Vanuatu Government, Provident Fund Invests In Suva Property

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Fiji project to be apartment complex for regional USP students

By Winston Tarere

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, August 8, 2014) – The Vanuatu government is collaborating with the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) and a local property owner here in Suva to build an apartment complex for regional students studying at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the parties on July 29th paving the way for VNPF to carry out its own due diligence on the scope of the project.

"This is simply a Memorandum of Understanding between the different partners. The three parties to this MOU are the vendor and owner of the properties, VNPF as the buyer and the Vanuatu government through the High Commission as the eventual tenant," Vanuatu High Commissioner to Fiji, Nikenike Vurobaravu said.

"However VNPF still needs to come and carry out its own assessments on its feasibility and economic viability before it can make an offer to the vendor.

"If VNPF sees that it is a valuable project then it will make an offer to the owner of the property and that is where a purchase agreement will come in. There are three options available for us.

"The VNPF as the buyer can make an outright purchase of the two properties and build the apartment on its own; the other option is for the property owner to build the apartment and then the VNPF buys a finished product while the final option is for a joint-venture between the VNPF, the developer and other partners.

"This project is linked to the purchase of the property at which the current High Commission is located at 17 Mariko Street.

"The adjoining property at 121 Laucala Bay Drive is owned by the same landlord. The plan is to build the new apartment complex on the adjoining property while we secure this property with a long-tenancy agreement with VNPF."

He said this eventually will be accommodation for our staff when the Chancery moves to its final location on the land given to us by the Fiji government."

The proposal is for a three-storey, medium to upmarket, well secured student apartment complex that could cater for 40 to 60 self-contained units that provides a holistic environment for students and their education needs.

The High Commissioner said the project aims to provide competitive, affordable, self-contained and well-serviced student accommodation with comprehensive support facilities with an apartment office and common rooms with internet capabilities on all floors and yet, conveniently located next to the main entrance of the USP Laucala Campus in Suva.

"One of the important issue is that of security for students outside campus and so this will cater sufficiently for their needs. It is all part of building our mission and presence here in Fiji especially for our students. We now have Johnson Vora as our new education attache and this project is all part of catering for our students while they study away from home," Vurobaravu said.

The concept is that the Ni-Vanuatu can be proud of living in an apartment complex that their country and parents as members of the VNPF own and therefore have pride in how they look after it as an asset they will also have a stake in while they finally return and secure employment upon completion of their studies.

Economically it makes sense that money spent by the Vanuatu government on accommodation at the Halls of Residence at USP with rates from $860.00 (VT43,362.80) for small rooms, $1021(VT51,480.72) and $1215(VT61,262.57) for medium rooms, and $2250 (VT113,449.20) for a large room per semester at the newly developed 10th Hall, will be invested back into an entity that is owned by the people of the Republic of Vanuatu.

The added advantage is that the government gets to retain a sizable portion of funds that is presently paid by the government towards accommodation via established stipend or allowance system. If the transaction accounts are established locally in Vanuatu, funds would not even have to leave the country in the first place and end up directly benefiting various homeowners and landlords in the Suva area.

This will also solve the issue where some Landlords recently convert rooms into bedrooms without proper facilities and charging students exorbitant amounts for the beds they use for sleeping.

Hence it is in the best interest of the students that the stress of monthly rental payments are taken over by the government as their sponsors and the lease owner which is the VNPF. Then it allows them to give their studies their full and undivided attention.

Despite USP investing $4.47 million (VT225,385,738.81) in a new Halls of Residence strategic plan for 2013 to 2018 to increase number of beds by 300 each year, there is still shortage in accommodation. Due to shortage of accommodation, USP usually gives preference only to first year regional students while the rest have to find their own accommodation. At the beginning of the year most Vanuatu students could not find readily available accommodation.

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