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Brother Can You Spare me a Dime?

Why Bali Officials Are Finding it Hard to Stem the Rising Tide of Street Beggars

(12/2/2012) Kompas.com reports that the provincial government of Bali admits it is being overwhelmed in trying to deal with the increasing number of beggars dotting the roadsides of the Island.

While officials repeatedly round up, apprehend and escort beggars back to their home villages, a short time later the same street beggars reappear in Bali’s capital city panhandling from residents and visiting tourists alike.

“If we catch them, we return them (to their village), and then they come back again. What’s more, we drive them back to their home village and often find they have made it back to Denpasar before we have returned from the trip we made to bring them back to their homes.” explained the head of the enforcement agency for the province of Bali (Kasat Pol PP Pemprov Bali), Made Sukadana on Friday, November 30, 2012.

One of the reasons the authorities have a hard time ending begging on Bali’s streets is the lack of strong regulations on both the provincial and regency level.

“We urge the regencies and municipalities to make local regulations on beggars, proving three months imprisonment when they are arrested for panhandling. Why do we want to do this? So they will be deterred from begging in the future,” explained Sukadana.

Officials would like to have firm rules in place against begging before the APEC Summit in 2013 when Bali will be inundated with world leaders and members of the international press. Such rules, it is believed, should eliminate or minimize beggars roaming busy intersections passed by visiting dignitaries.

Kompas.com also revealed that many of the beggars working the streets of Bali’s capital enjoy a relatively high standard of housing.

Many of Bali’s beggars originate from the village of Munti Gunung in the Karangasem regency of Bali. Sukadaana said: “In Munti Gunung they enjoy a sufficient lifestyle, many own very good housing."

Begging as a Career Choice

According to the press report, many of the beggars from Munti Gunung have purposely selected to work the streets of Bali, asking tourist visitors for handouts. Sukadana said that begging has become a culture and a career choice for these individuals, fueled by the knowledge they can make more money begging than working a normal job.

The province of Bali is formulating “beggar laws” while, at the same time, pushing regencies and municipalities to also draft their own tough anti-begging regulations with penalties of three months in prison for being caught begging on the streets.