AUSTRALIA has re-committed to ongoing in funding for programs that it says will boost economic growth in Vanuatu and strengthen the country and the region.
During his historic visit to Port Vila – the first official one by an Australian Prime Minister – Scott Morrison spent the afternoon visiting projects supported by Australia aimed at developing improved infrastructure and resilience, and improving security, both locally and regionally.
Speaking to invited guests at the National Archive prior to the official opening of the Port Vila Urban Development Project (PVUDP), Mr Morrison said this was the first major road upgrade in the nation’s capital since 1980.
“A new road is an important piece of infrastructure,” he said.
“It is not just a road – it connects people with jobs, with homes, with schools, medical facilities, with family and friends. It is an important piece of social infrastructure.
“Roads make connections to markets easier, this raises living standards and allows people to prosper.”
Mr Morrison said the PVUDP was a $39 million investment that had transformed Port Vila’s road and drainage network and provided public amenities including disability-accessible footpaths, 45 new bus stops, and 21 sanitation facilities.
He congratulated the Vanuatu Government for delivering a successful infrastructure program, as well as the people of Vanuatu whose hard work and dedication had brought it about.
“You are helping your country and economy to recover from a terrible natural disaster (in Cyclone Pam),” he said.
Mr Morrison said future projects in Vanuatu would include upgrading the Port Vila Central Market, a major centre for commerce, and it would become a major waterfront tourist attraction.
He also committed $35 million over the next five years for improvements to the national road network, both urban and rural.
“Road are a key driver of economic growth – they help expand business, create jobs, opportunities, choices…”
He reminded guests about the $2 billion Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP), announced in November 2018, which would provide more new and sustainable infrastructure investment opportunities.
He said commitment such as this also show that ‘we are neighbours and friends – all part of one Pacific family’.
It was a message Mr Morrison repeated often during his Port Vila visit.
The official party then moved, preceded by two troupes of kastom dancers from Pentecost, to the main road in front of Parliament House, where they were treated to a performance by a choir from Ifira.
The two Prime Ministers then ceremonially cut a ribbon to open the new road.
The party then moved on to the Police Training College, to officially open the upgraded facility, funded by Australia and unveil a plaque.
Mr Morrison congratulated new Police recruits who graduated from the college last month, saying they belonged to a very proud profession.
He said his father was a career policeman, so he was well aware of the sacrifices of police officers and their families, and the courage they needed to show every day.
“It is more than a job – it’s a vocation. It’s a real act of service to your country and your community,” he said.
He said Australia had a long history of working with Vanuatu in policing and was committed to supporting it day to day, but also in times of natural disaster.
“The Vanuatu Government plans to build a force of about 900 Police by 2020 and this year and in 2020 we will help to train 300 new officers,” he said.
He said the promised Australian police liaison officer and defence advisor were both now in place, and Australia would also support the Vanuatu Government to reconstruct the police station on Malekula.
“We are security partners of choice and we take it very seriously,” he said.
He said the two countries were working on a bilateral security treaty and he and PM Salwai had had productive talks on the subject during their earlier meeting.
“As members of the Pacific family, you can be confident Australia will always stand should to shoulder with Vanuatu,” he said.
The Minister for Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat, said it was an historic moment and Mr Morrison’s visit signified the strong relationship between the two governments.
“The high level presence today demonstrates this relationship,” he said.
- More pictures of Mr Morrison’s visit at: https://vanuatuindependent.com/2019/01/16/aus-pms-colourful-visit-port-vila/