Understanding Bali Reclamation Protest

Berlin, April 2015

Seminyak beach in Bali

This essay is trying to stake out a conflict and dynamic negotiation process between the government, investors, and local Balinese people. It is questioning why the conflict occurs. How does each actor derive bargaining power? What resolution strategy solves the deadlock?

Planning conflict dynamic

The effect of the city as a ‘growth machine’ paradigm that is embedded in the state entities has unleashed an urban protest in Teluk Benoa in Bali. The Balinese government seeks to increase the capacity of tourist visits through expanding land to provide new spaces for hotels, villas, and resorts.  A planning agenda of sea reclamation around Teluk Benoa was released by the planning elite in response to land scarcity. However, frequent rejections of the project have been deployed through the media, a street march, and art performances due to the stigma of development and distrust of the government.

Teluk Benoa is a vital, urbanized, famous tourist district in Bali specializing in convention and leisure. Many global investors come to the city trying to capture the business value and get involved in the huge tourist market in Bali. Harvey describes how the state reacts to serve those investors by providing new land.

An attractive business climate is likely to be a magnet for capital flow, and so states go out of their way to augment their powers by setting up havens for capital investment (Harvey, 2003, p. 108).

Balinese people spend 150 holidays a year, for religious ceremonies, and make them uncompetitive to involve them in tourism professionals market. The local human resource is mostly  only able to be involved in tourism’s small enterprises, such as  watersport providers or street vending. Thus, a global market competition in Bali has impoverished local business automatically and threatens its existence.

Inevitably, the dynamic process of tourism beautification and urbanization has produced a gentrification to local Balinese people. The resistance trough protest is a complement aimed at re-regulation the economic power, and redirecting the state power (Graham, 2014, p. 349). They attempt status quo of development and hope their informality business in watersport, and street vending keep steady as usual. In addition, they build alliance with environment NGOs and try to emphasize conservation issue as supporting the argument.

Negotiation Strategies

The negotiation process is keep going on between investors and the states. They hired local eminent university to held feasibility study that is merely for emphasizing the projected reliability. Whatever the community response, the capitalist just thinking of mathematical numbers and relied on modeling of profitability (Bourdieu, 1998, p. 101). Furthermore, the investors tried to engage with local traditional figures. They offer to build new school building, football pitch, improve the turtle conservatory to compensate and job opportunities, but then demanding the security during the construction (Bali Post, 2013).

In these cases, the state apparently supports the compensation program for affected people and sets a perpetual agenda to replace local market players with global actors. Hence, Harvey’s argument about social rationality might be the strategy that works.

Those arguing for efficiency and growth grounds frequently invoked utilitarian arguments, notions of ‘public good’ and the greatest benefit to the greatest number, while recognizing (at their best) that individual sacrifices were inevitable and that it was right and proper to offer appropriate compensation for those who would be displaced (Harvey, 2002, p. 593).

In fact, currently, the negotiations still face a deadlock. Why does the compensation not work? The process works unequally. Private organizations are still inflexible about re-planning the project since they do not expect a loss in investment. Meanwhile,  the states keep the plan because they argue that providing new space in the sea is urgent and better than sprawling. Nevertheless, the local Balinese people are aware that eventually, they will just become cheap tourism labor.


picture source: Tribunnews


The Balinese government should fundamentally re-question the sea reclamation idea and involve all stakeholders. Society’s needs should be considered prior to shifting the perspective from subject-object to inter-subject perception (Healey, 1992). At the least, it requires the dominant class’s underpin and mandate to be abolished. Their capital needs to be brought to the inflection point (Harvey, 2012, p. 128). In other words, the negotiations should assess the existing situation and improve local businesses, not just merely promise to provide jobs which embbeded with cheap labour agenda.

Achmad Faris Saffan Sunarya


Bali Post [WWW Document], 2013. . Balipost.com. URL (accessed 2.17.15).

Bourdieu, P. 1998. Acts of resistance: Againts the Tyranny of The Market. New York Press.

ForBALI Newsletter. 2014. 13 Reason to Cancel Teluk Benoa Reclamation.

Graham, S., 2014. Cities under siege the new military urbanism. Verso, [S.l.].

Harvey, D., 2002. Social justice, postmodernism and the city. Read. Urban Theory 588–601.

Harvey, D., 2012. Rebel cities: from the right to the city to the urban revolution. Verso, New York.

Healey, P. 1992. Planning Trough Debate: The Communicative Turn in Planning Theory. Liverpool University Press.

Pabligbagan BALI TV Interview: Do we need Teluk Benoa Reclamation?, 2013. Balitvnews, Denpasar.


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