Friday, March 20, 2009


The Bali Times is at


HE’S GOT WHAT IT TAKES: Australia’s Environment Minister, former Midnight Oil front-man Peter Garrett, swallows the mike at last weekend’s big Australian rock concert to raise money for the country’s bushfire and flood victims. The Melbourne concert – there was one in Sydney too, held simultaneously – had been hit by torrential rain, but this stopped for Garrett’s performance. No word on whether he also sang the Australian national anthem, though it would have been appropriate: It’s all about a land of drought and flooding rains...

Wanted: An Act to Get Together
THE saddest comment so far in the collapse of the US$600 million tourism development project on Lombok – from which Dubai’s state-owned developer in chief, Emaar, withdrew last week – comes from Sumaryanto Widayatin, a special advisor to the Public Works Ministry, who blamed unprofessionalism for the tangled negotiations.
“I think it’s because the Ministry of Finance was worried about selling the land cheaply to Emaar,” he said, noting that every large project in Indonesia attracted officials who had their hands out. He added this stinging question: “Where in Indonesia do we not have the problem of corruption?”

Emaar’s Indonesian operation is said to have closed its Jakarta office. The Jakarta Globe newspaper reported the corporation’s Indonesian human resources manager, Elly Savitri, as saying: “Emaar has pulled out of its operations in Indonesia because the government cannot comply with the terms of the agreement with our joint venture company. There have been too many delays on the realization of the project and the company just could not wait any more.”

Here is an object lesson in just how important it is for Indonesian officialdom to get its act together. The first task is to sort out jurisdictional issues. Big overseas developers want to talk to one principal – not a mendicant collective of competing minor administrators as is mandated under the fire-and-forget method of regionalism employed here for political reasons. If they can’t get a straight answer – or at the very least, one centralized bribe point – they’ll take their money elsewhere.

Cancellation of the project is an enormous setback for Lombok and a black mark against Indonesia. The project was announced with a fanfare – Indonesia does fanfares very well – by Vice President Jusuf Kalla in May 2007. Emaar has since spent US$4.2 million on consultancy fees on master plans. That’s a drop in the bucket, of course, but it’s still money down the drain. Kalla is reported to have tried to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted – another Indonesian key performance indicator, sadly – by calling a meeting of ministries on Wednesday this week in a bid to save the project.

Equally sourly, there is a Bali connection (or perhaps that should read “disconnection”). The joint venture was between Emaar and the state-owned Bali Tourism Development Corporation. It envisioned development of 1,200 hectares along seven kilometres of natural beachfront that would have transformed Lombok’s famed Kuta and Tanjung An Indian Ocean beaches over the next 12 years into a world-class resort and residential community consisting of thousands of luxury villas, eight hotels and two 18-hole golf courses.

Elly said the agreement stipulated that the government would provide a detailed master plan by last November to support infrastructure including an international airport, an access road to the property and finalizations of land acquisitions. The finalizations, however, never materialized.

A raft of government agencies failed to complete their part of the bargain and asked for an extension until this month. When Indonesian officials asked for another extension until June, Emaar called off its investment.

It should be noted that the decision came at an opportune moment for Emaar. Dubai is in a mess as a result of the global economic crisis and Emaar’s 2008 profit, announced last month, was 15 per cent down on the previous year. But that’s not an excuse for local failure. It should be instructive for the Indonesian side and the people of Lombok who now have no jobs to look forward to. If that act had been got together earlier, foreclosure by Emaar might not have been an option.

We’re Very Well Read
ON to happier things. The conventional wisdom from the cyber side of the information industry is that newspapers are either dead or dying. That’s not the case. The New York Times may have massive debts (US$1 billion at the latest call and US$50 million in repayments due in November) and “big media” everywhere may be under pressure, but the nimble minded (like The Bali Times) not only go with the flow but build on that advantage. For example, our website records a quarter of a million hits every month (the number is growing) and much of this interest comes from foreign places. We’ve even got our own Facebook page to make it easy for readers to keep in touch. You can find it on The Bali Times website or through Facebook.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Elsewhere in this week’s paper is a selection of comments we’ve received on our feedback site. They’re worth reading, both as an example of what interests our wider readership and as a pointer to the authorities over what needs to be done with, for example, filthy beaches. Hector’s pick of the week is more down market (he has a curious mind). He likes the comment posted by Edi, responding to a story reporting that police had broken up a prostitution ring (that particular one was in Sanur, which has always seemed to your Diarist to be somewhere rather less than a den of iniquity): “No problem! There’s 200 others still going.”

Well, as they say, it’s a business doing pleasure with you. You just can’t beat private enterprise.

Another Ramsay Brush with the Law
HERE in Bali we are (mostly, unless we tune into vacuous TV shows) mercifully saved the painful business of watching and listening to celebrity chefs, such as for example Britain’s Gordon [expletive deleted] Ramsay. We did host his younger brother Ron in 2007 (photo), when he spent 10 months as a guest of the state in Kerobokan – Hi Schapelle! How’s it going? – after being found in possession of 100 grams of heroin.

No doubt like many miscreants here – Hi again Schapelle – he forgot he had the stuff on him, or had forgotten it’s actually illegal to possess drugs. Funny old world, isn’t it? Why can’t the law just apply to everyone other than me?

This time however it’s Brother Gordon who’s in trouble, though thankfully not here. He’s in court in Britain over unpaid debts said to flow partly from the sharp dive in discretionary spending forced upon his customers by the embarrassingly inclement financial climate. Well, that and the cuisine apparently. François Simon, the feared food critic of the French national newspaper Le Figaro, did rather memorably describe Ramsay’s Trianon restaurant (at Versailles, where haut couture goes for couture) as “boring, pompous and very expensive.” He added: “Quite frankly, if I go to Versailles, I’d prefer to go to a local bistro.” Expletive deleted.

Ramsay is busy disposing of some of his signature restaurants. It’s a sign of the times. Yesterday caviar and foie gras; today corned beef and lumpit pudding.

Well, What an Idea!
WHEN you’re out driving on Bali’s roads, you see amazing things. A wobbly motorbike is probably not wobbling because the rider can’t ride – although, of course, the rider can’t actually ride – but because he or she is busy texting on a mobile phone. Similarly a more than usually wayward car will likely have a driver similarly engaged.

What then would our police authorities make of a new blitz on phone-driving in New York, where police have just issued a whopping 9,016 tickets during a 24-hour crackdown on phoning-while-driving. The normal daily tally is around 500, which at US$120 a pop creates useful revenue for the city. (It does all go into official coffers there, of course, another vital difference.)

New York’s taxi drivers are held to an even higher standard. They can receive a US$200 summons from the Taxi and Limousine Commission for using even a hands-free phone while driving.

More on Sultanas
LAST week’s little bleat about sultanas – as in absence of – needs to be put into perspective: an opportunistic wander through the new Casa delicatessen at Seminyak (it was on the way to afternoon tea at The Legian) brought forth a packet of same that retailed at Rp 22,000. They are being doled out on a strict ration basis by the lovely Ungasan lass who looks after Hector’s breakfasts.

The item did bring forth an inquiry from an Ubud reader, who tells us the Bintang supermarket there sells them at Rp 52,000 a pop. Transport costs over the 45 kilometres from Sultana Central to Ubud must be amazing.

Another Old Bird Going Strong
WE heard this week some cheerful news of Pinky the Cockatoo, the bright bird who entertained British wartime leader Winston Churchill during his long sojourn in Florida after the war and his rejection at the polls by the British people.

Pinky is now 67 (she has three years on Hector), but is still entertaining the crowds at the bird sanctuary, since renamed. The operators have no plans to retire this avian veteran, who may live to be 100, like many clean-living cockatoos, and say one reason for her extreme good health is the fact that she rides a bicycle every morning. (Hector: Hrrmph!)

It was while he was taking his electorally enforced sabbatical in America that Churchill wrote and gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at the beginning of the Cold War. It would not surprise us to hear that Pinky had a hand in that too.

It Must be Those Lion Ayes
PERHAPS it was just for PR? The Indonesian aviation authorities last week ordered Lion Air’s MD-90 twin jet aircraft to stay on the ground following a series of mishaps. It’s embarrassing when you’re trying to convince the Europeans to lift their ban on Indonesian airlines flying in European airspace, after all.

But a Diary spy reports seeing two rear-engine twin-jets that looked suspiciously like MD-90s – operated only by Lion in Indonesia – in the air near Ngurah Rai International Airport over the weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment