All daily news media have covered the main good, post-Pam news stories of the last 24 hours. RVS Tukoro was returned to base at Paray Bay after being re-launched from its beaching at Moso island. There was considerable praise for Performance Marine Limited’s re-float with the king tide to reduce possible damage. Roimata 2 slid out Tukoro and divers established there was no serious damage and Tukoro could return to base. The Solomons’ patrol vessel Auki escorted Tukoro to Paray Bay. The Defence Agreement with Australia will determine how, when and where Tukoro will be slipped.
The Queensland Ambulance Service has provided Promedical with a new ambulance to the delight of Promedical Manager, Michael Benjamin. It was delivered by an Australian Defence Force plane. Deputy High Commissioner Flores commended Promed for its response around Efate in the Pam cyclone emergencies.
The Turkish Government has contributed a first cash donation of USD 150,000 to relief efforts after cyclone Pam.
Five people have received gaol terms of 15 years following the witchcraft case of Akhamb. Premeditated intentional homicide was the charge against the 5 of a total of 12 defendants. The homicide resulted in the death of 2 persons locally blamed for allegedly practising witchcraft on that island, Post reports today. Chief Justice Lunabek heard the case last week in Luganville.
The complaints concerning inaccurate reporting of aid distribution are rife in the media this weekend and the Media Association of Vanuatu – MAV – is counselling journalists to check all information they receive. This follows from the anger expressed by the Prime Minister that a child had reportedly died from hunger on Tanna as a result of slow progress with food relief. The Independent opens with reporting today that "Government rations are inadequate". Thence follows complicated mathematics based on UN figures for daily rice consumption in countries where rice is the staple food. Our consumption is only close to the UN recommended figure, says the Independent, "thanks to the continuing almost daily support from the North Efate expat community". MP Gillion from Lelepa, however, confirms that relief food did arrive on Lelepa unlike what was stated by certain individuals claiming to be chiefs. The full accounting of relief and where it went will not be assembled until much later, and the Digest will ignore the majority of the premature or ill-founded complaints. PM Natuman had a special word of gratitude for the manner in which the 58-member Fijian Engineering and Health Team sped to Vanuatu’s assistance, coping with such as repair to Onesua, Manua and Takara schools at North Efate, and Lenakel Hospital on Tanna. Major operations were carried out on Tanna and 19 newborn babies assisted on their way into the post-Pam world.
Devpolicy Blog today offers a report on Timor-Leste’s alternatives to de-centralisation …
By Terry Russell on Apr 17, 2015 06:00 am
Timor-Leste’s decentralisation process is steadily moving ahead. In 2014, Decree-Law no. 4/2014 clarified the new decentralised governance structures, and in January 2015, a Social Market Economy Special Zone was formally established in one of Timor Leste’s thirteen districts, Oé-cusse, which has been granted a special autonomous status by the government. However, decentralisation, as I have written elsewhere, is hamstrung by a lack of systems and trained human resources at the district level. It will thus have little impact on rural development in the short term. What else can Timor Leste do to foster rural development?
Last week, the government made changes to its overall 2015 budget, reducing support for two particular decentralisation programs, the PNDS (Programa Nasional Dezenvolvimentu Suku) and PDID (Planeamento Desenvolvimento Integrado Distrital). However, the government is still devoting a high percentage – around 35% – of the budget to infrastructure development. This is more promising than its decentralisation strategy because expanded infrastructure has immediate spin-off effects. It improves access to services like banking, health and education and it facilitates small business.
Improvement in telecommunications is already having an impact on rural banking. The National Commercial Bank of Timor-Leste (BNCTL) has expanded its services so that it now has branches in all thirteen districts. Another bank, BNU Timor, has started an experimental program that allows customers to make payments, transfers and withdrawals via their mobile phone with a limit of US$300 per transfer and US$400 per withdrawal. This means that as telecommunications infrastructure expands, so does rural access to banking services.
Improvement in telecommunications is also impacting on health and education. To expand rural people’s access to midwives, the Ministry of Health has teamed up with NGOs to run the Liga Inan program. The program facilitates text message communication between midwives and pregnant women to allow for the exchange of information and an increased probability of a midwife attending births. Emergency services also rely heavily on mobile phone communication to hear about emergencies. As telecommunications infrastructure improves, these mobile-phone-based services can reach more people. The government’s Strategic Development Plan, 2011–2030 [pdf] also specifies that, by 2015, “All schools, health posts and health clinics will be connected to the internet.” This target may be reached a few years later than planned. However, when it is achieved, the internet will not only help teachers and medical professionals with their services to the public, but might even serve as a leisure pursuit that helps retain such professionals in isolated villages.
Expansion of electricity and road networks will also have spin-off effects. The government originally planned for everyone in Timor-Leste to have access to reliable electricity 24 hours a day by 2015 [pdf]. Whenever these targets are achieved, the electricity supply will improve the ability of students and other people to work at night, widen the use of mobile phones and computers, and allow refrigeration and other electric equipment to be used by health services and small businesses. Improved roads mean reduced costs of travel and transporting goods. If coupled with appropriate incentive structures, improved roads may even encourage public servants to travel more often to rural areas or to service a wider area in a day’s travel.
These infrastructure programs seem more beneficial, in the short term, than decentralisation. Besides infrastructure development, the government can improve rural economies by attracting investment. One model is the Special Social Market Economy Zone in Oé-cusse, which hopes to attract private investment through high quality infrastructure and the creation of a free trade zone, with exemption from nationally collected taxes. Another model is the Public Private Partnership, whereby the government is sharing the costs of large scale infrastructure projects, like expanding the airport in Dili and the port in Tibar. These costly approaches could also be used to attract private investment to other parts of Timor Leste.
A less costly model for other districts is that of public-private joint enterprises, with the government investing smaller amounts with the aim of building profit-making businesses rather than infrastructure. The involvement of private investors would help make the business more efficient. The involvement of the government would reduce risks for private investors by allowing any profits in the start-up phase to be taken wholly by the private investor, with profit-sharing only required at a later stage. Government involvement could also draw on wide support from a variety of public offices to help the business succeed. The risk of collusion in the selection of private enterprises could be reduced by ensuring the selection process is transparent and based on clear, objectively measurable criteria.
Though the government would in effect be subsidising the private investor (local or foreign) during the start-up phase, it and the wider population would gain in other ways. Increased employment outside Dili could help reduce crime, tensions within families (which can lead to break-ups and gender-based violence), and even the unsanitary overcrowding in Dili. It could also allow people to gain new skills and lead indirectly to many new businesses as more money circulates outside Dili.
As an illustration, two districts that offer much scope for medium-scale public-private joint enterprises are Liquica and Ermera. Liquica has potential for a wide economic base. It has tourism potential, with its beaches and easy access to Dili. It could even be a stop-over for tourists on their way overland to and from Indonesia. A resort could be built near the lake and fort at Maubara, possibly in the same location where the Indonesians built a resort in the 1990s. Ermera and the hills of Liquica District have coffee. They also have some of Timor-Leste’s highest rainfall, with their hills deemed suitable for aquaculture [pdf]. They could thus supply fresh-water fish to Dili markets. Liquica District could also be home to fishing fleets. The national government could partner with a private investor to set up a cold storage warehouse and transport facility near the aquaculture ponds or the fishing fleets. Other business ventures aimed at the Dili market or international market could be a fish processing facility on the coast of Liquica District, a coffee processing facility in Ermera District, a commercial fishing fleet based at Tibar, a winery in Liquica and a copra processing facility in Liquica. In February 2015, Timor-Leste’s National Parliament allocated USD $500 million to develop port facilities in Tibar village so that local businesses could store or ship out their products.
If sufficiently large urban centres can be developed around Baucau or on the south coast, these too could become major domestic markets and export routes.
Whilst many of these business ideas have already been trialled by NGOs, these organisations have generally been more effective at promoting food security and small-scale business development than larger scale business development. This may be because of short time-lines and their close focus on the poor, without involving others who have management skills and capital. NGO programs and government policies since 2002 have so far led to only minimal private investment outside Dili, and decentralisation will have little economic impact in the short term.
It would be politically damaging for Timor Leste’s new Prime Minister and socio-economically damaging for Timor-Leste’s rural poor if the government’s only strong economic revitalisation program was in Oé-cusse. The keys to rural development, at least in the short term, lie in high-quality, rapidly expanding infrastructure and in finding new ways to promote private investment.
Dr Terry Russell worked with the UNTAET mission in East Timor in 2001–2002 and has, as an NGO worker and consultant, made regular visits to Timor-Leste since its independence.
The Black Hawk helicopters which have been so helpful during the Pam emergency are being dismantled prior to their return to Australia by Hercules. UNICEF is continuing to provide additional help for education. Chief Senimau Tirsupe, President of the Malvatumauri, is insisting all assistance requests are placed through their acknowledged chiefs to avoid illegal claims. Listings of aid givers have been transmitted through Radio Vanuatu News.
PM Natuman has paid a tribute to the Asian Development Bank with the Government of New Zealand for the increased funding for the Inter-island Shipping Support Project, upgrading port services, especially to the most remote islands, Post reports. VCMB is also approving VT 2 million to assist farmers with kava, cocoa and copra production.
PACNEWS Second Edition
Thursday 16 April 2015
AUST – CYCLONE ASSISTANCE: AAP/RNZI
PACNEWS 2: Thu 16 Apr 2015
Another $5 million for Vanuatu: Bishop
CANBERRA, 16 APRIL 2015 (AAP/RNZI) —Australia will provide an extra $5 million (US$3.8 million) to Vanuatu as it continues to recover from deadly Cyclone Pam.
The funding will be spent on urgent repairs to schools and health infrastructure, as well as helping restore food sources, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced.
Australia already has donated $10 million (US$7.7 million) in emergency relief.
Meanwhile, Vanuatu’s Port Vila Hospital is in urgent need of blood and is calling for donations. Blood specialist Neil Walters says there was a shortage of blood before last month’scyclone but now supplies are at an even more desperate level.
Walters says the hospital’s stock is nearly empty which is causing concern as its operations continue. “We’re still having babies born. There’s still surgery, people still getting sick. There’s also patients being referred from the other islands so demand has gone up a bit. Also at the same time people are busy post-cyclone. There’s a little bit of flu going around at the moment so donations have dropped off a bit.”
Walters says the hospital is in need of at least six donors per day to meet demand….PACNEW
The Government has extended the duty and VAT free period for building materials following cyclone Pam. It dates from today and lasts until June 12.
Government is also seeking to prosecute those importers, wholesalers and retailers, who have taken advantage of the State of Emergency to increase mark-ups. There have been many complaints. Full cooperation is sought from the business sector, Radio Vanuatu reported today.
Eton village, East Efate, suffered great damage. Mamas of Eton and other villages and the NDMO have set up an information centre to inform especially women and the disabled.
The NZ army forces will complete their reconstruction efforts in public buildings in the Shepherds in the next week.
Government has also decided, with apologies, to defer the claims of the Fishermen’s Assn in view of the cyclone Pam disaster.
The MSG Trade Agreement rules are being discussed in Port Vila this week, under what is called MSGTA3. New chapters are being included on Services, Investment, Labour Mobility, and Government Procurement. Officials from such services are included in the talks.
STOP OGM Pacifique views on genetic modification are clearly expressed today in Daily Post Letters. STOP OGM makes it clear their efforts re intended to assist farmers.