As reported on balidiscovery.com [Management Shake Up at Bali Tourism Board], the Bali Tourism Board (BTB) ended months of bitter internal criticism in early February when it replaced its Chairman, Bagus Sudibya, and revamped its organizational structure to provide for a CEO to run the organization on a day-to-day basis."Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it."
While we welcome the appointment of Ngurah Wijaya as the new head of the BTB and look forward to supporting programs to promote Balinese culture and develop a tourism economy that ensure opportunities for the Balinese people, we remind 'Pak Ngurah' that steps must be taken to bring BTB into line with current trends demanding transparency and accountability in how business is now done in Indonesia.
The events that led up to the extraordinary meeting of stakeholders and the recent changes at BTB are still very much in the minds of those who work in Bali's tourism industry:
• During much of 2006, people across the island watched their businesses decline and their workers lose their jobs as they waited in vain for decisive recovery steps promised from a special US$7.3 million Bali Recovery Fund.
• While a number of high-profile delegations were sent to key markets to rebuild confidence, many programs budgeted for in the Recovery Fund, including a dedicated Bali Press Center, remain unrealized.
• The resigation last November of 5 members of the supervisory board at BTB, no longer prepared to share responsibility for the decisions being taken by the organization.
• Numerous allegations, carried in the local press, stating that major tourism recovery projects were not put out to bid, but were, instead, distributed to companies owned by a BTB Executive.
A New Broom Must Sweep Clean
If the new Chairman of the BTB, Ngurah Wijaya, and his incoming CEO are to have any hope of rebuilding the badly eroded confidence in their organization and gain the necessary support to deal with the many challenges ahead, a final and complete airing of what may have gone wrong with efforts to rebuild Bali tourism in 2006 is mandatory.
On a small island, where everyone is a friend and colleague, the reluctance to shake skeletons in the closet is somewhat understandable. However, at the same time, the overwhelming central role tourism plays in the lives of the people of Bali demands that a blue-ribbon independent panel be urgently appointed by BTB to prepare a white paper that traces what happened to the US$7.3 million designated by the Central Government for Bali tourism's recovery.
How much of the US$7.3 million actually made its way to Bali? What portion of this amount was disbursed in Jakarta by the Department of Culture and Tourism on Bali's behalf? Is a portion of the recovery budget still undistributed and still available to assist Bali tourism? Has the money spent from the fund, both on a local and national level, been adequately accounted for? Were guidelines on tenders properly followed on both the local and national level? How effective were the programs undertaken with monies spent from the recovery fund? Are those results quantifiable?
These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered in connection with Bali' Recovery Funds and must be addressed the "new" management of the BTB, less it be accused of only continuing "business at usual."
While a witch hunt seeking to lay blame goes against the grain of local cultural norms, Bali's international reputation as a leading holiday destination and the professional reputation of those charged with helping to recover lost ground following the 2005 terrorist attack allow no compromise with demands for an urgent, frank, impartial and open review of how Bali's tourism was managed during 2006. Only then will those who continue to insist that they were working with only Bali's best interests in mind be vindicated or, alternatively, found wanting.
For, in the words of the philosopher, poet, literary and cultural critic George Santayana:
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