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Local Conference Gives Mixed Marks to Bali's Handling of the Rabies Epidemic.
Bali ongoing efforts to control the current outbreak of rabies on the island remain the target of widespread criticism from many corners. As reported by Kompas.com, the large amount of money spent is seen by many as out of sync with the modest results achieved to date. Chief objections cited by critics include an inadequate supply of vaccine for Bali's entire canine population; the short-term effectiveness of vaccines given, requiring four re-inoculations in a single year; and the seemingly ineffective way in which the culling of stray dogs in being carried out. These were the topic raised by a group of communicable disease experts who convened at a conference organized by the Udayana University Alumni Association on Wednesday, January 27, 2010. That gathering included Indonesian disease experts together with animal disease experts from Australia, China and the U.S.A. and followed an earlier 2-day "closed door" meeting. Helen Scott-Orr, a researcher from the Australia Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), told the conference that Rp. 22.2 billion (US$2.4 million) had been spent since Q4 of 2008 by the provincial and regional administration in Bali, including moner from foreign donors such as the ACIAR. Despite these expenditures, rabies continues to spread across the island. According to Scott-Orr, "in Bali we see that the money being spent continues to escalate, but the disease (rabies) is spreading to areas that were once rabies free." The high rate of bites suffered by Bali residents from an estimated population of 420,000 dogs, both complicates the difficulty and heightens the cost of dealing with rabies. Through December 2010, there were an 16,680 dog bite cases, a number greater than he total of 16,000 dog bites recorded last year nation-wide (exclusing Bali).Governor Pastika had publicly admitted that the provincial government, at one point, owed Rp. 7 billion (US$700,000) for anti-rabies vaccine. Rabies has now been confirmed in seven regencies and municipalities in Bali with an estimated 30 fatalities now linked to the disease. At this point in time, only the regencies of Klungkung and Jembrana still claim to be rabies-free. Late last year, rabies made its entry into the regency of Karangasem, located on Bali's eastern shores and home one of the weakest economies on the island. Since the first case was discovered in Karangasem there have been 1,748 dog bites cases resulting in 4 deaths in that regency.
The Year Ahead
Meanwhile, the National News Agency Antara reports that Bali's government has allocated an additional Rp. 16.07 billion (US$1.6 million) in 2010 to continue the fight against rabies. According to a provincial government spokesman, these funds will be channeled through the regional animal husbandry and animal health office. That same spokesman said that the government remains committed to eradicating rabies in Bali by 2012. The efforts to eliminate the disease in 2010 will remain focused on two areas: vaccination of dogs and the culling of stray dogs. According to government figures, some 170,962 dogs have been vaccinated against rabies in the current campaign while 49,000 dogs have been eliminated.
Sorry, But Rotating Blackouts will Continue in Bali Due to Botched Repairs on Gilimanuk Generating Station.
Despite earlier assurances that repairs were completed on the Gilmanuk sub-station and that Bali's frequent blackouts were at an end, State Electrical Board (PLN) Officials have once again had to make the embarrassing admission that power blackouts are back for at least the short term due to new mechanical problems. Quoted in Kompas.com, a resident of Gianyar, Ketut Geriya, said: "I am disappointed with the service of PLN who said that there would be no more blackouts after January 8, 2010." Bemoaning that PLN has been unable to complete repairs over the past four months of rotating blackouts, Geriya added, "this is really embarrassing, especially when you consider that Bali is a tourism area where electricity is a ‘live or die' issue." Similar sentiments were sounded by an Australian tourist, James Martine, who complained: "There's no guarantee of electricity in Bali, the proof is in the current blackout. I am not comfortable with current lighting conditions. In my country (Australia), if there is going to be a blackout there is an announcement in the mass media, The lights do not suddenly die like they do in Bali."
The Public Relations Officer of the Bali PLN Agung Mastika, confirmed to the press that blackouts have been necessitated again because of mechanical problems at the Gilimanuk and Pemaron sub-stations. He regretfully admitted that due to the serious nature of the breakdowns, he was unable to predict when electrical supplies would return to normal.
Cathay Shortens the Distance USA to Bali
Schedule Changes Allow Same Day Connection Between U.S. West Coast and Bali.
Effective March 28, 2010, passengers flying Cathay Pacific Airways between the U.S.A. and Bali, Indonesia will enjoy a same-day connection over the airline's hub of Hong Kong. While in the past an overnight in Hong Kong was necessitated in Hong Kong for Cathay Pacific passengers traveling between Bali and Los Angeles, the new schedule will see travelers arrive in better shape and in record time.
Eastbound Bali to Los Angeles CX784 Denpasar/Hong Kong 1600/2045 CX880 Hong Kong/Los Angeles 2340/2155
Westbound Los Angeles to Bali CX881 Los Angeles/Hong Kong 0150/0725+1 CX785 Hong Kong/Denpasar 1005/1450 CX883 Los Angeles/Hong Kong 2350/0530+2 CX785 Hong Kong/Denpasar 1005+2/1450+2 [Cathay Pacific Home Page]
Bali's Blue Bird of Happiness Threatened with Extinction
Permit Anomalies at Bali's Blue Bird Taxi Threaten to Close Down 500 Car Fleet.
Bali's Transportation, Information and Communication Department (Dishubinfokom) is not prepared to make comment regarding widely publicized allegations in island's press that the well known Blue Bird taxi fleet is operating illegally under licenses owned by the now defunct PT Bali Praja Transport. Quoted by the national news agency Antara, the head of Dishubinfokom, I Made Santha, said: "We are not yet prepared to comment on the problem of permits for Blue Bird in Bali being facilitated on the name of PT Bali Praja Transport. We continue to investigate." He said that his department is studying the problem as a member of team comprising members from the provincial government of Bali, the Bureau for Development and the Economy, the Legal Bureau and the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD). Santha continued: "Through the gathering of additional information regarding the use of Bali Praja's permits, we will jointly examine the taxi operation (Blue Bird) in order to determine the truth of the accusation." Santha, a former employee of Bali's Cultural Department, added: "If it is eventually proven that there has been an improper use of another company's permits, we will certainly finish the matter in accordance with the law and rules in place." Earlier, the Chairman of Commission I of the Bali House of Representatives (DPRD-Bali), I Made Arjaya, said that his observations in the field confirm that Blue Bird Taxis is operating without the necessary permits. The recent request submitted to the provincial government of Bali to allow 250 new taxis under the Blue Bird brand was done on the name of PT Bali Praja Transport and not Blue Bird. Arjaya is asking the subject 250 permits be revoked. Blue Bird Taxis' lack of a proper legal footing has prompted calls in the local media for all the company's taxis to be impounded until the matter is resolved.
Bali's Highways in the Sky
Bali Hopes to Start Building a Suspended Flyover at Simpang Siur Intersection in 2010.
The national news service Antara reports that governor I Made Mangku Pastika views the building of suspended overpass roads around the Dewa Ruci Monument (Simpang Siur) as the "way out" of Bali's current traffic congestion dilemma. Pastika said: "I feel that the construction of suspended overpass roads around the Dewa Ruci Monument is the alternative to traffic congestion offering the best solution. Moreover, this approach has obtained a positive response from community and religious leaders." The governor explained that efforts to reduce the number of vehicles in Bali were not realistic options, making the construction of suspended overpass roads a viable option. "It is impossible to reduce the number of vehicle which contradicts our desire to maximize the number of tourists to Bali," said Pastika. The Central Government has pledged to help fund the construction which, together with a "thumbs up" from religious authorities who now endorse the project, mean the construction of the new roads appears increasingly likely. In the past, strong objections from Hindu religious leaders opposed to the potential desecration posed by "stacking people" on roadways has prevented plans for suspended highways or tunnels from being considered. Recently, perhaps in partial response to Bali's growing traffic problems, religious leaders have tempered their outright opposition to such plans. The governor says the suspended overpass roads are being designed, fueling his hope that the actual construction of the project can commence in 2010. Suggestions from some sources that underground tunnels offer a better solution to Denpasar's traffic congestion were rejected by the Governor as too costly. "The cost of tunnels is very high, it can cost five to ten times more that building suspended overpass highways. What's more, the geography and contour of the land in that area do not permit tunnels," explained Pastika.
Bali: In a Meditative Mood
Dates for Second International Bali Meditators Conference Set for November 12-14, 2010.
Following the successful conclusion of the First International Bali Meditators' Festival (IBMF) conducted by the Anand Ashram Foundation in Ubud, Bali, in 2009, a repeat of the event is planned for November 12-14, 2010. Last year's Festival provided thoughtful seminars and stimulating international speakers from America, France, Puerto Rico, and Japan - who all brought their individual perspectives and methods of meditative practice to share in Bali. Devotional songs were sung, dances performed and poems recited as Bali's already spiritually charged atmosphere soared to new heights during the days of the Festival. More of the same and much more are promised by the 2nd International Bali Meditators' Festival (IBMF) which returns to Ubud November 12-14, 2010. This year's event has adopted as its theme "One Earth, One Sky, One Humankind." Organizers promise that the Asian Vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the African Dream of Ubuntu, and the Western Concept of Global Village will all be approached and embraced through meditation. The Bali Festival draws its inspiration from the Anand Ashram Foundation and book of its founder Anand Krishna's, "One Earth, One Sky, One Humankind." Celebrating "Unity in Diversity" that booked was launched at the Parliament of the World's Religions held in Melbourne in December 2009. [Bali International Meditators Festival 2010]
Making the Balinese Entrepreneurial
Governor Calls for Business Centered Education for Balinese Graduates.
Bali's governor I Made Mangku Pastika is calling for the establishment of a entrepreneurial education for the Balinese to enable island residents to compete in an increasingly international setting. Quoted by the national news agency Antara, Pastika commented at a seminar on banking, "Bali must have a trading or business school. Presently, all we do is educate workers." When asked if the provincial government would establish a business school, Pastika responded saying such a plan would need to be discussed with a number of parties including the banking sector.
Speaking before hundreds of people working in the economic and banking sector, the Governor said the Balinese people are at an educational disadvantage in the competitive world of trading." In fact, we have funds, we have land, we have markets - we have it all, but there is little enterprise. The people of Bali have a low capacity for utilizing capital sources," complained Pastika.
"I hope the banking sector in Bali will conduct training and partnering to create business opportunities," he added. The Governor shared with his listeners his desire that thousands of unemployed Balinese graduates receive entrepreneurial training. The Director of Bank Sinar Harapan Bali, IB Kade Perdana, welcomed the Governor's recommendation. He expressed the opinion that it would be a shame if credit opportunities with banks in Bali were not fully utilized. Perdana explained: "The more people who become businesspeople, the better that will be for the banking sector in Bali. In the end this will support the development of a people's economy in Bali."
Robert Lagerwey Farewells Bali
Interview: Reflections of the Hard Working Manager of Bulgari Resort Bali as He Moves on to New Assignment in Singapore.
Veteran Dutch hotelier Robert Lagerwey has accepted a new position in Singapore's luxury hotel sector after five years in Bali opening the Bulgari Resort Bali. A distinguished hotelier who has worked in a wide range of hospitality roles in Bali, Singapore, South Korea, the U.S.A and the U.K., Robert played an activist role in Bali tourism serving as both the Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Bali Hotel Association (BHA). He paused from a hectic schedule of packing to speak briefly with John "Jack" Daniels of www.balidiscovery.com.
The Interview: Robert Lagerwey
Balidiscovery.com: At what point of development did you join the Bulgari Resort Team?
Lagerwey" I joined the Bulgari Team from day one and was part of the construction and conceptual phase of the project. Basically, we had a dream which came to fruition beyond our expectations. It was not an easy ride, of course. Once you put a big brand on your front door, expectations are set. We learned a lot and applied this everyday, humbly so. In Bali there are so many great hotels and we are proud to have earned a spot within this group.
Balidiscovery.com: 5 years in Bali and at the resort - what's the legacy you'd like to remembered for at that property?
Lagerwey: Legacy is a big word...I would like to be remembered as "Bapak Robert" who was there for the team. Without them no success would have been achieved. They made it happen and I am eternally grateful how they embraced my family on this journey.
Balidiscovery.com: Any parting suggestions or comments for those in charge of Bali's tourism product?
Lagerwey: Yes. As discussions have been taking place on forming an overriding Tourism Board/authority where all stakeholders are part, cohesive incremental efforts can improve how we market our destination. It still is hard to see destinations such as Singapore - "Uniquely Singapore"; Malaysia - "Truly Asia" ; India - "Incredible India" being marketed and positioned in such a way that they can take some of our business. Bali has something to offer for every budget and taste and has so much more to offer than any of the mentioned destinations. There is still work to do, but having said that, there are many of us that are doing a lot to make a change. It just needs to be streamlined more as we are leaving money on the table. One area where Bali could become the example to the world is in going greener and becoming more sustainable. Shortages in water and electricity will not disappear. We have to change our ways.
Balidiscovery.com: Has the changing world economy altered the way Bali must do business in the future?
Lagerwey: We have to be mindful that we continue to provide the best value proposition in Asia. With costs creeping up year on year for imported products, electricity, water etc we are in danger to lose our pole position. I think in general Bali Hoteliers have been very nimble in how they do business and adapt to changing times easily. The Bali Hotel Association, with your help, has tried to unite stakeholders more so instead of under-cutting each other, more teamwork yielded some incremental results, such as the "Bali Bonus Nights Promotion." There is still a lot of work to be done.
Balidiscovery.com: What are the medium and long term prospects for the luxury hotel sector?
Lagerwey: Medium prospects are still fairly good, but we have to be mindful that there is a saturation of the top tier luxury hotels. This means an over-supply which has to be managed carefully for any future expansions on the island. Also, the infrastructure in Bali can only support a certain amount of tourists and we have to keep this in mind. The plans and work on the Airport are a major step forward and we certainly do applaud the government for moving this forward. I see more opportunity in the mid segment of the luxury hotel sector, where guests have a wow for a rate that compares favorably to anywhere in the world. Perhaps with limited services as there are plenty of free standing Spas and Restaurants, so more focused on the room product itself only. As you asked before, the world economy and dynamics have changed, and the value for money proposition will remain the single most important factor to grow our businesses. With China coming online now, and the increased tourism arrivals from other emerging markets puts pressure on the average length of stay and average spend per guest in Bali. We have to tailor our products further to ensure we serve these customers better but also sell in a way where they will choose to take a longer vacation in Bali - combining their stay in various properties - rather than one. Help them discover what Bali has to offer.
Balidiscovery.com: What will you miss most about Bali?
Lagerwey: The inspiring environment and beautiful people that truly make a difference. Bali really brings the best out of you and this is really not something you will find anywhere else in the world. It is a magical place.
Coming Soon: The Bali Regent
Mayapada Group and Carlson Hotels to Build 110-Room Luxury The Regent Bali on Sanur Beach.
Carlson Hotels and the Indonesian Mayapada Group have announce a partnership to build and operate a luxury brand Regent Resort in Bali. Scheduled to open in 2011, The Regent Bali will be an 110-room Bali-themed property in the island's oldest established tourism community of Sanur. Surrounded by swaying palms, white sand beaches and inviting turquoise waters, The Regent Bali will, in the words of its developers, “provide all the key elements of a premium international beachfront hotel. Each of the 110 rooms will feature Balinese-inspired décor. Guests will be able to enjoy an array of premier dining venues at the hotel, ranging from authentic Balinese dining to classic fine dining. The Resort will also feature a bar overlooking the pool, providing views of the garden and ocean. Developed by Indonesian conglomerate The Mayapada Group, The Regent Bali will be operated by Carlson Hotels. An accompanying development of the Regent Residences Bali will be wholly owned, developed and operated by The Mayapada Group. “The Regent Bali and branded residences will be a significant addition to the island’s growing portfolio of luxury accommodations. Its highly distinctive brand name will play an integral role in attracting guests to the hotel, and we look forward to working with Regent to ensure the success of this development,” said Dr. Tahir, chairman, The Mayapada Group.
Bali and an Alternative to Africa
A Roaring Endorsement of Balidiscovery.com and Mara River Lodge at the Bali Safari and Marine Park in Sydney Morning Herald.
The January 30, 2010, edition of The Sydney Morning Heralds Traveller Magazine carried a letter to the editor that caught our attention. Lorraine Stewart penned the following letter to Sydney’s most respected newspaper:
Alternative to Africa
We stayed two days recently at the Mara River Safari Lodge at the Bali Safari and Marine Park near Gianyar. It’s a wonderful experience for those who love animals and can’t afford a trip to Africa.
[Bali Discovery] had a two night special for $US98 a couple (Usually US$135), which included accommodation, breakfasts, two one-hour massages and a free safari trip in an enclosed truck to see the animals up close. The dining room at the lodge has floor-to-ceiling glass separating guests from the lions and there are free animal and elephant shows. The only extra I paid was to have an opportunity to cuddle a baby orangutan. From our room we could see zebras and white rhinos. Lorraine Stewart
And the Tide Rushes In
Melia Bali Meets with Regent of Badung to Discuss Ways to Stem the Sea's Encroachment on Nusa Dua Beachfront.
Concerned about ongoing beach erosion, the General Manager of the Melia Bali, Jim Boyles, met with the Bupati of the Badung Regency, AA Gde Agung, SH on Thursday, January 7, 2010, to urgently consult on the growing erosion problems threatening Nusa Dua. Underlining his concern, Boyles explained: "We are ready to join efforts to prevent further erosion. We are now waiting for firmness and definite steps from the regional government of Badung and the provincial government of Bali." He went on to explain that although the hotel initiated the replacement of lost sand through sandbagging and other means, these measures have proved largely ineffective. The improvements lasted only a few months. Given that the peak of the foreshore erosion takes place during the months of December through April, it is necessary to act immediately to save what is left of the popular beachfront. The hotel delegation was received by the Regency’s administration and environment team consisting of Assistant II, I Wayan Suambara, SH;, Kadiparda Badung, Drs. I Made Subawa, MM; Head of Bina Marga, Ir. IB Soerya; Head of Cipta Karya, Dewa Made Apramana; Kadisnakanlut, I Made Badra; and dr. I Gede Putra Suteja of regional office of Environment Effect Control. The Regent discussed the erosion of the beach, which he believes is the result of global warming. Changing weather and water current patterns are eating away at the once-pristine beach side located on Bali's southernmost shore and some other valuable beach front in the Badung regency. Beach erosion in Badung affects 82 km of shoreline, of which 40 km has been reclaimed at Kutuh, Tuban, Kuta, Seminyak and Seseh. The reclamation effort also includes a Coral Reef Restoration Project. Agung stated that the government will immediately conduct a review of the situation with the help of those concerned, and definite steps will be taken by the regional government of Badung and the provincial government of Bali. He also suggested that the resort perform the traditional Balinese ceremony ‘Pekelem’ to promote the value of Balinese culture in addressing this environmental issue.
Peddling to Become Fashionable in Bali's Capital
Denpasar Municipality to Build Bike Paths.
Beritabali.com reports that the municipal government of Bali’s capital city of Denpasar is taking the next step in its commitment to “Car Free Days” and “Friday Bike to Work Days” in announcing their intention to create special bicycle paths Pilot paths have reportedly been created in various parts of the city. These “bike paths” will be launched on February 21, 2010. This development was announced to the press by the Chairman of the Secretariat for Denpasar’s Bicycle Community (SAMAS), I Dewa Made Merthakota, following a meeting their the Mayor of Denpasar, IB Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra on Thursday, January 28, 2010. According to Merthakota, the initial bicycle paths will be limited to the Renon and Sanur areas, to be expanded to other areas in the future. The biking enthusiast and community organizer said the public’s response to “car free days” has been outstanding since its introduction last August. “In addition to individual bikers, there are now many bicycle clubs that have been formed in Denpasar. This condition is very good for our efforts to improve health and the environment in a world increasingly affected by global warming and climate change,” said Merthakoa. Merthakota said that clear markers would be installed on the new bike baths and asked that motorcyclist not use the new bike paths.
Changes to Indonesia’s Visa on Arrival Rule
Sudden Change to Indonesia's Visa Rules Causes Concern in Tourism Circles.
In a dramatic change to the current immigration rules, starting on January 26, 2010, foreign tourists from countries eligible for "visa-on-arrival" will now be given a 30 day visa that can be renewed for an additional 30 days. As part of the new changes the 7-day visa at US$10 has been abolished, with the 30-day US$25 visa (renewable for an additional 30 days) being the only visa that can be issued to eligible tourists.
Not Without Problems The move, championed by the government as a step to help increase tourist visitors to Indonesia and encourage a longer length of stay, is not without its critics. • Suggesting the move was taken without inter-departmental consultation, Firmansyah Hakim, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's Director General of Tourism Destination Development was quoted by The Jakarta Globe criticizing the new policy, saying: "I am worried the regulation would affect foreign tourists who make frequent short stays . . .We are going to ask the immigration department to sit down with us and hopefully we can come up with a solution," he said. Firmansyah added: "We hope this policy will extend tourists’ stays in Indonesia, giving them a chance to visit more places in the country," he said.
"The policy will also simplify the supervision of overstaying foreign tourists because there is only one visa option." • Officials have depicted the new policy as a means to combat corruption within Indonesia’s immigration department. In 2009, immigration officials at the Denpasar Airport immigration office were caught embezzling Rp. 3 Billion (US$300,000) in visa fees obtain through the misreporting of 7-day and 30-day fees. • Some tourism figures are unhappy that tourists are not automatically given a 60 day visa on arrival, removing the need for any renewal process and the still unclear cost of extending the original visa. • According to the Indonesia Digest, the new visa policy has increased the cost for some of a short family outing to Riau island for a day at the beach or a round of golf. Moreover, the new policy was introduced with little advance notice, disrupting existing holiday bookings made with travel agents, golf course and hotels in Batam and Bintan. The Governor of Riau promise has written urgently to Coordinating Minister for the economy demanding a review of the new policy. It should be noted that ASEAN nationals are exempt for the new visa policy and are granted a visa-free facility for their Indonesian visits.
Local Boy Rules the Range at Elysian
Nizar Achmad Lives Large in the Kitchen of Bali's Elysian.
Bali's Elysian Resort is justifiably beaming at their recent coup in recruiting a world-caliber Indonesian-born chef and long-term Swedish resident Nizar Achmad to head their kitchen brigade at the Elysian' Rush Bamboo & Bar. The 35 year-old Nizar's love affair with food and wine has inspired a culinary sojourn that has taken him to all corners of the globe, including Australia, New Zealand and Stockholm where he lived for 14 year before returning to his homeland, Indonesia. Originally from Surabaya, Nizar says his food concepts are "green fusion with an organic focus, seasonal, back to basics, heartfelt and passionate" - all which draw from his Indonesian heritage with a little bit of fun and modern taste kicks tossed in. This can be seen in Nizar’s signature Oyster "Fines De Java" a creation with a selection of tempting condiments to suit individual tastes such as Kiwi Crush, Thyme Ginger Chili, Caviar, and Matsuhisa dressing. Says Nizar: "I put my signature on pretty much every dish with my cooking style. My lightly salted salmon with mini yellow zucchini flowers fried with honey with a rambutan salsa using green tomato, onion, garlic lime and chili is a symphony of tastes and combusting with color. I also make my own Indonesian style Quince of jackfruit with cinnamon, red wine, sugar and Indonesian saffron that I serve with a selection of cheeses and compote of yellow cherry tomatoes with vanilla stick, white wine and Indonesian saffron. Then there’s the Granny Smith Apple Ball Soup with wasabi, fish stock and a side of prawns that have been bathed with olive oil, rosemary and garlic that I serve from a Teapot. I love combining a bit of fantasy with my food.” Nizar cooked for the 2008 Nobel Prize Dinner held at City Hall Stockholm as well as at the Michelen Star restaurant Feichmaker in Norway. One of his own restaurants in Sweden, Carpe Diem earned 2nd place among the “Top Five Restaurants in Sweden” and his Lugnet Bar & Restaurant regularly saw Crown Princess Victoria as diner. Despite his relatively young age, Nizar has led a colorful life, well known in Sweden’s “major league party animal’.” This reputation cemented further after a stint at one of Sweden’s most exclusive clubs, Berns Salonger where international celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, PINK, Busta Rhymes and Britney Spears are frequent visitors. Both fearless and flamboyant, he hosted a video blog Cool Stockholm, where he cooked and interviewed Swedish film stars to some comedic acclaim. Nizar has worked as a fashion stylist and promotes himself as a fantastic dancer having taught Funk & Hip Hop most of his life. He has a penchant for shopping in his spare time, and loves listening to a good Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye album over a bottle, or two or three of red wine. This recreated Norseman has landed at the Elysian in Bali. And, if past performance is any measure of things to come, both the island and his new culinary pied-à-terre are assured interesting times as they watch the passionately professional Nizar reveal his magic to an appreciative audience. Book a stay at [The Elysian]
Bali Real Estate: Boom or Bust?
Editorial: Changes in Land Ownership Rules Now Under Consideration May Threaten Bali's Culture and Heritage.
The Indonesian press has been awash with news of a promised change in property laws that, if approved, would allow foreign nationals to lease land for 75 years. The response to the proposed regulation has earned enthusiastic praise from the national property sector. Conceivably, the new rules would end the illegal and fraught-with-danger current procedure of placing a property in the name of a nominee Indonesian national. And, members of the prestigious Real Estate Indonesia (REI) optimistically project that liberalized property ownership for foreigners would open a flood gate of demand for property purchases by foreigners, primarily in Jakarta and Bali. One Bali-based property developer - who runs investment seminars as well as advertorials on Bali radio stations and print media, has even begun running advertisements heralding coming increases of 500 to 1,000% in both demand and prices for Bali real estate if the proposed new law is approved. Unwittingly sounding what may be his darkest warning, the same developer even proudly quoted himself in one of his advertorials saying "Bali real estate would be like Hawaii 30 years ago."
Threat or Fair Warning? Similarities between Hawaii's property boom and what dark prospects lay ahead for Bali's delicate culture could hardly be more ominously stated. In the Hawaiian context, New England Calvinist missionaries arrived in Hawaii in the early 19th century, fell in love with the islands and, together with their progeny, imposed far reaching changes in the social and political structures. Chief among these were changes in the rules on private property that allowed the newcomers to take possession of huge tracts and, in some cases, entire islands. Hungry for more land, more money and more power - the Hawaiian pretenders even managed to extend their domination and overthrow the Island's traditional government in 1893. Over the ensuing decades, the native Hawaiians and their rich culture became increasingly marginalized through their disenfranchisement from their lands and cultural institutions. The culture of the Balinese people is inextricably linked to the island's land. In fact, ancestral lands dictate the very position of every Balinese in society; where he must return for ritual prayers, where his ancestral spirits visit each year between Galangan and Kuningan, and the location for critical rites of passage. Membership in local banjars and subaks are property based, dictating both the rights and obligations of stewardship for every member of a Balinese community. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that a Balinese without ties to the land is genuinely disenfranchised; something less than true Balinese. Sadly, developers salivating at the prospect of quick returns on the real estate market are both aided and abetted by Balinese who sell their land, lured at the idea of unheard sums suddenly landing in their hands. As a result, increasingly many are the stories of listless characters, idle in the local villages who, only a few years ago, held immense wealth but who are now penniless and landless; the proceeds from the sale of their ancestral land frittered away on motorcycles, cockfights and transitory high-living. Property developers respond, insisting they are empowering the Balinese by placing hard cash in their hands in a process which is, after all, undertaken without coercion and completely at the will of the Balinese seller. And while such arguments are not without force, the practical consequence of the ongoing land rush in Bali is that land once sold by a Balinese to an "outsider" is extremely unlikely to ever return to the hands of a Balinese in some future cycle land transaction. As island newcomers build homestead with little nuance of Balinese culture in their design and reap the financial gains of the promised 1,000 return on investment, the next generation of Balinese born without ancestral lands to inherit have nary a "hope in paradise" of possessing the financial wherewithal to purchase even a modest piece of real estate on "their" island. A local pundit, only half-jokingly, described a future in which fast ferries would operate from Lombok to Bali carrying loads of Balinese to work as maids and houseboys in luxury villas now standing on their ancestral lands. Later in the day, those same ferries will bring troupes of professional dancers to recreate ersatz renditions of Balinese dance and music to the delight of the Island's new masters. "Nyoman, be a dear and get me another gin and tonic." Are such dire warning alarmist and overstated? Perhaps. In fact, we would be genuinely delighted if that proved to be the case. At the same time, those who argue for a laisez faire approach to Bali’s future development are blind to the negative impact of the many changes now taking place on the island and equally naïve to the dismal outcome that awaits wherever and whenever money is the only measure of value. In the end, it is only the Balinese who will save their island and its magnificent culture. Governor Pastika's effort to introduce island-wide zoning and building standards offer a ray of hope that wise men with noble aims might still be heard amongst the deafening din of cash registers. Fail to head these voices screaming in the Bali wilderness and it may mean aloha ahiahi or good night to yet another tropical island paradise.
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