FRENCH POLYNESIA OUTLINES DEVELOPMENT PLAN

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, January 8) – The Temaru government has come up with its approach to obtaining French State financial assistance for a five-year economic development program involving all five of French Polynesia's archipelagos.

Appearing in his new role as the government's finance minister, Vice President/Tourism Minister Jacqui Drollet outlined the two-fold approach Saturday to the news media following President Oscar Temaru's cabinet meeting.

The only missing ingredients after Drollet's press conference presentation were the precise details of the economic development program and how the Temaru government will propose French State financing of the program.

First, the Temaru government plans to propose a multi-year program reaffirming the principles of transfers of power and resulting appropriations already contained in the February 2004 French Parliament law modifying French Polynesia's governing internal autonomy statute, Drollet said.

For the Temaru government, this is basically a non-negotiable matter that it expects the French government to confirm, he indicated.

Second, the multi-year program will be elaborated on during this coming week's Wednesday Council of Ministers meeting, producing a finalized five-year (2007-2011) development contract initially outlined during Saturday's cabinet meeting. The development program will use economic autonomy as a means of ensuring the increased autonomy for French Polynesia provided under the 2004 revised statute approved by the French Parliament, Drollet said.

The development contract will emphasize the development of French Polynesia's five archipelagos, or island groups, and not just the island of Tahiti, Drollet told the news media. Speaking also as official Temaru government spokesman, he was the only one the cabinet members present to speak during the press conference.

The development contract will be presented immediately to the French Polynesia Assembly for adoption so that a Temaru government delegation can present it to the French State during February, Drollet said. The hope is, he said, that the five-year development program can be incorporated in proposed French government finance legislation that the French Parliament will vote on during its fall session.

"If the State refuses our proposals, that allows us to find other financing before the month of June," Drollet said, referring to the period when discussions begin about French Polynesia's proposed 2007 budget. That would allow eventual opponents to make appeals, he said.

Drollet said the Temaru government's eventual five-year development program would focus primarily on economic development, involving mainly tourism development. That will be in keeping with the majority coalition's campaign promises during French Polynesia Assembly elections for all 57 seats in 2004 and last year's by-election for the Windward Islands' 37 seats, he said.

For the past two years, the Temaru government has announced a goal of 300,000 yearly tourists in 2007. However, while last year's results have not been calculated, the first 11 months produced only 190,351 tourists, or 4,945 fewer than the same period in 2004.

The government's goal, Drollet said Saturday, is reduce French Polynesia's trade deficit, create a positive trade balance within the Pacific region and increase Tahiti's gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, Drollet said he was satisfied with the development of the Temaru government's negotiations with the French State on the endorsement of the overall economic development grant set up after the end of French nuclear testing in a remote part of French Polynesia in 1996. That grant is known in French by its acronym, DGDE.

Local French daily newspaper Les Nouvelles de Tahiti reported Saturday that the French High Commissioner's Office in Papeete intends to provide French Prime Minister Dominique Villepin with a proposal to maintain at 45% for 2006 the DGDE's contribution to the operation section of French Polynesia's budget.

Therefore, a 20% ceiling on the amount of the DGDE's contribution to the operation of Tahiti's government would not take effect until 2007. However, the newspaper recalled that this ceiling was originally proposed for the Tahiti government's investment budget.

However, Drollet told the news media Saturday that there was something bothering him. "In 2003 (French President) Jacques Chirac declared that the DGDE of 18 billion French Pacific francs (US$188.5 million/€150.8 million) was permanent and that we could use it as we wanted to. . . I'm going to ask State officials for their interpretation of this official declaration," Drollet said.

January 10, 2006

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