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G20 benefits big business in Bali but hobbles local communities

The G20 Summit has boosted the Indonesian tourism island’s economy, but the benefits have not been evenly distributed. Road blocks, heavy security and cordoning of parts of the island have hurt local firms struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

A sign welcomes G20 delegates to Bali
A sign welcomes G20 Summit delegates to Bali. The economic benefits of the meeting of leaders of the biggest economies have not been evenly distributed, according to local business owners. Image: Robin Hicks/Eco-Business

Bali’s battered economy has bounced back as leaders of the world’s richest nations have flocked to the Indonesian island for the G20 Summit, but local businesses and communities have not shared in the prosperity from the glitzy week-long conference, according to local reports.

The island’s tourism-dependent economy, which has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two-and-a-half years, has grown by 8 per cent year on year as a result of the G20 preparations, according to official data published last week.

But the main beneficiaries of G20 have been big hotel chains and conference venues.

Agus, who uses one name, a 42 year-old manager of a villa complex in Jimbaran, a district that neighbours Nusa Dua, the southern part of Bali where the event is being held, told Eco-Business that local businesses have not seen any trickle-down benefits from the summit.

Sutan Ramadan, a 36 year-old business owner, said that the local economy around Nusa Dua has shrunk by half because of movement restrictions imposed for the event.

Shops in the area have been asked to close, road blocks have curtailed business for the island’s delivery riders, and heavy traffic has made deliveries arduous. 

Ride-hailing apps Grab and Gojek shut down in the Nusa Dua area on Wednesday, one of the busiest days of G20, to avoid outside traffic entering the convention centre area without passes.

Fisheries on the south coast of Bali have also been affected, with a fishing ban imposed around the Nusa Dua area over the course of the conference.

Schools in the district have also been closed, and students taught virtually.

Waste collection services have stopped in the Nusa Dua area for G20 week. “Garbage trucks smell and they don’t present a good image of Bali to world leaders,” said Edison, a 65 year-old fisherman from West Sumatra, who has lived in Bali for 30 years.

He said that while the G20 had not been immediately beneficial for local communities, it would help Bali’s economy in the long run. “At least there’s hope for the future. Seventeen visiting presidents have put Bali back on the map,” he said.

Speaking at the G20 Summit on Tuesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he was optimistic that the G20 would be “a catalyst for inclusive economic recovery” amid tough global conditions.

The G20 Summit made headlines last week for blocking environmental activists from attending. Several students protesting against the summit on Lombok, an island neighbouring Bali, were arrested on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Dian Anderson

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