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VETERAN observers of the idiocy that is PLN would not perhaps have been surprised to read last week’s lead story in The Bali Times. The state-owned (and massively subsidised) power utility was reported therein as saying it is unable to fix Bali’s electricity shortage. This is because Bali’s power plants are all so old that even regular maintenance (on the possibly unwise assumption that even this is actually done) cannot save them.
But hang on. Aren’t these plants PLN’s? Does PLN not have a nicely cosy little monopoly situation going here, where returns on its investments – in productive generating plants, not vacuous hot air, that is – can be guaranteed to flow into its needy pockets? From such an income stream they should be able to finance not only essential reinvestment but also PhD courses in mendacious assertion for their entire management team, and their inventive spokesmen, and still have enough left over to buy lots of lovely black-windowed executive limousines, as well as afternoon teas forever.
There are many bad jokes in public utilities, in Indonesia and everywhere. They all make the same sort of noises about being accountable to the people (hah!) and claim to be repositories of excellence and wisdom. Anyone who has had to deal with Britain’s National Health Service, or the Australian joke version of the same, can attest to the global sweep of this sad conundrum.
But PLN manages to take its skill in not doing its job to even greater heights. It has on its inventory power plants that it has (by its own admission) not maintained effectively; reinvestment demands that it has simply not considered, far less tried to meet; and a management that – on the evidence – neither knows what to do about this or even how to look as if it cares.
It says – apparently viewing this assertion as a key element in its own defence - that Bali should look after its own power needs. But Bali shouldn’t have to do this. And it wouldn’t need to consider any such idea if the nationally mandated public authority were doing its job or showed evidence of being even notionally capable of doing so.
The Big Switch
HOT on the heels of Nyepi, the annual Balinese Hindu day of silence that plunges Bali into darkness and – apparently – is observed in almost as many ways as there are ridiculous arguments about it (it’s a religious and cultural observance that deserves to be honoured, and not in the breach) the happy fictionalistas at the World Wildlife Fund (their latest scary movie: Cry, Fry, ’Bye) are busy trying to turn out the lights again. They are recruiting supporters in 110 countries around the world to voluntarily turn out their lights for one hour at 8.30pm (local time) tomorrow – Saturday, March 27 – to mark Earth Hour.
At least five major Indonesian cities, including Denpasar, are among the 1,882 worldwide that have said they’ll join the charge of the lights-out brigade. The programme is aimed at reminding everyone of the world’s diminishing natural resources and reinforcing fear about climate change.
Fitrian Ardiansta, of WWF Indonesia, says: “So many student groups and local communities in the cities of Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar have shown very high enthusiasm about Earth Hour. The mayor of Yogyakarta has expressed his support and is willing to turn off the lights at the city's iconic Tugu monument.”
We’re sure PLN could help. They’re good at giving electricity the flick. Someone would need to remind them what day of the week it is, though.
THERE was not much else to say really. (See you later.) Indonesia understands the reason for US President Barack Obama's last-minute cancellation of his visit to Jakarta and Bali, a spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said last Friday, the morning after the night before on which most observers had tipped precisely the sort of last-minute change of travel plans that resulted from Obama’s domestic political difficulties.
It is said he will reschedule the visit – which was also to include Australia, where the government of Kevin 24/7 was eagerly awaiting an opportunity to leverage some reflected glory – for June. Further domestic crises permitting, we presume.
Obama scrapped his plan to visit Indonesia and Australia on Thursday, days before the start of his Asia-Pacific trip, in order to stay in Washington and give a final push to his politically crucial overhaul of US healthcare. The visit has been officially postponed until June.
The president had planned to use the March 21-26 trip, his first foreign travel this year, to deepen US ties in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of rising Chinese influence; and, according to a series of White House statements, to find a really good nasi goreng.
L’Etat, C’est Elle
WE had a little mention of Janet DeNeefe in last week’s Diary and would not under normal circumstances permit the indiscretion of printing another for at least a little while. The Diary, in contrast to the firmly self-promotional bent of many on this island, does not favour over-exposure. However, a pleasant little dinner engagement at Massimo in Sanur last weekend (the joint was jumping) led The Diary, after refreshing the mind as to the detail of Signor Sacco’s great menu, to browse through the pages of La Gazette de Bali. It prompts an immediate return to Topic Central.
La Gazette is a fine monthly journal for the Francophone community produced by the Villa Coco man, Socrate Georgiades. It is always a good read and presents a focus on Bali different from that generally found in the lunar-cycle English-language media. Besides, it’s deliciously piquant to browse in French while contemplating eating Italian, Salu or otherwise.
The March edition of La Gazette carries an informative article on Museum Pasifika at Nusa Dua, the operation that was the brainchild of Frenchman Philippe Augier. It has some interesting statistics on resident expatriate numbers and nationalities here: there are more Japanese than Australians, for example, and the French are in third place.
But what really caught The Diary’s eye was the Entrepreneur feature. It was headlined: “Janet DeNeefe: Portrait d’Une Reine en son Royaume.” That would have pleased the queen of Ubud.
THE Gazebo at Sanur – once a place of moderate comfort, some utility for those seeking to holiday here at less than usurious tariffs and home to a nice little bakery shop, among other things – has fallen on very sorry days.
A visit there the other day – The Diary was taking some former patrons back to the scene of their last Bali holiday seven years ago (too long guys, you’re missing out on too much) – found the place all but deserted and, frankly, in a state of decay. Our friends were dismayed. One felt they felt like the singer James Blunt, when he sings (in his soulful album opener, 1973)about the remembered glories of Simone. They’ve been and gone, too.
It’s not clear what the real problem is, typical Bali ennui excused. Someone there, at the near-deserted beach bar, did say that after a number of ownership revolving doors had been gone through, there was no agent. Hmm. They might try a little low-cost renovation, then, and revise the tariff.
THE fish restaurants at the pink-dollar end of Jimbaran Bay – those iconic places that serve ah’souta fish to their smoked-out patrons – perform a pleasant daytime role for some people we know. They say they’re great places to drop into for a look at the beach, a beer and some chips (French fries).
The bay is magnificent (if you half close your eyes you can ignore the plastic flotsam and jetsam), especially when the surf is lazy and the sun is dropping languidly towards the ocean. It’s good to see that the café operators have apparently worked out that in these days of rabies it’s probably good PR, as well as medically advisable, to keep Bali’s beach mutts at bay.
The Diary’s friends favour Menega Café, for the quality of their chips (first rate, with plenty of salt). It also provides a chance to make silent obeisance to the 2005 “bomb tree”; and to repeat a quiet “up yours” to terrorists of all stripes.
WE are grateful to the Jakarta Post, as a leading misinformation medium, for advising its readers that last Thursday a US cargo ship landed at Ngurah Rai Airport. Obviously our Jakarta friends believe Bali has some very high tides indeed.
The actuality was rather more prosaic. It was a US Air Force C-17 and it flew rather than floated in to deliver support equipment for President Barack Obama’s Bali visit. The equipment and accompanying personnel have now returned whence they came, mission unaccomplished.
HECTOR'S BLOG appears as The Bali Times Diary in the print edition of the newspaper, ot Fridays. The Bali Times is at www.thebalitimes.com and in available as a printed paper worldwide through Newspaper Direct.