Governor Says Wealth of Tourism Is Hurting Bali’s Poor

Governor Says Wealth of Tourism Is Hurting Bali’s Poor

Thriving tourism in Bali has pushed up the price of basic necessities, often putting them beyond the reach of the island’s many poor people, Governor I Made Mangku Pastika has said, in what he called a “disaster” for the indigent.

Governor I Made Mangku Pastika.


Thriving tourism in Bali has pushed up the price of basic necessities, often putting them beyond the reach of the island’s many poor people, Governor I Made Mangku Pastika has said, in what he called a “disaster” for the indigent.

The plain-speaking governor, who was internationally lauded for his investigative work into the 2002 Bali bombings when he was Bali Police chief, for which he was made Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, said an influx of tourists and tourism workers had caused a market-driven spike in prices that was rendering the impoverished even worse off.

“Tourism has been a disaster for the poor,” Pastika, speaking at a poverty-reduction meeting in Denpasar on Monday, said. “As the tourism sector is being developed, the cost of people’s daily necessities is becoming more expensive and particularly unaffordable for the poor.”

He said: “Tourism also attracts many people from outside Bali to come here and work. These migrants drive up the price of food and other necessities.”

The government estimates that there are over 183,000 people living in poverty in Bali — the international benchmark is existing on or less than US$2 a day — which has an overall population of some 3.8 million. That, according to official data, is a rise of almost 17,000 poor people compared to last year. Many of those struggling to live are located in the arid east and north of the island, parts of Bali that do not experience as much, if any, tourism earnings as the bustling south.

Governor Pastika, known for his practical approach to managing the island and for eschewing the trappings of officialdom so favoured by Indonesian officials, even banning food at functions he attends in an attempt to save money, suggested that government intervention might be required to bring down prices or at least to prevent them from soaring even further, but he did not offer any concrete proposals as to how such involvement in the markets would work.

However, the governor announced that five impoverished villages had been selected to take part in a pilot project that is hoped will go some way towards ending poverty.

Later this year they will each receive Rp1 billion from the Bali government to help establish small-scale enterprises that will expectantly create lasting jobs and provide ongoing revenue streams for the villagers.

It is one of the ironies of Bali that as its tourism fortunes have soared in recent years, with last year bringing a record almost 2.8 million foreign visitors to Bali’s shores, poverty remains rampant and, as the figures show, is increasing. In particular, many industry observers have pointed out, the island’s tourism is over-concentrated in the south, to the detriment of the rest of the island and its people. And inversely, the southern areas are becoming so intensely built up that the overdevelopment and resultant traffic snarls it creates have led to dissatisfaction among tourists and residents. Some have pointed to the touted establishment of a second international airport in the north of Bali as a possible solution to the inequity, as it would enable a greater balance of revenue spread.

Meanwhile, Pastika, whose five-year term ends next year, warned that if the current situation were allowed to continue, there would be wider social ramifications for the island. He said that in some cases, cash-strapped farmers might be forced to sell their land, plots in their families for generations and the only real assets they hold. This, the governor said, would eventually end up hurting them.

The governor predicted greater societal inequality and echoed an apparent global trend whereby, he said, “The rich will become richer, the poor poorer, the strong stronger. The smart people become smarter, because they have more opportunities to access good education, while the poor can only access lower-quality education. This creates a broadening social gap.”

Pastika, a devout Hindu who turned 60 last Friday, has made poverty-reduction one of his priorities in office, and on Monday declared that the “vicious circle of poverty must be broken.” That would be done, he said, with the help of the government.

Pastika’s battle, however, is not likely to be an easy one, and he admitted that blocks to his plans had been thrown up by officials in regencies around the island, Balinese he has previously fought over his ban on further tourism-accommodation developments but which some regions, empowered by autonomy legislation, have roundly ignored.

Frustrated, Pastika said it was difficult to get what he called “synergy” between officials of the regencies in carrying out poverty-eradication schemes — and this was due, he said, to “selfish egos, and also political interests.”

He acknowledged that it would be a challenge to overcome officials’ indifference to his efforts.

“That is our big task,” he said.


  1. di says:

    maybe some of the tourist visa $$$ could be spent helping the unfortunate people of Bali …. where does all of those millions of dollars go anyway ???

  2. yes, the Governor is right, the tourism is make the price higher than the other area in Bali, the real sample is the price for the land, the land is very expensive and then the local people can not buy it. But the tourism also take a lot people involved. any way we can not stop but we have to find the solution. we trust the governor Mangku Pastika can handle it.

  3. LYNDON says:

    I met some wonderful local people in Bali last September. I retired and wanted to visit the island. I wish Mr Pastika well in his struggle to help the poor. A young man that worked in the hotel that I stayed in invited me to his home an hours ride on a scooter from Kuta. I met his wife and his 19 day old baby, and his mother and father. It was clear that they did not have much in material things. But their hospitality was splendid. Occasionally I send a small gift to them, which I know they appreciate very much. If only England was a little closer, and air fares were cheaper ! I would love to live over there. Even at my age, I am sure there is something I could do to try to help the poor.
    Somehow, the money made from tourism should be helping to improve the living standards of the local island people. GOOD LUCK to Mr Patiska.

  4. Mat from Belanda says:

    to Di: Indonesia is well known for it’s ability to ‘burn money’ due to it’s allmost structural and widespread corruption. Maybe one solution of the problem here is to try to end this (???). And in combination with an other problem here is the fact that Indonesian law discourage foreign investments. I am a regular visitor of the island of Bali and know the local situation. One idea of me would be to establish a local fondation to improve education of local people. A good education is the key to a good job and wealth. But the afor mentioned objection are still holding me back. I would like to invest money in this idea but am afraid that the money would/will disappaer in the corruption circuit. Allso local hak (law) is discouraging me.

  5. G2 says:

    Win win, no win. The Governor is in the no win place.I would like to say it was solvable but it’s not. All that we can ask for is that the Regencies get together and think of the future, really think. First thing is for them to stop the selling of farm land to foreign interests. For the love of common sense, leave it as it has been. What will be left is a view that is covered with villas and no rice. Oddly those that buy the land want to look at the view, which is rice, not villas. Again a no win.
    I’ve ridden {MTB} through east Bali and know it well. It’s people need to be included in their future and that future doesn’t include Western ideals and ownership.
    Support your Governor, his heart and head is where Bali should be. Always first and foremost, before all others.

  6. Vikki Brooke says:

    Good point re the visa money! Im sure the visa money is already accounted for but if they increased it by $1 – $2 per visa and if the numbers forecast for tourists into visa it would provide in excess of $5 million dollars surely that could be used as a pension or weekly allowance for those in need?

  7. […] Yet the Bali Times is filled with stories on the adverse impact of tourism and expatriates. They recently ran a story about how the traditional Balinese rice paddies (some of them up to 1000 year old) are being torn up to make way for villas bought by FIFO (fly in fly out) workers, in another their Governor I Made Mangku Pastika recently gave a speech about how tourism is hurting Bali’s poorest. […]

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