13 Jun 2013

Vanuatu govt pushes on with new policies despite speed bumps

6:15 pm on 13 June 2013

The new government in Vanuatu says it's meeting the vast majority of its commitments laid out in a list of policy plans after it came to power.

Two months ago, the prime minister, Moana Carcasses Kalosil, issued a list of 68 measures to be completed within his coalition's first 100 days in office.

Johnny Blades reports that despite a couple of instances where the government has been forced to backtrack, it's pushing on with the measures.

JOHNNY BLADES: Few Vanuatu governments have ever laid out policy platforms as clearly as the new Carcasses-led government with its 100-day list. The list included plans for greater accountability in public office and political reform. The government is also busy advancing its plans for land reform, aimed at ensuring transparency over land sales and protections for custom ownership.This reform is being driven by lands minister Ralph Regenvanu, who says overall the government's plans are on track.

RALPH REGENVANU: There's a few items that the government has announced it won't be able to achieve, among them the relocation of the convention centre. The council of ministers has decided it's better to leave it in the same place. It would be too difficult, for many reasons, to have it moved. There's a couple of others that we've also announced that we'll not be able to achieve, but otherwise we're approaching already half achieved. And because a lot of them are to do with legislative change, those changes will happen in the August session of parliament.

JOHNNY BLADES: Plans to transfer the functions of the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority into the Chamber of Commerce are also proceeding. The minister for tourism and commerce, Marcellino Pipite, says there is concern that over the years, VIPA has taken on too much of a regulator role, hence the government's move to review its functions

MARCELLINO PIPITE: What I already did is appoint a technical review team, and they've already finalised a report and we are about to organise a forum that will expose all these ideas - supporting, against, everything - then we will find a way out.

JOHNNY BLADES: However an opposition MP, Kalfau Moli, says many of the items on the 100-day list are not new policies. He says the two largest parties in the coalition - the UMP and the Vanua'aku Pati - are not delivering on policies in the national interest. The Vanua'aku Pati leader, Edward Natapei, who is the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, has moved swiftly on the plan to purge the diplomatic sector of dubious diplomatic passport appointments. But Mr Moli says the minister is merely rubber stamping policies of the previous Sato Kilman-led government of which he was a part.

KALFAU MOLI: All the things he's done are what we've delivered before. If you're talking about kava entering Europe, that was the initiative of Ham Lini. He has no new plans. He hasn't sacked Pascal Ahn Quan Saken who has been very controversial for the last government. The prime minister hasn't sacked him and the foreign minister has become very cosy, very close to him and there are suggestions that he's been channelling funds into Vanua'aku Pati also.

JOHNNY BLADES: Another of the plans of the new government was to take cabinet meetings around the provinces, which has been criticised by the opposition for being too costly. After the initial meeting in Torba in Vanuatu's far north, the government has reduced its planned number of executive meetings on tour.