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THINGS THAT INTEREST, ENGAGE AND ENRAGE

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Property Bloom

HECTOR’S DIARY

His regular diet of worms and other non-religious experiences

HectorR

The Cage, Bali

Apr. 8, 2017

OK, so in Bali a property boom that will surely be unregulated – if it eventuates anywhere beyond the hype files of realtors – has about as much of a helpful impact as an algal bloom in fragile coral-fringed ocean waters, but we’ll try to be positive. Changes to Indonesia’s property laws that give foreign buyers leasehold rights for 80 years and access to local bank finance are good. They’re fair, for a start, and take account of the market that exists for such deals.

It’s true that Bali’s property market is unlike any other in the country – even Jakarta’s, where it’s underpinned by solidly productive industrial and commercial investment and a growing real economy – but at the same time, practically speaking, there’d be no property boom in Bali were it not for tourism, on which the investment sector of the economy is irrevocably based. So it also makes sense, of a sort, to facilitate private domestic and foreign investment in that job-creating area, as long as this doesn’t squeeze any more myopic local greed out of the souring Balinese lemon. That’s a long-shot option, of course.

Invitations to hop aboard the latest bus to paradise are popping up everywhere. One reached us the other day from Bali & World News and Views, an online thing that is run by Lawrence Bellefontaine, of PT. Bali. He has organised two free seminars in Sanur on Apr. 13 and Apr. 15 at which, he says, he will reveal the wealth to come to anyone who invests in what passes here for bricks and mortar.

There are certain fundamentals in the Bali property market that realtors of all stripes seek to explain away, if they cannot hide them. There’s been, so it is said, a “correction” in the market lately. Real estate is subject to the same range of cyclical factors as any other economic sector, so on the face of it that’s a fair statement.

It overlooks an essential point, however: that markets only work – indeed can only operate – when sellers meet buyers’ expectations. There’s a great deal of property in Bali that has been on the market for a very long time, because sellers put prices on their property that are more than buyers will pay. That’s the correction we need to have. This concept doesn’t suit sellers, of course, but that’s the way the crumbling cookie has always turned to dust.

It doesn’t suit realtors, either. They want to make a profit, and of course they should, for otherwise there’s very little point in being in business. But they’re increasingly unlikely to do so, except at the opportunistic margins, in the unregulated building environment here. A prime villa with sea views – just for example – becomes sub-prime the moment someone builds out that view. That they’re more than likely to do this very soon and compound their offence by building on your wall as well, ignoring regulated requirements for space between properties, makes it worse.

The key to proper property and development management is fair regulation that is enforced. Neither of these factors is present in Bali.

Gut Feeling

FACEBOOK’S capacity for instantly advising you of where friends are and their circumstances of the moment is of course very useful. Some of those old enough to remember the days when if you sailed away from the homeland you were never heard from again are still trying to come to grips with the fact that, these days, there’s nowhere to hide.

A note posted by one of our more peripatetic pals the other day reminded us of this modern benefit. “Breakfast in Bangkok”, his Facebook proclaimed. At the time, we hadn’t had the second morning cup of coffee before which persons possessing natural caution do not approach us. “As long as it’s not dinner in Dhaka, you should be right,” we replied.

Lala Land

IT’S not just this side of the Arafura Sea that you find bureaucratic nonsense under foot wherever you turn. A friend who has recently moved back to Australia from Bali relates a sorry tale of Aussie-style bureaucracy run amok. Having heard the tale in all its risible detail, we shall never again complain about Indonesian rules. Well, OK, we might, but you know what we mean.

Apparently, if you’re applying for a driver’s licence there, and not just renewing one, you must now provide details of your first Australian licence. It’s not clear why that should be the case. Surely the last valid licence would be sufficient.

Difficulties arise, in the Australian way, because state authorities issue driver’s licences and databases do not necessarily match and may in fact not be accurate.

It certainly prompts the thought that even if you are away from Australia for an extended period of time, you should try to renew your driver’s licence on expiry. If you have an address in Australia, that’s simple enough, though of course you need to be there to renew.

On a related matter, new banking rules in Australia mean that even as a long-established customer with a local address, a registered signature, and all the other bumf that you need on file these days, including a tax file number, you cannot now establish, say, a new term deposit (or even add to one) without fronting up at the bank to sign in person.

No doubt the fat controllers fear that retired folk on reduced incomes trying to scratch an extra measly sou out of catatonic depositor interest rates are actually undercover agents of the global money laundering conspiracy.

Barker Beach

We spent a pleasant hour or so the other day at Karang Beach in Sanur, where locals and foreigners alike look after the beach dogs as if they are family. It was lovely to see. They’re friendly beings (the dogs we mean; the people are nice too) and appreciate the food and contact they get. Most are still statistically underweight and have health problems, but they’re better than many, and that’s fabulous.

Sanur benefits from a strong sense of community and the extensive canine health programs that local banjars have embraced. Among other things it has eliminated rabies as threat in the area. They’ve done this via efforts by local and overseas not-for-profit animal welfare agencies, and an innovative project that Udayana University is running as a result. It’s good to see.

Just Joshing

ALL Fools’ Day has now passed again for the year. We decided not to post a diary on Apr. 1 because of this factor, even though, by many marks, it’s always all-fools’ day around here, as well as around the globe.

The origins of April Fools are obscure, but whether it stems from confusion in 16th century France over the new Gregorian calendar which moved New Year’s Day to Jan. 1, from ancient Roman and Greek spring rites, or even from Holi, the Indian Hindu festival, it’s a day to believe even less than ever of what you might read and see.

HectorR

Hector writes a monthly diary in the Bali Advertiser. The next appears on Apr. 26.

A Spicy Date

HECTOR’S DIARY

in the Bali Advertiser

HectorR

Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2017

 

UBUD is the centre of much heritage and tradition in Bali. This remains its principal charm, which is offset only by its other role as a testing ground for the skills – or lack of these – of drivers of huge buses that service the growing Chinese takeaway tourist trade. The narrow streets of Aum Central are believed by package tour operators and entrepreneurial bus companies to be ideally suited to big vehicles.

Fortunately such impediments are only spasmodic. It mightn’t seem that this is the case when you’re caught in one of the regular hour-long crawls around the Monkey Forest-Raya Ubud-Hanoman horror, or the similar stop-start treks up from Lod Tunduh, but it would be churlish and quite wrong to assert that shemozzle is a round-the-clock affair. The roads are generally quite trafficable between midnight and 6am.

Ubud is also Festival Central. It’s home to the Writers and Readers Festival (the 14th, this year, is from Oct. 25-29) and Bali Spirit Festival (Mar. 19-26), and many other celebrations, especially those of the highly favoured navel-gazing variety. Some of these are delightfully boutique affairs where deep and meaningful navel gazing takes on an almost personal perspective. There’s a lot to be said for navel gazing, if this is conducted with an open mind.

Janet DeNeefe’s writers’ festival has gone from strength to strength since its first rendition, which was held as a healing process after the first Bali bombing in 2002. A little while ago it incorporated a culinary element to its programming, which added pedas (spice) to panas (heat). Some wag at the time defined this as fragrant rice meets flagrant lies. The full degustation of the Ubud Food Festival grew from this early appetiser.

This year’s festival is themed Every Flavour is a Story. DeNeefe tells us it is designed to reflect the rich cultural texts that underpin the diverse culinary traditions of the archipelago. Last year’s event attracted around 8000 international visitors, according to the organisers, which naturally provided a spin-off benefit for local traders and accommodation providers. All good.

There are narratives attached to any set of food traditions, of course, and Indonesia’s are richer than many, weaving stories that depict the journey your food has taken from farmer’s plots and livestock owners to the dinner table. UFF, which bills itself as Indonesia’s biggest culinary festival, has invited leading aficionados of the genre to share their insights and kitchen secrets. Leading restaurateurs, food manufacturers, and producers, food writers and gourmands will be on hand to spread the love.

During the three-day event, visitors will be able to join forums, cooking demonstrations, workshops, special events, food markets, musical performances and film showings. Among those down to attend are Tasia and Gracia Seger, known as the Spice Sisters, who recently won a nationwide cooking contest in Australia; Professor Winarno, an expert on tempe; and the “jungle chef” of Papua, Charles Toto, who will introduce unique dishes made from the produce and heritage of Indonesia’s easternmost province.

There’s an international element as well. This year Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones are down to appear. Their Bo.Lan Restaurant in Bangkok is on the best 50 restaurants in Asia list. They will feature in a special street food event together with Indonesian cooking legend Will Meyrick at his Ubud eatery Hujan Locale.

Also back this year will be the Kitchen Stage presenting Indonesian language cooking demonstrations. Look for appearances by Made Runatha and Made Januar from MOKSA; Chef Made Lugra from The Ayung Resorts; and Made Surjaya from The Standing Stones.

Full details are available at www.ubudfoodfestival.com.

Collectors’ Items

There’s a lot of rubbish in Bali. It is a constant problem that becomes most foully evident when it rains and all the stuff everyone’s dumped out of sight – and sometimes just out of olfactory range – in previously dry watercourses gets flushed out into the sea and ends up on the beaches.

Fighting pollution on the beaches is also a constant problem. Many are recruited to the forces deployed against this threat, by means of regular clean-ups and their commitment to public voluntary service is commendable. It’s true of course that the new mass market tourists, from China, along with the increased Indonesian component and the growing Indian one, are less fretful about rubbish than the western tourists who hitherto have been the preferred market.

But this is not an excuse to continue in the false belief that rubbish is not really a problem. The dengue figures alone prove that, as well as the increase in rats that these days, due to other shortsighted policies, are preyed upon by fewer feral dogs.

There is, too, a lot of rubbish talked about rubbish. Those who might assert that no one cares should study the efforts made by the Denpasar city authorities to implement workable local rubbish collection policies, fund these, and enforce the law concerning them. A very good rule is always credit where credit is due.

Denpasar is a city of more than three-quarters of a million people, in a densely settled and therefore more easily administered area, with a revenue base that is beginning to be workable, and an administration that is keen to create and sustain liveability. Other areas of Bali do not have that civic benefit, the services of broadly educated administrators, or the resources to fund effective waste collection and disposal. That, like so much else here, remains a work in progress.

This element of life in Bali needs to be understood by critics who briefly occupy plush villas and wrinkle their noses at the despoiled environment beyond their privileged walls.

Catch a Chill

The Diary is just back home from a brief visit to that other place, the big island to our south where, to quote from a now venerable pop song, women glow and men plunder (not chunder, just by the way) and Vegemite sandwiches are all the rage. So it’s really good to be home, for all sorts of reasons, not least for the reliability of warmth as a constant factor in Bali’s climate.

Our flit this time took us to the southwest corner of Western Australia. A good friend who lives in Bali’s southern suburb was celebrating an important birthday and we had to be there. It was a lovely show, at a surf lifesaving club on Perth’s fantastic beachfront. It was hot in Perth.

Then we went further south, into the karri forest country that is the ancestral territory of the Distaff, and hit one of those quirks of climate that make life in that part of the world so interesting. Rain’s OK – we’re used to that in Bali. But if we ever want thermometer readings in the teens we can trip up to Kintamani or Bedugul and sample these very briefly before getting back in the car and returning speedily to lower altitude and higher temperatures.

It’s summer in the great southern land. But for some reason, Murphy’s Climatic Law has always followed us on our travels. It’s most unfair.

Water Rites

The unusually heavy rains of this year’s strong La Niña wet season will have partly replenished Bali’s groundwater reserves, which is a good thing. But these reserves have been so heavily plundered by over-use and shockingly absent planning and regulation that it would take several successive La Niña events to make any noticeable difference. The reality of global climate cycles is that nature will not provide that benefit. The girl child’s drought-fixated brother El Niño will inevitably return.

Conservation and responsible use – enforced by both law and the effectiveness of price signals on usage – are the only way to prevent terminal decline. There are of course some things humans can do to build sustainable water resources. They could fix deficient reticulation systems, for example, though that seems to be a bridge too far under water for Bali’s authorities at the moment.

Innovative science can help, where perennial and pervasive losses from leakage and thievery won’t. So it was good to see the IDEP Foundation unveil a recharge solution on Feb. 27 designed to counter Bali’s water crisis. It did so by means of a media launch of its demonstration recharge well under the Bali Water Protection (BWP) scheme started in 2015. It’s part of a longer-term solution to the problem of rapidly depleting aquifers, many of which are being invaded by salt water because of the depletion of the water table. It’s apt that this is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The program calls for a network of 136 recharge wells to be installed across Bali, harvesting water to balance consumption. The Bali Water Protection program involves educational programs in 132 schools located along rivers, and a media campaign aimed at raising public awareness for water preservation in the province. The demonstration well has been funded by Fivelements, a luxury wellness resort, which is showing the way by supporting the concept of the entire pilot program.

As IDEP Executive Director Ade Andreawan says, it is vital that Bali’s business communities offer strong support for the program.

HectorR

Hector’s Diary in the Bali Advertiser is published monthly, in every second edition