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PAPE‘ETE, Tahiti, French Polynesia (September 20, 2002)—French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse lists as the government’s new priorities for 2003: road safety, protection of the environment, job training and the hiring of persons with college degrees to further develop the territory.

He presented the priorities in a speech to the French Polynesia Assembly during its opening 2003 budgetary session yesterday.

President Flosse’s speech also highlighted the official visits by Brigitte Girardin, the French government’s new overseas minister, and Christian Poncelet, President of the French Senate.

Road safety tops the government’s priority list for 2003 because it is "the most urgent," Flosse said.

Traffic accidents now claim the lives of between 50 and 63 persons a year.

Flosse announced the creation of a road safety delegation to try to curb such losses.

This new effort will focus on three areas: enforcing driving regulations, improving the road system and close partnership with the French State, he said.

French Polynesia’s environment also is a top priority, demonstrated by the government’s Sept. 18 appointment of Bruno Sandras as Minister of the Environment.

A crackdown aimed at changing people’s harmful behavior towards the environment will be carried out as well as an improvement in the treatment of waste and water, in partnership with the French State, Flosse announced.

A third priority involves an employment innovation.

A corps of development volunteers will be created. "The corps will be open, through competitive examination, to young persons with diplomas, those with master’s degrees, who have not yet found their first employment," President Flosse announced. These volunteers, who will be paid 200,000 French Pacific francs (about US$ 1,700) per month, will be available to work in government administrations, communes or businesses for two years.

The government’s fourth priority for 2003 will be high-level job training in areas where the territory needs specialized staff.

In order to encourage young people to continue their studies, the government plans to offer incentive scholarships of up to 150,000 French Pacific francs (about US$ 1,250) monthly.

The scholarships will be offered "without social distinction," Flosse said.

Once the persons on scholarship have completed their studies, they must return to French Polynesia and work for the territory for a minimum of 10 years.

The remainder of President Flosse’s speech provided an assessment of the economic and social activities during the past year. He noted dynamism in the private sector and major public spending during 2002.

He noted the absence in the Assembly of councilors belonging to the Tavini Huiraatira, the independence party, who held a press conference elsewhere to say they did not want to "support the government’s economic bankruptcy."

For additional reports from Tahiti Press, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources: Agence Tahitienne de Presse.

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