concerned about drawn-out bureaucracy that would put his development plans on hold and create uncertainty.
â€œWe hope the Bali government and community accepts us, as we are going to ask that they assist and support us in processing our permits in a timely manner so that we can begin investing as soon as possible.
â€œWe have several projects in discussion at this time. We can and will put many Balinese citizens into meaningful jobs and assist in helping them find a better life for themselves and their children,â€ he said.
Offering an analysis, Anderson said Hawaii currently has a population of some 1.3 million people and sees around seven million visitors arrive each year, mostly from Japan and the mainland United States. At just 3 percent, Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the country, he said. Bali, meanwhile, has a population of 3.7 million yet attracts just 1.5 million foreign vacationers per year. It has an unemployment rate of 40 percent.
â€œThere is a lot of growth potential for Bali and her people,â€ said Anderson, who owns two of Hawaiiâ€™s most popular upscale restaurants.
â€œBali is much like Hawaii – deep in history, culture and religion,â€ he said.
The Indonesian islandâ€™s strength was its tourist base and â€œits potential for growth is much, much broader worldwide as a whole than is Hawaiiâ€™s.
â€œYou have a great opportunity to increase your visitor count from all over the world, as your government is committed to doing. From all indications, your government officials are very much aware of Baliâ€™s potential and it appears it is determined to do just that.â€
The priority for the Bali government was to put together a properly funded promotional campaign to compete with countries that spend many millions of dollars advertising themselves abroad, said Anderson, who in his 70s shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
News of the Hawaiian nativeâ€™s plans for Bali come amid a large influx of foreign investment into the island. Last week Doha-based Qatar Airways opened a new route to Bali, the first airline in the Middle Eastern region to do so. Itâ€™s chief, Akbar Al Baker, told The Times in an interview last week that â€œBali is a very interesting destination for touristsâ€ from his country and others in the region. Meanwhile, luxury villa resorts continue to open on an almost monthly basis. The Kamaya in Seminyak, part of The Royal Collection that includes The Samaya, was launched last Friday, while in the same area, which is undergoing a dramatic transformation, the ultra-luxurious C151 Resort Seminyak will be officially opened on Sunday, April 8.
General manager of The Samaya Ray Clark told The Times at The Kamaya launch that there was â€œa lot of interestâ€ in Bali as a destination, citing reaction from visitors to the recent ITB in Berlin, the worldâ€™s biggest travel fair, which he attended.
â€œPeople are moving away from hotels to private villas as they have their own space and privacy,â€ he said.
Hanno Soth, chairman of PT Hanno Bali, the developer of the C151 Resort Seminyak and others, agrees, and met with Anderson during his visit here this week.
â€œAndy Anderson walked into our office, asking for our input on his investment plans. Having lived in Hawaii for many years, Iâ€™m excited to see someone like Andy, who has a tremendous reputation and experience, looking to invest in Bali,â€ said Soth.
He said Anderson â€œplanned a US$800 million project in Hawaii which did not get approvals. Now heâ€™s looking to develop a handful of spectacular projects in Bali – if the government supports his investment and cuts through red tape and bureaucracy.â€
Bali is a virgin tourism destination, according to Soth. â€œLike Hawaii was in the 50s â€“ incredible potential,â€ he said.
But he cautioned that opportunities could swiftly be lost if government officials did not act fast in accepting foreign investment and issuing the necessary approvals and permits â€“ a process that is delaying, for example, the opening of a multimillion-dollar shopping complex in Kuta constructed by French retail giant Carrefour.
â€œThe government in Bali and Indonesia talks about the need for bringing foreign investors to Indonesia. Now as they are coming, tendering serious projects, itâ€™s essential that the government choose to facilitate and fast-track investment, not scare investors away with bureaucracy and corrupt practices,â€ Soth said.
â€œWill it be business as usual, with long stories and bureaucracy, or will they (the government) usher in a new era for Bali?â€
For Anderson, who was a member of Hawaiiâ€™s House of Representatives from 1962 to 1966, and the Senate from 1967 to 1983, as well as running for governor and heading the city council, business in Bali has also turned to pleasure.
â€œMy intended purpose (last November) was only to meet and approve a villa plan that I had contracted for with a Bali architectural firm for a villa to be built in Hawaii. This is now only April 3, 2007, and Iâ€™ve been back to Bali three times since, totaling six weeks of stay and already scheduled to be back next month – not for the villa plans, but for my attraction to Bali and a desire to invest here and maybe even to reside,â€ he said.
â€œBali is all they say it is but one canâ€™t really appreciate or understand this until you actually come here and experience it,â€ he said, adding that he was working on a proposal to have Bali and Hawaii, both places of intense spirituality, twinned.
â€œWe believe that while many foreign investors may still be hesitant to invest, itâ€™s our plan to step up to the plate, as they say, and demonstrate that businessmen from Hawaii have faith in the future of Bali. We are not coming to Bali for a short-term relationship, but rather a long and meaningful one.
â€œWe will appreciate and cherish our time with you, and commit to do all we can to participate in building a meaningful future for Bali and her people.â€