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BTB Engages in Practical Politics

Bali Tourism Board Plunges into the Front Lines of Local Elections After Signing MOU with Badung Regency Political Candidates.

(5/15/2005) In a groundbreaking, surprise move - the Bali Tourism Board (BTB) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with two candidates running for the top two positions in the Badung Regency Government in elections scheduled for June. On Wednesday, May 4, 2005, BTB's Chairman, Putu Agus Antara, signed a MOU with Made Sumer and IB Ngurah Oka, two candidates seeking the Bupati and Vice-Bupati Posts in coming elections.

According to a press release issued by the BTB, "the material of memorandum is a concept of synergy relationship between government and private sector." The agreement contains specific performance points to be honored by both Bali's tourism industry players and the political hopefuls to be implemented in the improved management of Bali's tourism industry, should the candidates be elected.

The MOU reportedly grew out of a meeting held between representatives of BTB's stakeholder organizations held with Sumer-Oka on April 11, 2005, resulting in a list of recommendations and "shared visions" between the candidates and tourism players.

BTB Chairman, Putu Agus Antara said, "What we signed is a new momentum to map the problems and to understand the direction of Bali economic development through tourism. The written commitment will become a foundation and new spirit for the next Bali tourism management, professionally and proportionally."

According to the BTB press release, Putu Antara views Made Sumer and Ngurah Oka as candidates who are "proficient to lead Badung regency." The press announcement continued, "Made summer had good track record in bureaucracy when he was a Vice Bupati of Badung. Sumer and Oka understood core problems in Badung, particularly in (the) tourism sector and they knew how to solve them."

Antara views the Badung regency as the key area for national tourism, serving as the headquarters for most of Bali's major hotels and tourism companies. Because of this, he has used the leverage of his Chairmanship of BTB to extend an endorsement to the men he thinks best suited to lead Badung regency in the coming years.

The Real Risks of Real Politik

Some local observers, however, are concerned at BTB's sudden plunge into practical politics, wondering how political endorsements will be viewed by the very diversified stakeholders who comprise BTB's membership and the consequences for the organization if the just endorsed candidates fail to win in the June elections.

Do tourism and politics made strange bedfellows? Stay tuned to find out.