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HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (June 20, 1999 - PIDP/CPIS/Hulsen)---Bank of Hawaii economist and researcher Dr. Wali Osman, who has just completed an economic study of French Polynesia, has found that the territory is gradually and successfully moving toward greater political autonomy and economic self-sufficiency.

In a recently-released report, Osman pointed out that France's 10-year Contract for Development project, initiated in 1996, has been critical to French Polynesia's current growth, as it permits the building of indigenous private sector enterprises. These include tourist facilities pearl farms, fisheries, aquaculture and agricultural endeavors.

Osman said the most visible signs of new economic development generated by the contract include the construction of new hotels on Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea.

A new airline, Air Tahiti Nui, which is partially owned by the French Polynesia government, was funded through payments from Paris

Economist Osman said French Polynesia's special ties to France have given the islands a standard of living that is much higher than most of its Polynesian neighbors.

During the 1996-98 period, real Gross Domestic Product gain averaged 2.9 percent. Employment also grew, increasing from 53,317 workers in 1995 to 55,516 in 1997. While data for 1998 are not yet available, Osman said indications are that employment has continued to grow.

Tourism in French Polynesia also is expanding. With a visitor rise of 4.7 percent in 1998, Osman said it made French Polynesia one of the few Pacific destinations that saw an increase, primarily as a result of increased American tourists.

In the long term, 20 to 30 years, Osman said undersea mining is likely to become a major new source of income.

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