NEW CALEDONIA PROVINCE OFFERS SUPPORT TO VANUATU

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (The Independent, Nov. 14) – President of the Southern Province of New Caledonia Phillipe Gomez paid a courtesy call on Vanuatu Prime Minister Lini and Deputy Prime Minister Edward Natapei Wednesday before going to meet his Tafea counterpart, Kali Remy.

[PIR editor’s note: Tafea is the southernmost province of Vanuatu.]

Mr. Gomez took the opportunity to reiterate to Prime Minister Lini and Deputy Prime Minister Natapei that his government is very ready to help Vanuatu in developing its infrastructure.

"I am going to sign a sister agreement with Tafea province and through that my government will allocate an annual sum of 10 million French Pacific francs [US$124,931] to the provincial government of Tafea," said Mr. Gomez to Messrs Lini and Natapei.

He said that the money would help Kali to develop infrastructure in the province.

Mr. Natapei welcomed investors from New Caledonia to go and invest in Tafea in sectors like tourism and said that the current government is doing its best to improve the infrastructure there.

"We have already received some aviation equipment to be installed at White Grass to improve the security. We wish to see direct flights from Tanna to Tontouta before the end of the year," Natapei told Gomez.

At the moment, the current agreement between Vanuatu and France, only allows direct flights between Tontouta International Airport in New Caledonia and Bauerfield International Airport on Efate Island in Vanuatu.

White Grass International Airport on Tanna and Pekoa International Airport on Santo are not covered under the current agreement.

The Independent understands that it is a matter to be discussed between Port Vila and Paris.

The amendment would also cover the three new airports financed by the Agence Francaise de Developpement on Pentecost, Ambae and Malakula.

On the issue of the direct flights, Mr. Gomez told Mr. Natapei that he wants to see things materialize quickly and not remain just a wish. He also briefed Mr. Lini on the success of the first ever business forum between the two governments and the private sectors of the two countries.

Mr. Gomez also proposed to Messrs Lini and Natapei that the participation of Vanuatu in the open market of Jeudi du Centre Ville at La Place Des Cocotiers become an annual event.

"We recorded over 8,000 people going shopping during the first participation of Vanuatu in Jeudi du Centre Ville to mark the forum," says Gomez.

He also invited Prime Minister Lini to give a speech when the assembly of the Southern province is in session to underscore the strength of the relations of the partners.

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