Vanuatu PM Commemorates Past, Touts Future In Speech

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Pacific nation is celebrating 33 years of independence

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, August 1, 2013) – The 9th Prime Minister of Vanuatu and 11th to take the podium on July 30, Moana Carcasses, began his speech at the official flag raising ceremony at Independence Park in Port Vila yesterday by paying tribute to his predecessors and other founding leaders of the country.

Carcasses urged the people to use this occasion to reflect on developments and take stock of achievements over the last 33 years, the current development programs, and those programs taking place in the future.

His speech covered a wide range of topics from the economy of the country, Vanuatu’s advocacy for political freedom for people in the region, infrastructure development needs, to social services including education and health, and decentralization of government services.

Chronicling the progress of Vanuatu from the 2008 when the global financial crisis hit to 2012, he said the potential for growth in Vanuatu is considerable and the future is bright. He said growth is recovering following the knock-on effects of the financial crisis and the subsequent global downturn.

"Growth in 2013 is projected to be a solid 3.6 percent. Tourism numbers are picking up again and it is expected that the number of tourists to visit Vanuatu this year will be the highest yet," he said adding that "Air arrivals remain strong in the first half of this year and it is anticipated they will remain so for the remainder of the year."

Prime Minister Carcasses referred to the strong and committed government he is leading as the catalyst for better progress for the people and the country through the government’s 100 Day List as one way. He said the Government has now achieved approximately half of the 100 Days List of priorities.

"With about 25 percent partially completed over the last three months, I am confident that we can achieve a lot by the end of September," he added.

He stressed how this Government recognized the importance of increasing adequate resources to maintain the livelihood and sustainability of public services.

"We believe that investing in our future toward a "Just, Educated, Healthy and Wealthy nation" will be achieved through areas with the potential to support growth such as: (i) improved modern infrastructure; (ii) strengthened rural development and productivity to guarantee food security and value adding of agricultural products; (iii) efforts to minimize land disputes; (iv) an educated skilled workforce with the new National Skills Plan; (v) improved Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and access; (vi) urban development planning and decentralization and (vii) strengthening the judiciary and law and order environment.

Carcasses highlighted the need for infrastructure development, pointing out that infrastructure needs remained one of the country’s major critical development areas that required close government attention and consideration.

"Everywhere throughout the country, we see an overwhelming evidence of no infrastructure or a decline of basic infrastructures like roads, airports, seaports, hospitals and provincial centers.

"These things are vital to the success of our country, as infrastructure is considered by the past and present governments of Vanuatu to be the link to economic and social growth," he continued.

He referred to the Vanuatu Transport Sector Strengthening Program funded by AusAID and significant benefits to the roads on Tanna, Ambae and Malekula and the Inter Island Shipping Project funded by the Asian Development Bank and NZAID where a few jetties will be built in 2014 to some of the islands to facilitate movement of trade of goods and people in and out of the islands as some infrastructure development projects in the pipeline.

"However, of all these infrastructure developments, we are searching for a major ‘trigger’. This new Government is working aggressively on a plan to build a major international airport infrastructure on the island of Efate. This project is intended to link Vanuatu directly to other parts of Asia and the world for development of the tourism sector."

The prime minister added that the Government expected that the flow-on effects of the project would see the creation of supportive industries, increasing more employment opportunities and domestic demand will in turn give rise to enhanced government revenue.

He highlighted the recent signing of the concession agreement with Vanuatu Trade Development Limited, a Singapore company for the design, construction and operation of the new international airport of Vanuatu, which he said will have the capacity to process up to 5 million.

Turning to agriculture, the prime minister said the Government is considering more creative ways of ensuring rural communities can cope with falling commodity prices.

In pursuit of the goal of Universal Primary Education, has seen the Government massively increase its contribution to primary schools to Vt1.7 billion [US$17.6 million] in 2013, and thus having been phased out.

"Continuous reforms within the Ministry of Education remain a key focus of this Government, and a new Vanuatu Education Sector Program soon to be implemented is valued at Vt50 million [US$517,598]. This would run for five years with 10 years horizon with a simple primary aim; to improve the quality of children’s education," the Prime Minister continued.

In the area of law and order, he said this was gradually being eroded in the face of growing population and fast paced development and economic growth.

"A few years ago, and just recently, we have lost lives of innocent citizens. You may have noticed that the government through the police force has been taking stringent measures on this matter as a result of the recommendations concluded by the Special Taskforce appointed early this month." He added that this was testimony to the Government’s seriousness about protecting and securing people’s homes and investments.

All in all, Prime Minister Carcasses emphasized that the Government had laid out a simple but achievable plan as building blocks for the nation’s development now and in the years ahead. These building blocks include: developing the land in an equitable and sustainable manner; strengthening accountability and transparency in public offices; pursue effective decentralization through more effective utilization of human resources; maintaining stability in government; strengthening a professional and robust foreign service; providing reliable and accessible infrastructure services in roads, bridges and wharves to build the country’s economy; supporting the productive sectors as an engine for investment and economic growth; ensuring a quality education for all; supporting and strengthening development of youth and sports; and investing in a healthy Vanuatu.

"We can do all these together, better than ever before. Ours is a government of reconciliation, strong leadership and inclusiveness, committed to involving all capable citizens in the development of our nation to impact positively, to improve the lives of all our people," the Prime Minister concluded his speech.

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