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HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (June 29, 1999 - PIDP/CPIS/Hulsen)---One of the notable elements of the Noumea Accord, which is enabling New Caledonia to gain increased autonomy from France, is that it paves the way for enterprises owned by indigenous Kanaks to more fully participate in managing the territory's resources.

That is the view of Bank of Hawaii regional economist Dr. Wali Osman, who has been studying current business and economic conditions in the South Pacific territory, located between Australia and Vanuatu.

Osman said the Accord also makes it possible for New Caledonia's North Province and Loyalty Islands Province to attract private capital, which can help build a sustainable economy for their small but growing populations.

Regarding the important nickel industry, he said employment dropped from 2,200 at the end of 1997 to about 2,000 at the end of last year.

That number is continuing to decrease, he noted, and with nickel prices remaining soft, a quick turnaround is not expected soon.

The decline in nickel prices, he said, was caused by an oversupply from Russia, the world's largest nickel producer. Canada is the second largest producer. New Caledonia is third.

According to Osman, the worst is over, however, and nickel revenues soon should begin to climb from the current price of about US$ 2.25 a pound on the London Metal Exchange. In 1996, the price of nickel was US$3.40 per pound.

Meantime, Osman believes that tourism must make up for nickel's loss.

The visitor industry, he said, holds enormous opportunity for New Caledonia's economic development.

Currently, France and Japan now each supply roughly about 30 percent of the visitors to the territory, followed by Australia and New Zealand, with 15 and seven percent.

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