EDITORIAL: An Appeal to Bali's Governor to Ensure No One Goes Hungry on the 'Paradise' Island of Bali
- EDITORIAL: An Appeal to Bali's Governor to Ensure No One Goes Hungry on the 'Paradise' Island of Bali
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The majority of Bali's hotels, restaurants, attractions, and shops are now temporarily closed. Tens of thousands of staff are now on "unpaid leave," plunged into a dramatic daily struggle for necessities and how to prevent the Island's children from going to bed on empty stomachs.
Amidst this background of hunger, farms that once supplied bountiful produce to feed Bali's visiting tourists and the local populace have suddenly lost the market for their agricultural products. With hotels closed or operating at near-zero occupancy, tons of nutritious vegetables, fruit, and grain stuff are spoiling as enormous stocks of foods once consumed by Bali residents who, now unemployed, remain unpurchased as former customers no longer have the money to shop at traditional neighborhood markets.
And, indeed, many of Bali's colorful traditional markets have suddenly gone quiet. Traders and middle-men are reluctant to invest their money to secure basic food items and transport them to the morning pasar. Simultaneously, farmers once busy producing quality agricultural products for hotels and restaurants have now lost their markets as they wonder whether it's still worth their while to cultivate new crops in such an uncertain and declining market condition.
It is at once both ironic and tragic that people are now going hungry on an Island that remains as agriculturally bountiful as Bali.
The short-term solution we propose to alleviate hunger could also provide many significant long-term benefits to Bali.
We urge Governor Koster and his Provincial Administration to urgently consider putting in place a mechanism that will achieve the following:
Set fair market prices (price guarantees) for all the major agricultural products produced in Bali. Use these public and transparent guaranteed prices to purchase all "excess production" directly from Bali's farmers. Bring those products purchased by the government at guaranteed prices to the traditional markets operating in every part of Bali to be sold, as required, at cost price. Surplus agricultural production should be given away without charge to the unemployed and impoverished living in Bali, regardless of whether or not they hold Bali identification cards (KTP-Bali). To reduce the possibility of any wrongdoing, the food allocated for free distribution could be broken down into "family-sized" allotments to be handed out to the poor at "food banks" managed and operated by university students following physical distancing and safe hygiene protocols. Such a program is sure to present unique challenges that local experts will be able to help sort out. That food is being made readily available at subsidized prices would deter those trying to create an exploitive black market. Meanwhile, Bali's farmers would carry on growing food in the certain knowledge that a ready market, subsidized in part by the Provincial Government, will absorb any food they produce. And, finally, job opportunities would be created in the farming sector for any Balinese who may have lost their former jobs in the tourism sector, thereby fueling a renaissance in Balinese agriculture.
But the most significant benefit of this proposal will be the layer of social well-being created in ensuring no one on the paradise island of Bali is so impoverished that they will go unnecessarily hungry.
Bali's administrators deserve full marks for their earnest ongoing efforts to date to handle the many problems created by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Those steps must be credited with leveraging essential time for the more than 3 million people who make their home in Bali waiting for the Pandemic to pass and the remedial measures introduced by the Government to kick in.But, in the meantime, there is a genuine need to ensure that the Island's agricultural sector can grow and prosper and, most importantly, that no one goes to bed hungry on an island we continue publicize to the world as a "paradise."