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Vanuatu chiefs say push contrary to cultural customs

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, May 29, 2008) – Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders say economic development is essential for stability in their region.

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, highlighted economic growth in his opening address at the MSG Leaders Summit in Port Vila.

As the only current MSG leader who was involved in its inception primarily as a trade bloc 22 years ago, Sir Michael attested to how far Melanesia had come since then.

However he says there is much work to be done by the whole region to build on the advances made.

Solomon Islands Foreign Minister William Haomae says growing the economies is the single greatest challenge facing Melanesia.

"But the cash economy and the constant push for development are seen by some as being alien to the customary principles common to Melanesians across the region. The secretary general of Vanuatu’s National Chiefs, Selwyn Garu, says that the focus on development in modern government is opposite to the custom system of focussing on people."

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