Vanuatu Parliamentary Secretary Looks To Turn Decentralization Rhetoric To Reality

A priority since independence, spread of development to provinces yet to materialize 

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, May 25, 2016) – The Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Provincial Affairs and the Decentralization Program, is the first politician to publicly admit that while Governments have prophesied that the nation’s Decentralization Policy is one of the nation’s priority agenda since 1980, to date all failed to ensure this is fully realized.

MP Andrew Napuat said there has been, and still many unnecessary hurdles by public servants in the capital that continue to contribute to hamper effective implementation of the policy which have contributed to the overall lack of real economic, social and other dire needed developments by 80% of the population of Vanuatu across the six provinces over the past 35 years.

“The new Government wants to ensure the realization of the Decentralization policy within its term,” said Napuat who has been tasked to turn the situation around.

MP Napuat said the first major problem is the political instability at the national level, followed by the lack of resources that should have been injected into the provincial councils or governments to enable the six provincial authorities to effectively implement the service deliveries to the grassroots amongst the 80% of the population of Vanuatu; the schools, the health services, infrastructures and all other services and thirdly, the concept or modality that suits the local mentality to make things work.

“There is a wrong mentality that Vanuatu needs foreign advisers who will come and introduce further concepts that will make this work for the people. We don’t need them.

“There is no consultant in this world that will make this policy work, why because the policy has already been written, passed by parliament, clearly specified what to do and how to implement the decentralization policy to serve the nation.

“It’s all there is the Act of Parliament and all it requires is to implement it. But it has never been done for the last 35 years,” said the concerned Parliamentary Secretary.

“If any national government wants to make this policy work, the best people who know how make it work are the people in the rural areas themselves.

“They have not been allowed to take ownership of the program themselves.

“Of course, they too are responsible for certain setbacks such as land, such as access for development projects, but it requires extensive awareness, dialogue willingness on both parties to enable developments to move forward.

“Our own governing system exists and embraces the decentralization policy, given the people its ownership and to make it fit into the social system.

“The chiefly system is in place and when it comes to disasters, the relief distribution can be done through the chiefs in a nakamal way where the emergency relief supplies is given directly to the chief and he in turn distributes this fairly”.

Additional obstacles include; not transferring the required resources to the six Provincial Governments, such as budgets earmarked for provincial government but were not transferred, equipment kept in Port Vila and lack of practical vehicles in the rural.

“There are too many Hilux Four Wheel Drive vehicles on the roads here when they should be servicing and providing the services to the 80% of the people in the islands,” he said.

“I am not happy to see this, many are not effectively performing their duties here while the provinces need such resources to equip them.”

He vowed to make a change and said the Prime Minister has already given instructions to all government line agencies to pull up their socks and ensure budgets are delivered to the six Provincial Government in accordance with requirements under the financial act, to effectively carry out service delivery.

On the other hand, MP Napuat said leaders and people in the rural areas also have a responsibility to ensure that they cooperate with the national, provincial and area councils to pave way in such issues as land to allow development projects to go ahead.

He said it is crucial that both parties take up their roles with seriousness and be proactive that will result in the full government quality service deliveries in education, health, infrastructures and others.

“The Decentralization Act gives power to the Ministers and MPs to attend the Provincial Governments Meetings, take note of priorities and provide every support from the national level downward so the Councils can become more effective in reaching the people with all needed service deliveries,” said MP Napuat.

He said he has accompanied the Minister of Internal Affairs and had dialogue with the provincial governments of Tafea, Sanma, Penama and Malampa which proved to be worthwhile and constructive.

“Instead of just attending Parliamentary Meetings and not knowing what their people need, the MPs must also participate by attending Provincial Government meetings, take note of issues needed to be addressed by the MPs or the national governments and assist to find solutions to such problems.

“MPs need to be present in their constituencies to identify the needs of their voters.

“It is my wish that when this new direction is followed with the participation of everyone from the national government through the provincial government and area councils and from the people upward to through to the national governments that Vanuatu will come experience the full realization of the Decentralization policy.”

Vanuatu Daily Post
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