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The Balinese suffer enormously under corrupt and unlawful Indonesian rule.

It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful, decent human beings can smile in the face of such economic and spiritual suppression plus rampant civil and human rights abuse routinely conducted by the Indonesian authorities and businesses. It also amazes me just how people who say they love the Balinese both are blind to and in reality too often contribute to their suffering. I genuinely love the everyday Balinese, wonder at how so many can remain decent law abiding people in the face of such adversity and sincerely believe what I have done in the past and do with this web site is for them more than anything else.

The more time I spent in Bali the more I loved the Balinese and became disgusted at what the non-Balinese were doing to both them and their precious tropical island.

Bali Night ButterflySurrounded by crime where certain elements of Balinese society will break into a young family’s empty house nearing the end of its construction and hence still unoccupied just to steal 2 diapers and a bottle of water. Where old widows without the benefit of a supportive family or a social welfare system have the chickens they rely upon for food stolen routinely by unemployed youths which they sell in order to buy the highly addictive cigarettes, which would be banned in most other countries, produced in Indonesia where the average age to start smoking is 7 years old. Where children are routinely sold into domestic service or worse, prostitution where boys and girls as young as 11 years old are offered for rent in brothels (night butterflies, like the sex worker in the photo to the right) operated by police officers. The price of a baby in Bali is generally linked to the cost of a new motorbike. Many childless Javanese couples come to Bali to buy their babies there because they believe the quality is better. Some of these babies get lucky and go to caring homes. In Eastern Java where baby prices are lower, newborn babies are often dumped, often terminally. The west made a huge story out of the baby dumped in a plastic bag and then thrown into an English river, but such events are commonplace in Indonesia.

A perfect example of how the Balinese people are abused by the corrupt Indonesian system and how even well meaning foreigners actually de facto add to the problem is David Booth who runs the East Bali Poverty Project. I can almost hear the Neanderthal screams of anger now, but bear with me, I am not saying eminently humanitarian Mr. Booth and his project do not do great deals of good, I am just going to point out how they also unwittingly contribute to the problem they seek to solve because Indonesia is so corrupt. Amongst many other programs, the East Bali Poverty Project helps the poverty stricken Balinese in rural areas avoid a totally unnecessary and nasty dehabilitating disease called “goiter” which come from iodine deficiency (see picture left). The trouble is, David Booth by helping the Balinese avoid such suffering is also letting nasty corrupt Indonesia off the hook.

David Booth is a rarity in that unlike most of Bali’s expatriate community he actually does something and something substantial to help the people of Bali. David has helped the poor of Bali in areas far away from where the selfish tourists lap up all their economic superiority can buy them. David Booth helps the impoverished out of tourist's site Balinese of NE Bali grow crops such as potatoes instead of the Cassava they used to grow which actually depletes what iodine they got elsewhere. But in reality and with no disrespect to David Booth, by helping the poor he is actually helping the corrupt. If it were just a matter of farming practices that would be one thing, but it is not.

The real problem of iodine deficiency in Bali and Indonesia as a whole is 100% corrupt state made. You see, health problems from iodine deficiency have been known for years and that is why you see “Iodonized Salt” everywhere in Bali. To make sure the population got the iodine they needed, the Indonesian Government followed International health recommendations and made it law that iodine had to be added to salt. Because every Indonesian uses salt (often too much), this would make sure everyone including the poverty stricken people of North-East Bali would get sufficient iodine to avoid goiter. So why do these poorest of Balinese get goiter when their salt is Iodonized? The reason is corruption; there is no iodine in their salt even though the packet says there is and even though legally there has to be. Because Iodine is significantly more expensive than salt, Indonesia’s salt manufacturers do not add the iodine they are meant to, to save money / make extra profit. There are government inspectors of course, but like all government officers they are as bent as they come, so they take bribes from the salt manufacturers to turn a blind eye (source: BBC). The inspectors get away with corruption because Indonesia is endemically corrupt from the top (Indonesian president) down. Of course the health impact of some inhuman salt makers and bent inspectors making a few dollars is mass human suffering and a colossal cost to the Indonesian State from lost productivity and health costs, because goiter sufferers can not work and need medical treatment for life. Forgetting the human suffering element, the financial cost of what these crooks in industry and uniforms inflict on Indonesia is billions of times the amount of the illicitly and incompassionately earned dollars these callous men put in their wallets as a result. But there is no common sense or sense of public duty in Indonesia because there is no genuine justice and / or law enforcement in such an endemically corrupt state.

In Bali there is no such thing as justice unless you hold a perverse “Animal Farm” vision of justice where the wealthy and powerful are astronomically “more equal” than others and where the law enforcement service is ranked as one of if not the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International; where such corruption comes from the very top to the extent of blatant extortion by senior members of the Indonesian Government. Where increasing extreme Islamism under fraudulent feign of civil law strips the Balinese of their religion and culture at the bequest of militant Muslim purveyors of hate; just under 20% of Indonesia’s mostly Muslim population, some 15,000,000 people believe the actions of terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI's 2002 and 2004 Bali bombings) are justified. That’s right, a very large percentage of Indonesia’s dominant Muslims, historically known for their jealous hatred of Bali (see: History of Bali) believe it is right to kill Balinese and foreigners in their Jihad to create a fundamentalist Islamic state throughout the region (including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand!). When you see de facto Sharia law legislation being introduced by a government which refuses to outlaw Jemaah Islamiyah despite its BS PR about fighting terrorism, it is not hard to see the RI (Republik Indonesia) is the enemy of Bali, not its protector as it claims.

In schools now, Balinese children are forced to attend Islamic “information” classes, yet if any Hindu, Christian or Buddhist teachers were to let Muslim children know about their religion they would be jailed; yes, this does happen. School children are also bullied and extorted from by their own teachers who often demand students buy their textbooks from them at high prices (where the teachers make money). Children are subject to sexual and other abuse across the community including at school, even at the hands of their teachers. Children as young as 11 years old are forced into marriage. Muslims are allowed to have 3 wives and often use this special privilege to own and operate young prostitutes as their pimps, not as their husbands. The western media makes a huge deal whenever a western pedophile is prosecuted in Indonesia but the problem is home grown and massive according to the UN Secretary-General and UNICHEF (see report here). It seems clear the Indonesian Government know they have a serious child abuse problem as they banned female genital mutilation a while ago but I could not find one prosecution to show they meant it or were just feeding the world yet more Indonesian BS PR. Child sexual and physical abuse is massive and all pervasive in Indonesia, including Bali.

Tourism accounts for or rather, after the terrorist attacks and other legitimate fears western tourists have regarding taking their family on holiday to Bali, accounted for 67% of the island's gross domestic product with over 80% of Balinese households (source: BBC), which may mean over 90% of the adult population depending on Bali’s tourism dollars. However, although tourism is Indonesia’s third largest industry, Bali’s economy equates to just 1.3% of the national figure while its vital tourism is 4% (approximately) of the national GDP (source: US Embassy Jakarta). Apart from the glaring fact that more money goes out of Bali than stays in from tourism, it is clear tourists are extremely important economically to Bali but much less so to Indonesia as a whole.

So Bali’s tourism business is or rather until Jakarta de facto allowed it to be destroyed was worth US$112,520,000,000 per year. Please look around Bali behind the scenes; the below poverty line rural areas, the terrible condition of what few public hospitals they have, prisons where you have to pay for the space on the ground in a filthy overcrowded diseased jail cell you put your mat on to sleep while the political youth wing of Golkar push narcotics onto you, the state of Bali’s roads, the lack of control of illegal effluence dumping around tourist areas, 11 year old prostitutes openly servicing Kuta, Legian and Sanur. Where does or did all this money go to? It certainly didn’t go to the Balinese hotel and travel industry workers as their basic wage is around US$50 a month and they get sent home without pay when guest numbers decline in a country with no social service system. What makes me so angry about this last aspect is that the hotel groups who send the staff home despite having massive worldwide operations to cover the Balinese’s comparatively meager wages during troubled times; also where it would be unlawful in the hotel group’s home country to do what they do in Bali!

This is also one of the perfect examples of how the Indonesian Government publicly acts as though it is acting like a real government when it is not; Indonesia publicly boasts it has a minimum wage but what they fail to tell you is that is for full time workers and businesses such as large hotel groups get around this by only taking on part-time staff, even when those staff work full-time hours. Even those Balinese who are lucky enough to have an employer take them on as a full time worker and thus guarantee them a minimum wage which yearly increases, the inflation rate (17.1% in 2005, source: US Embassy Jakarta) more than eats that up. It is scandalous that experienced Balinese hotel staff pay "agents" 11,000,000 Indonesian rupiah to get a job on a cruise ship in the Caribbean paying crew 10,000,000 rupiah a month. First, the fact that the Indonesian system is so corrupt Balinese workers they can only get overseas work if they pay their life savings to some agent shows you what they are up against. Second the fact they can earn 10,000,000 rupiah a month in the Caribbean but only 500,000 rupiah in Bali is not explained by some equally vast difference in cost to the guests. If anything Caribbean cruise ship cabins are more competitively priced yet more expensive overall to maintain than so called luxury hotel rooms in Bali, so why do the Balinese only earn 5% of a cruise ship worker?

If all this was not enough, the vast majority of Bali’s tourism industry cheat their Balinese hotel and villa workers by stealing their money, by not paying the workers the service charge revenue they are legally entitled to. If you see a price (room rate, meal, etc.) including tax and service for a Bali hotel, restaurant, etc. then 10% (11% less 1% the hotel / restaurant can legally retain for staff breakages) of what you pay should go to the staff at that business and be equally shared amongst them; this very rarely happens. Many tourism businesses such as hotels and travel agents look on that 10% or 11% as extra profit for them. Even when they do pay it to the staff and withhold the 1% they are legally entitled to for breakages, they generally deduct all breakages from the staff’s salaries anyway. Very often the vast majority of the service charge goes to directors and senior western salary level managers, even though they are not legally entitled to any of it, on the basis the service charge is distributed proportionately according to salary. As a consequence hotel and other tourism industry staff go home with perhaps 5% to 10% on average of the service charge money they should do.

Of course the travel industry in Indonesia cheats the people of Bali in other ways too; they cheat hand-over-fist on their (sales) taxes. The “Twin book system” is a well known and established accounting method in Bali. Hotels, villas, travel agents, etc. keep two sets of accounts; one shows the real profits so the directors can rub their hands together, the second which is normally half the real accounts is submitted to the Indonesian tax man. Bali’s hotels, etc. cheat on their taxes which after corrupt officials have "filtered" further goes on public services. The tax inspectors of course know this goes on and are able to play their role in the endemic corruption lead system of Indonesia by imposing friendly spot fines without receipts on anyone they catch. The consequence is that public services in Bali such as hospitals and schools are appalling and totally disproportionate with what they should be given the tax which is claimed to be collected. Who benefits? Bent Indonesian businesses and corrupt government officers. Who suffers? The very day Balinese again of course.

Corruption has actually increased since Suharto’s fall from power, not decreased; Indonesia's annual 17.1% inflation rate is dwarfed by the percentage cost of corruption to Indonesia’s economy. Anti-secular and constitutionally unlawful proxy Islamic laws are on the increase. Singularly partial / biased “justice” that favours the wealthy and Muslims while discriminating against non-Muslims, westerners, the poor and those who stand up for justice is becoming ever more apparent. If nothing fundamentally changes for the Balinese, even if Bali’s tourism industry returned to pre-terrorist attack levels (which it will not as things are right now), it does not take much to see at best the Balinese will never achieve their economic or cultural aspirations, at worst it is a race between abject poverty and imposed fundamentalist Sharia law. But with the likes of Rio Tinto, BP, Freeport and BHP-Billiton making billions of dollars of profit out of Indonesia (particularly Indonesian controlled West Papua), don’t expect the US, Britain and / or Australia to change their real foreign policies of supporting the corrupt evil state of Indonesia soon.

So if you claim to love the Balinese and / or be pro-human rights, here is what you can do;

1) How to not just visit Bali but get the very best Balinese experience going without putting a single penny into the hands of their oppressors, read: Bali Friendly Tourism

2) How to change the way western, especially English speaking governments make the world a nastier unsafe place to travel, read Foreign Policies


Budi Setyawan | Made Pastika | Soenarko Ardanto | PATA | WIPO | Victoria Police Australia | Hill Associates Bangkok
© Copyright 2006. Mark Austin / Nasty Bali Org. All Rights Reserved.