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(11/16/2009) After laying in a state of suspended animation for nearly 20 years, the Provincial Government of Bali headed by Governor Made Mangku Pastika has restated its resolve to restart the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) project at an estimated cost that has increase from an estimated Rp. 400 billion (US$40 million) in the 1990s to a current figure of Rp. 2 trillion (US$200 million).
IN its current state statue components comprising the bust of the Lord Wisnu and the head of a mythical Garuda bird that, should the final vision be realized, would be joined in a monument standing 300 meters above sea level atop a 70 meter high pedestal at the center of a 100-hectare site.
On an island where many still live in poverty, the mega-project's completion with funds from the public coffers remains highly controversial, as demonstrated by various comments collected from community leaders by the Bali Post.
Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Raka Suardana, an economist from Undikas called for careful attention to be paid to laws governing the issuance of shares and the investment of capital, questioning if the investment is capable of creating a viable return on investment.
Badung community and tourism leader, Nyoman Ruth Ady, questioned the commitment of Governor Pastika to his program of community betterment espoused in his Bali Mandara program during the 2008 campaign. Ady Says his misgivings are linked to several ideas put forth by the governor that appear not to be firmly linked to the public's welfare. Citing one example, Ady pointed to the formation of PT Bali Mandara - a company owned by the provincial government whose start-up capital has been financed from Rp. 200 billion (US$2 million) in "efficiencies" from the provincial budget.
Following much public scrutiny and comment, plans have been put on hold by Bali's House of Representatives to hold discussions regarding plans for PT Bali Mandara to invest in a mall, hotel and a convention center at the GWK complex. Ady said: "Ideas that jump around like this indicate that the provincial government of Bali under Mangku Pastika lacks in being truly for the people. This is not in accordance with the campaign promises that have been made."
In addition, Ady, the former chairman of the Badung Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), claims that plans to invest in the GWK are a violation of legal procedure that mandate prior approval from the Bali House of Representatives. "I also question if the investment in the GWK will eventually profit the provincial government of Bali? Because, as far as I know, GWK loses money."
Ady contends that if the government of Bali truly intends to build a conference center or trade center, they should first use one of the parcels of land they own around the city of Denpasar that is more accessible to the regencies of Badung, Ginayar and Denpasar.
Bali Post point out that there are long standing efforts to salvage the GWK project. Former Telecommunications, Post and Tourism minister Joop Ave; Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik; and Governor Made Mangku Pastika have all lobbied the Central government to lend a hand in bringing the long-stalled park project to realization. In 2007, President Yudhoyono also issued a call for the monument to be inaugurated by May 10, 2008, the 100th anniversary of National Awakening Day - a deadline that has come and gone with GWK still far from completion.
Meanwhile, the Chief Commissioner of the company that manages the complex, PT Garuda Adhimatra Indonesia (GAIN), Nyoman Nuarta, has welcomed indications from Bali's provincial government that they will invest funds in the project. Nuarta, who is also the sculptor-designer of the monument, said it has always been his hope that the government and people of Bali would jointly take possession of GWK. For this reason, he claims he has rejected approaches by a number of foreign investors, including Malaysia and Bahrain. Nuarta added, however, that if the provincial government of Bali did invest in GWK that the project should be managed professionally for the benefit of all the people of Bali.
Nuarta said the current main focus for finishing the GWK project is the completion of the statue and its pedestal. Nurata estimated the cost of completing the statue phase of the GWK project will consume additional funds totaling around Rp. 750 billion (US$7.5 million).