Tourism circles in Bali are becoming increasingly vocal in expressing their concern over a movement afoot to try to impose a US$ 30-40 "safety and welfare" surcharge on all inbound international passengers visiting Bali.
The scheme Ė the brainchild of the Foundation Institute for the Safety of the Indonesian People (YLKMI), was initially advanced at a seminar held in Nusa Dua in December 2002. The proposed fund was named the 911 ERS Fund and had as its stated goals the funding of a number of public welfare and safety projects for Bali.
The Fund's organizers claimed a clause in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations opened the way for the local government to impose a surcharge on inbound international air passengers.
According to press reports in the Indonesian-language Bali Post, the YLKMN then managed in July 2003 to obtain an endorsement letter for the project from Bali's Governor, Dewa Beratha. The Governor has subsequently explained and defended that endorsement, claiming that his support for the 911 Fund was conditional on the understanding that all costs would be borne by the YKLMI and no financial burden would be imposed in its implementation on the Government of Bali or the island's people.
The "911 ERS Fund" reportedly later used the Governor's letter as the basis for asking the international airlines operating to Bali that they make preparatory steps for the imposition of the proposed international air ticket surcharge. Questioning the legality of the request, airline operators have reportedly refused the YKLMI's request and openly questioned its wisdom given the delicate current state of Bali's tourism industry.
Responding to the public outcry against the introduction of the proposed 911 ERS Fund Fee, the Chief of the Bali Tourism Authority, Gede Nurjaya, issued a statement on September 1, 2004, emphasizing that the Governor's office never granted permission to the YLKMI or any other group to impose fees on the Public in connection with the 911 Fund.
The Debate Continues
The Chairman of the YKLMI and former Chief of the Bali Police, retired Brigadier General Wayan D. Ardjana, was reported in the local press to have washed his hands of the affair, claiming he has not been active in 911 ERS Fund's affairs since late 2003.
Meanwhile, the current Chief of Police for Bali, Irjen Drs. Made Mangku Pastika, told the Bali Post he had yet to receive a formal report on plans for the imposition of an air ticket fee, expressing his incredulity that anyone could be suggesting an additional fee so close on the heels of the Visa-on-arrival charge.
The Bali Post reports that the YKLMI's Secretary-General, Eddy S. Tjokronegoro, has urgently come to Bali to defend the Foundation and underline his group's intention to move ahead with plans to impose the US$ 30-40 fee on inbound passengers, with or without local government's approval.
Saying the idea behind the fee will receive widespread support among the people once its goals and programs are fully understood, Tjokronegoro claims his current discussions with Bali-bound IATA carriers would only impose the fee on foreign visitors and not Bali residents. By applying the proposed fee only on foreign visitors the YLKMI claims they would following the Governor's instructions not to financially burden the people of Bali.
Wait and See
Although dominating the front pages of local papers over the past week, the imposition of any additional surcharge on inbound visitors to Bali is anything but a done deal.
Judging from the loud public outcry from the local tourism industry and the desire among the island's political leaders to distance themselves from the proposal, the YKLMI has a long and most difficult road ahead in trying to lobby for the 911 ERS Fund acceptance and eventual implementation.
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