Balidiscovery.com coverage on desires by Bali officials to impose an additional charge on visiting tourist [See: Bali Seeking More Airport Fees from Visiting Tourists] prompted a thoughtful response from a Bali Update readers who spreads his time between Bali and Perth, Western Australia.
Stephen McMahon is a licensed property valuer with over 40 years of experience in Australia and Southeast Asia that includes 20 years of regular visits to Bali. Along the way, he has developed a strong interest in the areas of heritage, environmental issues, planning and service infrastructure.
Opinion Stephen McMahon
Here's what Stephen wrote Bali Update to say:
Thanks for your recent article on this issue.
As a regular visitor to Bali over many years and as an experienced developer and professional consultant, I would like to contribute to this debate.
Firstly, let's recognize that many of the environmental issues and poor infrastructure (in Bali) are a result of many years of neglect and that neglect has been generated by the lack of funding not desire.
It does not serve Bali or any of its representatives, publicly disputing issues of raising funds from tourist on any basis.
Bali is in desperate need of a long term solution and short term action to address serious environment and infrastructure issues and must, over the next few years, take some real progressive decisions.
The main issues facing this Island is not increasing tourism and economic investment but catering for the demand of it and the expansion of its local population that is both sustainable and one which considers long term impact and benefit.
To summarize, some of the main issues and challenges are clearly:
Rubbish and waste disposal.
Tip site clean ups.
Drainage - particularly in commercial areas.
Sewerage treatment and reticulation planning and implementation.
Road maintenance and traffic regulation.
Provision of water supply to regional and village environments.
Health matters in respect to local inhabitants and facilities that cater for local people.
These are in the main, public works that would not only clean the island and protect its environment but also provide much needed training and employment - a possible resolution for increasing street gangs and violent youth, born out of boredom and increasing breakdown of social values that also threaten the island's economy as much as environmental destruction.
Additional airport fees (imposed) on a tourist is a Band-Aid solution and would seen as a penalty for visiting the island, whether on arrival ,or worse, on departure when tourist have little left.
Despite popular local belief that all tourist are rich, the majority of tourist are basic family units and such cost are multiple for a family and impact on holiday decision making.
The fact that there is already political challenge as to charging the fee on a State-owned enterprise, raises the obvious (conclusion) that it won't happen and Bali cannot wait for too many more years to address these issues before tourism is seriously damaged by health, social and environment issues.
Of the many issues facing Bali, there is probably none less (pressing) than the silent but continuing stream of migration from Java, without limitation, that further tax the island's already antiquated infra-structure.
Electricity supply is (another) point in case where the whole Grid system is incapable of regulated supply, yet the demands placed upon it by just local migration is a rapid recipe for disaster.
Bali host worldwide seminars for all manner of things including policing in the region, environmental issues affecting the globe, carbon emissions reduction, economic reform in Indonesia and so on - and they are all well presented and are applauded but it is time that Bali became a little more self-indulgent and invested in its own think tank on the means to raise capital and how to direct it for social reform for its people and the replacement, renewal and upgrading of infrastructure to protect this island's culture, tourist industry and environment for the next 100 years.
It is no longer acceptable to keep cleaning and repairing hand-dug rockwork drains that are choked with refuge and disease beds in themselves, to allow even a greater volume of pollutants and raw sewerage to poison the oceans that surround Bali.
It is no longer acceptable for concentrated large commercial developments and tourist hotels to install septic waste disposal systems in an already and tragic toxic water table in the main Kuta area and that of Denpasar.
It is no longer acceptable for the way rubbish is collected and disposed of in sensitive mangrove areas or nearby residential areas that breed disease.
It is no longer acceptable for the children of Bali to suffer from sores from the lack of clean water and is also not acceptable that the Balinese people have to compete for health care cost, not designed for their affordability.
The issue is as always funding, but the solution is in the resolution of obtaining it, not in the dispute of a one source solution from a target sector.
If I could be so bold, a Rp 10,000 fee on departures would most likely end up dissipated by overheads and charges of some description and the capital raised would not get anywhere near the funds needed to resolve some or any of these issues.
Local politicians may be better placed to argue the case for Bali in Jakarta as a sustainable tourist destination of Regional and, indeed, world significance. And, if the Central Government wishes to maintain the cash flow that it takes annually (from Bali), then it must re-invest in this island and that may even take the form of providing a one-for-one matching rupiah raised by Bali for Infrastructure and social reform investment.
At the end of the day, the redevelopment of this island to protect itself and its future should be the responsibility of the whole of Bali and whilst tourism can and, by the way, does support this island in many other ways than just tourism spending, they are not the solution to all manner of things. It is a future disaster for the Balinese at any level to think in those terms.
Capital raising needs structure and it can come from not only tourist but local inhabitants that can afford to contribute as well as business both domiciled in Bali and those company's and businesses that are based outside of the island but that enjoy its rewards."
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