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An About Face on Tourism Policy?

President Megawati and Running Mate Promise to Maintain Tourism Ministry.

(6/21/2004) According to reports in the Indonesian-language Bisnis Indonesia, President Megawati Soekarnoputri and her vice-presidential running-mate, Hasyim Muzadi, are vowing to maintain a Minister charged with managing tourism in their new cabinet and to improve the overall management of the tourism sector, if elected.

The election promise to maintain tourism's presence in the Presidential Cabinet seems at odds with the draft law prepared during President Megawati's current term that would eliminate tourism's representation on the cabinet level of decision making. On Monday evening, June 14, 2004, Vice-Presidential aspirant Muzadi said, in supporting calls from the tourism industry to maintain a tourism Minister in the cabinet, "I wish to reaffirm our commitment that tourism becomes the leader in foreign exchange production. In the current situation of free markets, those sectors of the economy most capable of producing foreign exchange are agriculture and tourism."

In reviewing the current unhappy state of the Nation's tourism industry, Muzadi pointed to confusion resulting from the "rainbow coalition" of the current Cabinet, a lack of clear focus in current tourism marketing efforts, and problems created by moves towards regional autonomy. All these factors must be seen against the backdrop of security concerns that continue to hold back tourism's development.

National tourism leader have been unanimous in their condemnation of plans to eliminate tourism's voice at the ministerial level of national decision making. The Chairwoman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Ms. Yanti S. Hardjoprakoso, has called for the retention of a tourism department with a strong voice, able to executive programs in a dynamic and efficient manner. Ms. Hardjoprakoso defended her stance, pointing to the US$ 5 billion in foreign exchange created by Indonesian tourism, the 7 million positions of direct employment credited to tourism, and another 29 million indirect jobs tied to tourism in the Country.