The Bitter Lessons Experience Teaches Us
The recent (gentle) eruptions of Mount Agung have taught Bali quite a few lessons, which I hope everyone has learned.
The first is so obvious, and so often repeated: ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. Bali is very, very dependent on tourism, and when the tourists stopped coming, there was universal pain around the island: hotels, parks, restaurants, taxis, surf schools, shops and malls clubs & pubs all felt the pinch. Bali must diversify and protect itself. There has to be a concerted plan to achieve this.
The second is a much more difficult subject. When the tourists stopped coming, businesses across the island started laying off workers and putting people on part time status, directly and immediately affecting the very bottom end of the island income earners, in order to protect the profits of the island’s richest owners. To me this is morally and ethically wrong. A business which makes its money (often millions of dollars) from the island has a duty of care to protect its weakest members in times of trouble, not protect the strongest at their expense. I feel we need a social compact which protects the weakest in times of trouble. Stand up and be counted the businesses who said “we will see it through together”.
The last is again very difficult. Who was – and is – in charge of tourism for the island who could, and should, have shared the facts about the potential dangers of Mount Agung and averted the panic which led to the cancellation of so many flights and the down turn of businesses, is the Ministry of Tourism at the national level. For sure, but are they really in tune with and fully aware of practicalities of the island? Is it the Provincial Head of Tourism who runs the Bali Government’s official role? Or is it the Regent’s office (Bupati) where the local taxes actually end up, and who is supposed to directly represent the industry? It seems these roles never were clarified and the correct messages were not delivered in time and the world markets correctly said “well – better safe than sorry, we’d better cancel. We don’t know enough to be 100% safe”. And so, as I predicted 16 years ago after the Bali bombings, the island suffers because the authorities and the private sector have not yet got an effective, efficient, and harmonious crisis management program which can help to prevent one natural disaster leading to another man-made. Can we really not learn these lessons?