VANUATU may have not signed its sovereignty away with the seven MoUs it signed with China pre-APEC, but there are a number of concerns. WW and others he has spoken to are disturbed that the only way this raft of paperwork came to light was through leaks to the media. Every time the government signs anything or makes any decision, it is doing so on behalf of the people of Vanuatu and they have a right to know what is happening in advance. This government, like its predecessors, operates under a veil of secrecy that is just plain wrong. There is a great deal of lip service about transparency by this government and basically it is just that and no more.
As to the contents of the deals just made, we now know that China has agreed to hand Vanuatu $60 million for a mysterious new initiative called the Container Inspection Equipment Project. Whatever this is no one is saying publicly and nothing in the title is a giveaway, although people on both sides must know.
There is no information on how this significant amount of money will be spent, yet again, someone must know and WW feels strongly that people have a right to much more than they are being told through leaks.
Then we have an almost $4 million loan from 2004 being waived that the Vanuatu government thought was a gift. And the government excuse… ‘we weren’t in power then’ is just pathetic – and certainly some of the MPs in the Salwai government were around 14 years ago. Every government when they come to power should know about every single vatu owed or not, so that is just poor governing.
As for signing up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Vanuatu officials have described the wording of the agreement as vague, thus implying that it is harmless. WW feels this can be a dangerous mistake as vague can be adapted to mean a whole range of things that may not suit Vanuatu.
The bottom line with any agreement with China that involves money is that they nearly always deal in loans, not gifts, and WW believes we should be asking if we really need these loans.
ANOTHER area of concern at present is the plan to revamp VIPA, with new legislation on the drawing boards for later in December. To be called the Investment Promotion Facilitation Act, it is basically a complete remake of VIPA.
The sticking point is that it is being carried out without any real input from the country’s business sector at all. This means that a new Act, which is all about business, is being prepared by people without any business knowledge. There was a meeting planned for October between the government and private business representatives, but it never happened and as WW has been told the government will not deal with the private sector on this matter at all. Business experts in Port Vila who have seen the proposed new legislation have said it is simply not workable and will be a disaster for business across the board.
Business leaders all agree that continued foreign investment in Vanuatu is essential and this new Act does little if anything to encourage this. Also it is planned that this entity will have a seven person board with only one member from the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). Four of the board members will be government officials whose business knowledge would fill a thimble. So another shambles in the making.
ANY leadership challenge in the nation must be resolved in Parliament, as will be the case next Tuesday, and at present it is a hard one to call. Political experts have told WW that the government has the numbers and so does the Opposition. This means that as in previous governments, we have a numbers of MPs prepared to vote for whichever side offers them the best private deal. Nothing new in that scenario which is why it is hard to call.
WW is receiving more and more complaints about large sections of the Mele Road, with the worst areas being near Sama Sama store and the section past the turn to Melemaat.
Repairs are a waste of time and money and WW feels we need a complete new road from at least the ‘singing bridge’ to Melemaat. Christophe Emelee has finally got the ministry he craved, so let’s see what he does with it. The equipment and men to do the work are mostly still here, so why not use them. Surely some organization or country can be coerced to give our government a loan (or a gift!) to cover the cost.
Drivers please note: The detour road beside the Mele Bridge under replacement near the golf club will be closed from 11pm on Monday till 5am Tuesday.
AND that’s Wilson’s Word