Bali receives over 3,000,000 visitors every year with revenue from tourism in excess of 5.5 billion US dollars. Even so, there are many residents of Bali who live in abject poverty. It is said that 162,051 people live under the poverty line in Bali, most of them in the many villages. Moreover, the poverty rate in the said villages is double that of urban areas. Currently, the poverty rate of Bali stands just above 35%.
Unfortunately, it has been found that income from farming has been dwindling even as the price of various essential goods gets further out of reach for the Balinese. A two hour drive away from the many 5 star hotels, you will find the villages considered to be remote. The people living here lack basic education, electricity and clean water. Children in these villages must walk many kilometers to school. Additionally, many Balinese are pushed into the dry north with its infertile soils by the ever-encroaching tourist developments that have taken over more fertile areas located in the south.
In the villages, opportunities and jobs are scarce resulting in a continuous stream of rural urban migration. Men are leaving their families in the village to seek jobs and other opportunities in the tourist area. This means that the women must take on the roles of their husbands at home in addition to their own. Even though they may find jobs in the tourist areas, these poor migrant workers earn a pittance that is not comparable to what the business rakes in from tourism. Minimum wage is Bali is about US $125 or 1,542,600 Indonesian Rupiah.
Bali’s Governor, Mangku Pastika, had stated that the thriving tourism sector was a “disaster” for those living in poverty. His concern was that the price of many basic commodities had been hiked quite high leaving poor farmers with no choice but to sell their property in order to get cash to meet their daily needs. Initially, he had worked hard to keep the tourist accommodation developments at bay, but this was ignored by the various local authorities because of the political administrative structure. Bali now finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place – the need for tourism to drive the economy and the disaster for those living in poverty.
All the same, the governor is currently working hard to resolve this issue. He has put forward many plans for poverty alleviation including a housing aid, solar panel installation, an integrated farming scheme and free healthcare. He is also working to bring down the poverty rate in Bali.