Jun 26 2007

Bali economics: “thinking like an economist” on the Island of the Gods!

Legong: a traditional dance practice in the artisan community of UbudIF you’ve visited this blog in the last two weeks, you’ve probably seen the picture below of a beautiful sunset, a distant island and a wispy palm. Turns out I stayed two nights on the beach that picture was taken from, Ahmed in Bali’s remote northwest corner! What a beautiful island Bali is! Unlike many touristy places in Southeast Asia such as Phuket and Samui in Thailand, Bali is an island paradise that has managed to develop a thriving tourist industry while simultaneously maintaining its distinct Hindu culture and traditions that awe visitors and help them understand why it’s called the “island of the gods”. Not only do most Balinese outside the one or two major cities still live in the traditional style houses, but they actively practice their unique form of Hinduism (imported from India via Java in the 11th century), maintain the traditional forms of dance and religious ritual, and sustain themselves by practicing any number of artistic trades rooted in the island’s rich and colorful history. Indeed, in most villages we passed through, it was hard to tell which buildings were temples and which were houses. As much of Indonesia and the rest of Asia have rushed head-on into the age of globalization (often meaning westernization), Bali has thankfully held on to and even fostered one very precious and all too rare commodity: its own history.Art is everywhere in Bali. These statues look over Ahmed's fishing fleet and protect fishermen on their risky voyages to sea.

Certainly after a year in Shanghai, where the closest thing to religion among urban Chinese is the pursuit of wealth, a couple of weeks in the rich spiritual heart of an ancient Hindu island culture was just what I needed to remind myself what was important in life. But alas, once an economist always an economist, and even with a thousand years of rich cultural heritage to turn my attention from school and economics, I could not help but notice the intricacies of Bali’s economy and how tourism and globalization have affected this remote island culture. My next few posts will cover casual observations made during my 16 day trip to Bali about its local economy and how it has been shaped by the global economy and tourism.


About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Bali economics: “thinking like an economist” on the Island of the Gods!”

  1. Dannyon 14 Aug 2007 at 11:44 pm

    By not globalizing, Bali is perhaps attracting tourists as some people like seeing the local culture when going on vacation.

  2. Kai Lin Fuon 01 Sep 2007 at 2:47 pm

    I agree, Bali has maintained its unique Hindu culture and that has atrracted people around the world. By doing this it has increased their economy due to the increase in tourists.

  3. Kai Lin Fuon 01 Sep 2007 at 2:48 pm

    I agree, Bali has maintained its unique Hindu culture and that has attracted people around the world. By doing this it has increased their economy due to the increase in tourists.

  4. Gabrielon 16 Sep 2008 at 5:35 am

    Sounds like a nice trip for a summer holiday. Bali has maintained its tradition and has not pursuited industrialisation. The tradition of this country makes it a tourtist attraction, and the fact that it is called "The Island of the Gods" makes it even more desirable for a holiday destination. The fact that they have decided to keep their tradition and not industrialise means that they may not become the next world power, but maybe thats not whay they need or want. It's good seeing some countires that are still interested in tradition and history and not just money and profit.

  5. Armaan Malhotraon 16 Sep 2008 at 7:22 am

    I would like to correct Gabriel for saying "The tradition of this country", as Bali is very different from the rest of Indonesia, having lived in Jakarta for 4 years and having visited Bali multiple times I can vouch for this. 🙂

    Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation and yet the majority of Bali is Hindu, which is rather surprising given how Islamic nations are not generally very tolerant of other religions. Another thing that differentiates it is the lack of factories, something that is commonplace in the rest of Indonesia. If memory serves me well, Bali also lacks many of the huge highways that sprawl all over Indonesia. The reason that these facts remain true are because the government has realized that Bali can make more money from tourism than it ever could have from having factories, highways and other things that would replace the islands rustic feel with a more modern feel, one that wouldn't appeal as much to those looking for "paradise", somewhere people don't have to be reminded of work and the stressful lives they live in their home countries. So by not building up the infrastructure, Bali benefits, which is the opposite of what usually occurs.

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