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By Fred Vurobaravu

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Dec. 28) – Vanuatu Minister of Finance Moana Carcasses Kalosil and departing Australian High Commissioner Steve Waters have officiated the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Australian High Commission Chancery building in Port Vila.

The Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) had won the tender in 2003 to construct the new building to be located on the piece of land situated above the Ballande center building in town near the parliament complex.

Construction should have started last year but due to strong opposition from political leaders over the location of the building next to the Parliament house, eighteen months have gone by without any groundwork.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place last Thursday in the presence of Prime Minister Ham Lini Vanuaroroa, Speaker of Parliament Sam Dan Avock, Minister of Sports and Youth Opportunities Arnold Prasad and several other members of parliament and officials from the Australian High Commission and the Vanuatu Provident Fund.

Chairman of the VNPF board of directors Jimmy Andeng said the occasion represented another important milestone in the development of the VNPF.

As a backgrounder he recalled that in 1998 the Fund was almost bankrupt with a deficit of VT500 million (US$4.7 million) but they managed to turn the situation around.

"This turn around was not an easy task. The management had to re-establish the operations of the Fund going back to 1987, the year, which the Fund was established, and scrutinizing all the records of the members to ensure their accuracy," he said.

Andeng said that the deficit has been cleared and now the Fund is operating soundly as a Provident Fund with a total asset base of VT 5.5 billion (US$52,034,059).

The result has been attributed to the hard work of the board, the management, the staff and the forthcoming assistance of the government.

Andeng said the VNPF has been trying to expand the investment portfolio of the Fund to stabilize the Fund as well as earn a better return for the members.

"In our efforts to venture into profitable investments and control the increased liquidity of the Fund, we tendered for the Australian High Commission Chancery project and we are happy to have been awarded the tender," he explained.

He assured the members of the fund that they can be certain that the VNPF has secured an investment with income streams for the next 10 to 20 years.

He said they would be continuing to explore opportunities for further safe investments into the coming years that would generate better returns for members.

The former general manager of the VNPF who has started the difficult task of restructuring the fund Ranjit Kanagasabai had told Daily Post in February last year that he was optimistic the new development will bring in huge benefits to the members.

The departing Australian High Commissioner Steve Waters said the project was supposed to be completed this year, as it was one of his missions.

He said the location was proper because it will be out of the main center of town and, in the context of the new world that is combating terrorism, it will have its own security logistic measures set up.

With go-ahead of the project, it is expected that construction works on the new Australian High Commission Chancery will take 15 months to complete.

December 30, 2004

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