Prime Minister slams Financial Intelligence Unit for freezing 2017 Pacific Games bank account, confirms full Govt support for VAN2017

Logo of the 2017 Vanuatu Pacific Games

A new statutory body has been created to enable VAN2017 to resume its management of the 2017 Vanuatu Pacific Games, due to take place this time next year. VAN2017 was set up as a charitable organisation, but the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) froze their bank account, seemingly arbitrarily, following a series of Council of Ministers decisions which appear to aimed at wresting control away from the organising committee and back to the Government.

Daily Post reports today that Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has strongly criticised the FIU’s actions, writing in a letter to the FIU Manager that “there is no clear evidence that VAN2017 has been engaged in any fraudulent actions or that state funds have been misused in any way… I am deeply concerned that despite the absence of any offence you have requested that the VAN2017 account be frozen, and this has drastically affected the preparation and organization of the Games”.

VAN2017 has now been reconstituted as a public body. VASANOC and the Pacific Games Council, together with government, now agree the new arrangement is beyond suspicion. Daily Post today devotes considerable space to the commitment of all concerned to VAN2017 and Radio Vanuatu has broadcast the VASANOC acceptance of the new arrangement.

For the diary, with Monday’s special sitting now revoked by the Prime Minister, ad hoc committees being unable to report as yet, Monday sees the second ordinary sitting resumed. Then, on course there will be the motion of no confidence on Thursday at 4.

Daily Post today also reports that Vanuatu will receive its first Chinese cruise ship passengers on Monday. They will only arrive at 12 noon. Travelling on the Costa Atlantica, their Asia and South Pacific tour is taking them to Jeju, Busan, Saipan, Port Vila, Tahiti, Fiji and Noumea. Some 900 passengers are expected here.

Notable in today’s Daily Post is an article by Daniel J Mitchell of the libertarian Cato Institute in the United States who addressed a gathering at the Convention Centre this week. His far-right wing message is one of “Income tax is a recipe for Economic Stagnation.” That’s the subject of his item in Daily Post today. He raises as a topic for discussion here the tax havens of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. No-one involved the income tax debate today seems to remember that the New Hebrides received its schooling in tax havenry from the British as one of the two colonial masters here at the same time as the British dependent territories in the Caribbean and Atlantic. The British used the tax haven model as one for dependent territories with little to export but copra and ill-educated inhabitants. But the New Hebrides managed to achieve its independence and republican status, as did Switzerland a long time before, and it should be noted that Bermuda and the Cayman Islands are still dependent territories. Anyway, Switzerland manages its economic wizardry in such a manner that Daniel Mitchell sees as helpful to Vanuatu. Who can the VCCI invite to come and address the Vanuatu public from Zurich for yet another angle on taxation?

Airports Vanuatu Limited and Tontouta Airport (through the New Caledonian Chamber of Commerce) have signed a working agreement which sees a sharing of resources. AVL CEO Jason Rakau sees the agreement as particularly useful now that Bauerfield is working towards Code E status. Fire fighters are going to go to New Caledonia early in the New Year for more extensive training. (Daily Post)

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced an A$1 million package to help Vanuatu’s disabled on her visit to this week. TVET in particular receives the boost, as it should as a leader in promoting disability training. TVET’s Sherol George said the money will be used “to strengthen training providers to develop disability programmes.”(Daily Post)

Government is at last renovating a number of the Independence Park and Joint Court residences it owns. The Public Service Commission seems to have a well considered plan for making better use of the many substantial old houses which can still be reclaimed. (Daily Post)