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Editorial: Stopping the Land Grab

Bali Post Editorial Sounds Warning to the Balinese to Start Controlling their Precious Land Resources.

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The February 9, 2005, editorial in the Indonesian-language Bali Post published an urgent appeal to the people of Bali to take steps to preserve their quickly diminishing ancestral lands.

Outside Investors Controlling Bali's Land

Written under the headline "Stopping Outside Investors From Controlling Bali's Land Resources," the editorial laments that 85% of the estimated Rp.150 trillion (approximately US$1.63 billion) already invested in the Island's tourism industry is in the control of investors hailing from outside Bali. This leaves the remaining 15% in the hands of Balinese who, the editorial claims, receive an equally meager share of the tourism income pie.

Strongly suggesting that Bali has become something of a "waste bin" where substantial tourism transactions take place only to see profits quickly repatriated offshore, the editorial insists that the lack of Balinese representation in the control and ownership of tourism assets results in a number of negative lead-on effects, including denying the Balinese both a proper share of the benefits of tourism and meaningful senior manager job creation within that sector of the economy.

Echoing comments made recently at a number of high profile seminars in Bali, the Bali Post editorial maintains that the escalating growth in foreign exchange earnings produced each year by Bali's tourism industry is meaningless unless such advances result in real improvements in the welfare of the people of Bali.

The Land Grab

Year after year, the editorial goes on, valuable tracts of agricultrual land change hands in Bali only to be transformed into tourism projects, owned and controlled by non-Balinese.

The editorial admits that while many tourism operators make efforts to recruit local staff and pay government-mandated bonuses and wage benefits, the inevitable fact remains that the long term effects of these investments are taking a damaging toll on the Island's environment and traditional social structure, diminishing both the harmony and cultural integrity of Bali.

The editorial estimates that more than 1,000 hectare (more than 10 million square meters) of land disappears from the island's agricultural land bank each year in order to accommodate the voracious demand of hotel sites, strip malls, villas projects and other tourism projects – all largely owned and controlled by non-Balinese.

Time for a Change in Policy?

The editorial points to the growing damage caused by tourism's rapid development, suggesting that now is the time to end the freehold land tenure system in Bali in favor of lease holds of only 20-30 years after which land rights must revert back to Balinese owners.

With national tourism targets set at 6 million visitors for 2005 - 1.7 million of which are to visit Bali, the editorial argues that now is the time for strategic steps to be taken to preserve Bali's land assets and ensure that the future benefits of tourism increasingly accrue to the people of Bali.

Reflecting a growing discontent with the rapid rate of change and development now underway in Bali, the editorial warns that the Balinese must take urgent steps to preserve their cultural interests or risk becoming the equivalent of "a chicken that dies although surrounded by plentiful stocks of feed."

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