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(11/17/2009) Bali-born Minister for Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, who was just reappointed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a second five year term to his cabinet, gathered with nearly 100 invitees from Bali's tourism culture circles for dinner and conversation on Sunday, November 15, 2009.
The unique gathering, conducted entirely in Indonesian and Balinese, was held at the Puri Santrian Resort & Spa.
Balidiscovery.com attended the event. Highlights from the free-flowing and exchange with the Minister include:
• Wacik outlined to the group his strong emotional commitment to developing Indonesian tourism and his core philosophy of always maintaining a positive mental attitude, even in difficult times. To underline these points, all who attended the dinner meeting were given copies of Minister Wacik's Biography themed on maintaining a positive outlook and another published volume recording the achievements of his first 5-year term as Minister of Culture and Tourism.
• The Minister used the evening to declare a "truce" with all those who may have challenged, opposed or criticized him during his first term of office and the recently concluded elections. Dismissing such matters as signs of a thriving democracy at work in Indonesia, Wacik issued a call for everyone in tourism and culture circles to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him during the coming 5 years.
• The Minister spoke with pride of the fact that Indonesia's economy is only one of four (together with the PRC, PNG and Vietnam) participating in the current APEC conference in Singapore that has recorded positive economic growth over the past year. Indonesia's economic success Wacik attributed to the wise leadership of President Yudhoyono and the national unity the President has brought to the country.
• The Minister spoke of the national commitment to developing a thriving film industry and the important role motion pictures can play in sharing with the world the story of Indonesia's rich cultures and traditions. To this end, Wacik told of his participation at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 and separate meetings held with the producers of "Eat, Pray, Love" which only days ago finished shooting in Bali.
• Jero Wacik also explained the political mechanism at work that prompted his October resignation from the Presidential Cabinet in favor of a seat in the National House of Representatives (MPR) that followed by his reappointment to the Cabinet.
• The Minister shared his continuing vision for a North Bali airport as a means of leveling the economic imbalance that exists between people living in the northern and southern regions of the island.
• In response to urgings from Al Purwa, the Chairman of the Bali Chapter of the Indonesian Association of Travel Agents (ASITA), the Minister promised to urgently contact the Minister of Transportation and urge that both Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways be given as many Bali flights as they want. The Minister said that any need to protect the interests of the national carrier Garuda was outweighed by the need to maximize tourist flows to Bali and that Garuda's desire for a larger share of the market could be addressed later, when the national carrier acquires additional aircraft. The Minister was responding to complaints from the audience that both Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways were being thwarted by the Civil Aviation Department in their desire to increase flight frequencies to Bali.
• Minister Wacik underlined the commitment of the current government to eliminating monopolies in Indonesia, including the past policies which allowed only "selected" agents to service specific markets, such as the mainland Chinese. He also promised to advise the Mainland Chinese government that efforts on their part to established "closed travel consortiums" what not in accordance with Indonesian law.
• In response to a question from "Cok Ace," the Bupati of Gianyar who also serves as the Bali Chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI-Bali), Wacik promised to help mediate and facilitate the need for a better inter-regency road system in Bali in order to ease the movement of tourists to and from Ubud.
• Wacik promised the problem of long lines at visa-on-arrival counters in Bali would soon be resolved with more counters and computers. In addition, the government has intorduced visa issuance on board inbound flights from Japan and is seeking to make visas available on line to speed the immigration process in the future.
• Minister Wacik told how his Ministry, which once under the Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare, has now been moved to report to Hatta Rajasa, the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs. Wacik's view is that this new positioning will clear the way for additional funding for culture and tourism projects in the future.
• The Minister closed the gathering by looking ahead to 2014 when the next round of national elections will be held. Underlining President Yudhoyono's firm commitment to honor his two-term limit, he called on the next generation of Balinese leaders to begin grooming themselves to assume his job at the end of his current five year term when he will retire at 65-years of age.