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PAPE'ETE, French Polynesia (December 4, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---French Polynesia's finance minister, Georges Puchon, last Thursday tabled a US$ 910-million 2002 budget in the Territorial Assembly.

It focuses on local investment and is designed to boost the economy, RFO reports.

Since the dismantling of the Pacific Nuclear Testing Center in early 1996 -- until then a major source of revenue to French Polynesia -- the French government has promised a similar level of aid to the French Pacific territory, with a stress on development, investment and a "diversification" of the economy, until 2006.

The 2002 budget, Puchon said, is also designed to enable French Polynesia to deal with the "global economic downturn" and the "uncertainties that bear on the near future."

"This is why we are starting to build and upgrade our road system, so as to support businesses activity and employment on the local scene," Puchon told the House.

Other facets of the support to the local economy involved the three main income earners for French Polynesia: tourism, black pearls and fisheries.

An ambitious project in the fisheries sector now is under way. It involves the construction of about fifty tuna fishing vessels, probably in China.

The vote on the budget is scheduled to take place December 10.

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