Local Bali petrol business heading out the door

Local Bali petrol business are out the door petrol bowser

The new portable petrol bowsers destroying local Bali economies

Local Bali petrol business heading out the door

In another example of big business taking over from the local family businesses in Bali, now the introduction of portable metered petrol bowsers, local Bali petrol business heading out the door.

One of the more quaint things about Bali has been being able to buy petrol from the small stands full of old vodka bottles (nearly) full of petrol seemingly everywhere on the side of the road at all times of the day and night.

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Many a time I have experienced running out of petrol (the gauge on my bike has never worked properly so I tend to not notice I am nearly out) a long way from a petrol station and way past their closing time, and have lucked upon one of these family businesses that make a few rupiahs from petrol.

The bottles were sold as litre bottles regardless of the fact that they were only 700ml, and usually only 70-80% full anyway, and priced at 20-30% higher than the standard station price, so petrol was relatively quite expensive to buy this way, often over US$1 a litre.

However, manned as they often were by grandmothers or young kids doing their bit for the family budget, it felt like a nice way of supporting the local economy and local enterprise, and an extra 30-40 cents for a litre of petrol bought in the early hours of the morning was a small price to pay for the convenience.

As of late 2015, however, portable, metered petrol bowsers stated replacing these petrol stands. Owned by the Pertamina petrol company, the Indonesian petrol monopoly, and manned by low paid employees, this event is yet another sign of locals being pushed out of a market they had been relying on for extra money each month.

The petrol costs a premium, usually 1-2000 rupiah more than at the pump, but less than the bottles, so the bottled-petrol sellers have been put out of business and no longer open late at night.

These new bowsers are also not open late at night so there is a loss of amenity to locals and visitors alike. Now these corner entrepeneurs have lost a source of income, especially the grandparents, that they cannot replace.

I have seen similar things happening with the impact of the proliferation of the Circle K, Alphamart and Indomart (and others) franchise chains that have forced the closure of family owned stores that were on every corner, where the basics could be bought.

From a purely consumer’s perspective, both of these ‘advances’ seem to be good things. However, what it has meant on the ground is that the local business owners have now been replaced by low paid employees.

Local Bali petrol business are out the door petrol bottles

Bottled petrol shops, soon a thing of the past

This is catastrophic to the local communities, undermining their ability to support themselves in a meaningful way, which only increases poverty and the connections and ‘community’ that locally owned and operated businesses provide.

The local businesses also sold fruit and veggies, locally sourced prepared food and drinks. Personally their closure has meant that I have to drive to the market 2ks away to buy my papaya instead of 100 metres.

By local, I mean the owners may live on site, or within a hundred metres or so.

Take income away from one part of a community and it flows through to the rest as the absent owners are the ones making profits they spend elsewhere.

Take traditional sources of income away from simple and largely uneducated people and then they get desperate and criminal thinking is spawned.

I am not a luddite and against ‘progress’, and I like cheaper prices if sustainable and the members of the supply chain earn a living wage, but some progress can be a negative thing. Prices in the convenience store chains are often 10-15% higher than in the locally owned places.

Local communities are important, and as foreigners, who spend lots of money in Bali, we have a responsibility to support local businesses if we want the ‘old Bali’ to survive.

By Mark O’Brien, June 2016

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Simon Landsheer July 7, 2016 at 2:20 pm

I don't think the content of the article is quite right... These petrol dispensers are not related to Pertamina at all, some smart local businessman have just 'borrowed' the name and call these Pertamini and sell them to small business owners, these business owners still mark-up the price and buy the petrol from Pertamina the same way as they used to top-up their vodka bottles.

admin July 7, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Thanks. Point remains tho - employees on basic wage putting entrepreneurs out of business. In my area - Muding Indah- there are no longer petrol stalls at night. So after-hours petrol finished. On main roads like Raya Kerobokan they still have some, near Petitenget.

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