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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (October 16, 1998 - Marshall Islands Journal)--- Australian Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau Perry Head left his base in Pohnpei on October 14 and will become the new High Commissioner to Vanuatu in January.

Head made his final visit as ambassador to the Marshalls last week after three years as ambassador. During the visit, President Imata Kabua praised the Australian ambassador, saying "you have been a good friend and colleague -- that is why we feel a little sad to part company."

The President thanked Head for the "cooperation and friendship" that he has shown the Marshall Islands during his three years as ambassador.

The Ambassador said in an interview that he was particularly happy with the projects that Australia's small grants scheme has been able to support during his three year tenure. "We've focused on health, education and small scale development," he said. "The money amount is small but almost all of our projects have made a difference to communities and institutions." Australia has funded many projects sponsored by non-governmental organizations.

Head said that Australia's policy advisory support for improving tax collection at the Ministry of Finance has been "extremely successful" in strengthening the customs and tax offices, and has helped the government to "maintain its budgetary situation." In addition, he said that Australia had lent policy management support to the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority, which has led to "a revolution in fisheries management" in the country -- and a 400 percent increase in revenue from fishing.

"Australia's commitment to the Pacific remains unchanged," he said. But that didn't mean that Australia saw itself as a "rival" of the U.S. in this north Pacific region. "It's obvious that the United States is the major player in the bilateral relationship here," he said. "We're not here as part of that equation." The Ambassador said that Australia's aid policy aimed to support sustainable development in the region.

He said he hoped that the Marshall Islands "can get its economic house in order so that quality investors that the Marshall Islands needs will come and take a look. Serious investors will contribute to the development of the Marshall Islands." To attract them, he said, there has to be a stable economy and responsible government.

MARSHALL ISLANDS JOURNAL Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: Fax: 692-625-3136 Tel. 692-625-8143 Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year: US $87.00; International $227.00 (air mail)

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