Bali: Has resort development killed agriculture?

Bali: Has resort development killed agriculture?

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Academics and experts said Sunday that development in Bali should return to the principle of a people’s economy rather than being based on investor interest.

“Which is more dangerous, reclamation or international conferences, such as the APEC Summit and WTO, that empower capitalism affecting the world’s citizens?” asked Revrisond Baswir, an economist from Gadjah Mada University.

Speaking at a year-end discussion entitled “End-of-year reflection: Bali as an Investment Haven”, Revrisond emphasized that a corporate focus threatened sociocultural values. Massive investment in tourism also posed a threat, he said.

The discussion was held by ForBALI on Sunday at Penggak Men Mersi in Denpasar. ForBALI is a loose coalition of activists and NGOs that actively opposes the planned massive land reclamation in shallow waters off Tanjung Benoa in south Bali.

Revrisond mentioned the 1945 Constitution, which stipulates that the economy should be developed prioritizing the people’s interests. In his opinion, this part of the Constitution has been neglected by the government.

Fair economic distribution from the tourist industry was what stakeholders should fight for, he said.

Wayan Windia, an agriculture professor at Udayana University, shared the same thoughts.

“No one with power is developing the island’s agriculture sector,” he said.

“Everyone is oriented to physical development, such as hotel construction, and accelerating reclamation to get profits faster,” he said.

Citing a 1975 study by the French consultancy firm SCETO, Windia said that Bali only needed 24,000 hotel rooms to ensure that tourism development would not negatively affect its sociocultural integrity. Currently, more than 55,000 rooms are available on the island, excluding unregistered villas.

He said empowerment of customary villages promoting cultural tourism instead of mass tourism would be beneficial to the island.

“Ninety percent of investments go to tourism and only one percent goes to agriculture,” he said. “This is dangerous.”

Windia said that farmers farming one hectare of land could only earn up to Rp 1 million (US$82.30) per month, even lower than that received by beggars.

“Meanwhile, taxes increase. Who will continue farming? The subak will be gone,” he said.

Wayan also criticized the province’s integrated organic farming program (Simantri) as it was developed based on farming groups instead of subak (traditional farming and irrigation associations).

“Many non-farmers join farming groups merely to get Simantri funds,” he said.

Windia said consistent support for subak had been proven effective, giving examples in Wongaya Betan, Tabanan and Lodtunduh, Gianyar, where farmers protect subak and produce organic rice.

Ruwaman Salain, a spatial planning researcher, criticized the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI) for the Bali corridor for not focusing on agriculture and cultural development.

“Why only tourism and fisheries? In the end, tourism is just a commodity,” he said.

The Jakarta Post

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