Vanuatu daily news digest | 11 February 2013Posted: February 11, 2013
Last year over 600 people from China or Hong Kong people achieved special investor status and now do not need a work permit to work in Vanuatu, Port Vila MP Ralph Regenvanu points out on VBTC News this morning. He questions the set-up of the Hong Kong Permanent Residence Visa scheme by VFSC and VIPA. If such people are awarded permanent residence status by Government, says Regenvanu, they could enter Vanuatu to work in shops and on building sites as they won’t need a work permit for any category of employment. Employment in stores and on building sites has previously been reserved for ni-Vanuatu. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Toara Daniel, signed an order in January permitting such work-permit-free employment, and backdated it by more than a year. MP Regenvanu questions why, when the Hong Kong Investment Programme was launched by the Government, was it was not explained that anyone could come and work in Vanuatu, said Regenvanu? The DG of Internal Affairs, George Bogiri (who we thought had been asked to resign by his Minister) said the program was set up because the Prime Minister wanted to raise more revenue due to an expected budgetary shortfall. “What do you really want?” Regenvanu asks the Government. “Are you trying to give a legitimacy to foreigners who have been working against the labour laws since 2011? What about work for ni-Vanuatu who have a legal priority?”
Australian organised crime figure Mick Gatto has been linked to Port Vila online betting agency BetJack, reported the Australian media over the weekend. Gatto is known in Australia as the inspiration for a character in a hit TV series about Melbourne’s criminal underworld, Underbelly. He was charged with the suspected murder of a hitman in 2004 but was acquitted. More background about his recent tax troubles here and here, and his attempts at public relations here. Gatto denies any involvement in BetJack, though as the story we linked to yesterday points out, the secrecy provisions of Vanuatu’s tax haven make Gatto’s claim impossible to verify.
While on the topic of Vanuatu’s tax haven and the kind of people it attracts, from New Zealand comes word of some new arrivals to Port Vila who have skipped out on their NZ tax obligations. “After leaving behind a string of collapsed businesses which owe nearly [NZ]$2.5 million to the New Zealand taxman”, says the New Zealand Herald, Ross Harold Fitches and Christine Angela Fitches appear to have escaped to Port Vila. The couple are on a NZ Govt list of people who are banned from running a company there. We wonder if the Fitches have made any application to VIPA, and if so, if VIPA is aware of their background.
Ten scholarship holders for the University of New Caledonia were refused permission to continue their studies this year when they turned up at the Scholarships Office on 28 January, Daily Post reveals this morning in information from the Vanuatu Anti-Corruption Commission (VACC). The students’ names had already appeared on the list of successful students following 2012 exams. The list, however, was modified by the Minister. VACC sees this as a “direct interference” in their studies and future prospects.
Government has expressed its displeasure at the failure of its own directors-general and Ministers to attend the ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the new Vila Central Hospital. PM Sato Kilman and the Japanese Ambassador Yutuka Yoshizawa officially launched the project together last week, but building work commenced late last year. Government Public Relations Officer, Jeff Joel Patunvanu, says the PM is disappointed with the turnout of senior government officials because it presents a poor image to donor partners like Japan who have given money to Vanuatu’s health sector. Only 3 or 4 DGs turned up, said Patunvanu on Radio Vanuatu News, and some Ministers failed to attend. We wonder why it is considered the role of the new Public Relations Officer to point out the defects in Government leadership. It will surely only exacerbate what disunity there clearly is already.
Port Vila MP Ralph Regenvanu says the Government should spend money on dealing with the many challenges people are facing today, instead of putting it in MP’s pockets. He was commenting on the order signed by PM Kilman to create a new position under the Official Salaries Act—Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, for his coalition partner, MP Moana Carcasses Kalosil. Carcasses’ official salary is higher than that of the President of Vanuatu, according to the Public Service Commission’s official salary scale. Regenvanu says the new post is a waste of public money, especially when there are insufficient Government funds for basic services. Says Regenvanu: “The Parliamentary Secretary, or Chancellor, we do not yet know exactly what is the title for the position which will give employment to MP Moana Kalosil, as the Leader of the Opposition says, is both unnecessary and a waste of public money. It will cost the public over VT 3 million, but just think of the roads on your island needing repair and maintenance when there are teachers unpaid and scholarships for which Government says it has no money.” Regenvanu says there is no need for work to find aid donor funds. The Department of Economic and Sector Planning and the Aid Management Unit, both part of the Prime Minister’s Office, already do this.
Ports and Harbours Acting Director Glen Takau is taking advice from the tenders board concerning the sale of the Government-owned ships Northern Star and Southern Star. They have deteriorated to a “quite dangerous” state, he says. “They are no longer safe.” In addition, there are two other vessels the government should sell, and one is Euphrosyne, the pre-Independence British Residency vessel, which Takau says has been working but he is not aware of any agreement covering this.