7 Apr 2008

Nickel boom in New Caledonia leads to growing gap between rich and poor

5:31 am on 7 April 2008

There is concern in New Caledonia over growing income gaps as the nickel boom continues.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in nickel projects.

Billions more are to follow as the price of nickel has risen by 53 percent in a year, boosting the territory's economic growth to more than five percent and curbing unemployment.

But analysts and unionists say despite the growth the top ten percent of households now earn 13 times more than the poorest ten percent of households.

The president, Harold Martin, says a one-off bonus for employees may be introduced, adding that a meeting is to be held within the next weeks to discuss ways of shoring up purchasing power, as prices are now about 30 percent higher than in France.

A local university professor says this growth is no source for lasting

development.

He notes that on a per capita basis 100 times more German four-wheel drive luxury vehicles are being sold in New Caledonia than in France.