Vanuatu Daily News Digest | 6 June 2015

The best thing about the weekend papers is that both Daily Post and The Independent carry a Government Budget Policy Statement for 2016 which underscores the elements of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, so necessary following cyclone Pam. Tourism gets first mention where Services are concerned and the Productive sector comes in next to emphasize fisheries, agriculture, forestry and livestock, occupying the majority of the population. The outlook for 2016, especially regarding agriculture in Shefa and Tafea, has been severely affected by Pam, the statement acknowledges. Reduction of foreign exchange earnings means foreign reserves will continue much lower than predicted. The current account is already contracting this year, of course, and VAT exemptions have naturally highlighted this. It is interesting to note, however, that the Government will continue to counter mal-administrative practices such as tax evasion or avoidance by working towards establishing a competent authority. OECD and Global Forum tax information exchange agreements will guide the Government. The Public Finance and Economic Management Act (CAP244) will guide the Government regarding policies in 2016. It’s good to have such an unequivocal policy statement.

Daily Post begins this week quite rightly challenging the VPIEF to ensure it is not another Ponzi scheme, of which we have seen too many in Vanuatu. Membership fees being used to buy land and vehicles when leaders have the support of thirty or forty thousand people is fine, but does not necessarily make money for the investors.

A motion has been lodged, signed by 21 Opposition MPs. Their stated un-constitutional removal, alleged unfairness of cyclone relief, the e-visa scheme with China and alleged mis-use of funds are cited as reasons, to be debated next Thursday.

Unfortunately it seems VRDTCA, the rural training scheme which has produced remarkable results with many young people, is allegedly run down owing to bad management, says Post. The former director was simply allowed to resign. The body has been core-funded by NZaid.

In down-sizing, the Port Vila Municipality has reduced its numbers of workers from 117 to 48, largely by dropping garbage collection personnel.

Post also has the Chamber of Commerce meeting with Lands Minister Regenvanu this coming week to discuss difficulties in obtaining leases. This will be prior to the VCCI’ annual general meeting, also this coming week.

Post also observes the retirement from public life of National Archivist Anne Naupa yesterday with a splendid send-off at the Cultural Centre and a lovely song composed in her honour and sung by VKS uniformed staff.