Bali governor remains adamant on recommending Balinese families have 4 children

Bali Governor Wayan Koster. Photo: Bali Provincial Government
Bali Governor Wayan Koster. Photo: Bali Provincial Government

Bali Governor Wayan Koster said he will go forward with his plans to advise islanders to consider having four children even if his policy is rejected by the central government. 

“Even if it is not approved [by the central government], we will go ahead with it anyway,” Koster said on Wednesday, as reported by Detik. 

According to the report, Koster is scheduled to meet the head of the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), Hasto Wardoyo, in the near future. Koster plans on explaining why traditional Balinese family units have four children. 

In Bali, children are traditionally named based on their order of birth, so the firstborn child is named Wayan, Putu or Gede, the second is named Made or Kadek, the third child is named Nyoman or Komang, and the fourth is named Ketut. If a family has more than four children, the cycle starts over again. For example, a fifth-born child could be named Wayan Balik, which loosely translates to ‘another Wayan’.

Koster first initiated the idea back in November, when he noted that the current national family planning program that tells parents “dua anak cukup, (which translates as “two children is enough”) is outdated and not suitable for Bali. 

The local government has stepped up the campaign in recent months, citing concerns over a significant decline in Bali’s local population.

It’s an interesting campaign, to say the least. Indonesia’s population of over 260 million is the fourth-largest in the world, with a national birth rate of 1.36%, according to 2017 data from the Central Statistics Agency. 

The birth rate in Bali, meanwhile, stood at 1.21% between 2010 and 2016, a steep decline from 2.15% in the decade that preceded it. While the government might have been factually correct in citing that Bali’s birth rate has been in decline, it’s still unclear how campaigning for a higher birth rate on the island might affect the rest of the country. 

“There is no regulation that says families can only have two children, there are those with 11, 12 [children],” Koster said. 

He explained that the Governor Instruction for four children in Bali is not mandatory, but a suggestion. 

“If they can’t [have four children] because the wife can only bear one child, [we certainly wouldn’t] tell them to have more wives,” Koster added, likely referring to the recent proposal by the government in the ultraconservative region of Aceh to legalize polygamy.

The governor also seemed optimistic that having four children would not bring economic hardship for Balinese families, alluding to how families have always found a way to make a living in the past, including through selling canang, a common daily offering used among Balinese Hindus.

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