Posts Tagged ‘UNCAC’

Vanuatu’s economy will not recover. It is in crisis mode.

faltering economyStrong words, I know but the reality is that Vanuatu is rapidly sinking into a financial abyss from which there is no palpable return in sight, UNLESS…..

There is a fundamental shift in a number of areas that affect the economy. They include:

  • The present mismanagement of the economy by the RBV (Reserve Bank of Vanuatu);
  • The Government’s political instability;
  • Corruption within the political, public service bureaucracy, police force and judiciary.

At first glance, this may appear to be an over-simplification of the problems that cause Vanuatu’s economy to be at the mercy of the rest of the world. Perhaps it is, however, please take a minute to consider the following…..

The GFC (Global Financial Crisis) commenced exactly seven years ago and it’s getting worse by the minute! Some pundits, especially those aligned with the banking sector, the politicians, the Central Banks and the “too-big-to-fail” corporations will have you believe that the GFC ended some time ago. What a load of clap-trap!

The Central Banks continue to print paper money as fast as they can crank up the presses with every new batch of paper that goes out to the market.

What is the natural offset to paper money….you know…the one that has been used by mankind for thousands of years? GOLD!

How many tonnes of gold does the RBV hold in its Reserves? NONE!

What are the two strongest currencies in the world today? The USD (United States Dollar) and China’s Remimbi/Yuan. The USD is presently considered to be the world’s Reserve Currency, a position held since the second world war when it took over from the British Pound Sterling after the introduction of the Bretton Woods System.

However, the Chinese Yuan is set to replace the USD as the official Reserve Currency and WHEN it happens, the value of the USD will depreciate markedly as will those currencies that are pegged to it. Here in Vanuatu, unless someone from the RBV can show otherwise, it appears that the Remimbi/Yuan plays no part in the RBV’s economic considerations. As with its attitude towards gold, the RBV’s overall economic policies appear to totally ignore the potential consequences of not including China’s currency in its “basket” of currencies in which it trades.

copra exports Export earnersTourism along with fishing, offshore financial service, growth export commodities such as copra and kava are essential to Vanuatu’s economic growth prospects. As it happens, the present “value” of the Vatu against other currencies is way too high. It is artificially inflated at unsustainable levels thereby having a disastrous effect upon export income.

UNLESS Vanuatu takes a leaf out of Fiji’s book of economics and devalues its currency, soon, then many more Vanuatu-based businesses will go under….bankrupted by the lack of willingness on the part of investors to place their funds in this country, by a continued fall in long-stay tourism (we can’t compete against countries such as Fiji, Bali and the S.E. Asian countries – Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand). My personal view is that an immediate devaluation of 15-25% of the Vatu against the world’s MAJOR currencies (USD, Euro, GBP, Remimbi and yes – the AUD) should be effected as soon as possible.

Oh, I can hear the cries now of “but food prices will go up too much” and “we rely on our imports” and “we won’t be able to afford to travel”. Such viewpoints are short-sighted and ill-informed within the context of what will make for a healthier economy for Vanuatu. Perhaps the Vanuatu Government/RBV should place more emphasis and focus on developing the traditional economy as well as taking the other measures already mentioned here.

The new coinage issue. Unnecessary and a total waste of money, money that I’m sure could haver been better used elsewhere.

By the way, it’s time the RBV stepped into the real world of the 21st century IT-wise. It’s web site is abysmal, severely lacking in any form of reliable, topical data and information. Time to get up to speed with the rest of the world, guys!

UNLESS Vanuatu’s political leaders have a change of attitude to their appointments, their infernal internal squabbling will continue to adversely affect the country’s finances.

Political upheaval and instability has cost the country dearly over the past two decades and particularly over the past five years. Every time there is another Motion of No Confidence put into play, it costs the country – big time. Instead of running the country as they are supposed to, too many MP’s spend their time running around shoring up their defences and/or soliciting help in overthrowing the government of the day so that they can dip their own snouts in the trough.

The amount of money lost when portfolios change I imagine to be huge. In most cases, the incoming Minister scraps any new initiatives made by his predecessor, whether warranted or otherwise. Political appointees are dismissed requiring them to be paid out and the list of unnecessary wastage goes on…….

The biggest of them all – CORRUPTION!

Corruption - The Silent Serial Killer

A lot of press coverage over the past few days has been given to the alleged corruptive practices of the 15 MP’s presently on trial for Bribery and breaches of the Leadership Code.

Let’s be serious folks – CORRUPTION is Public Enemy Number One when it comes to Vanuatu’s floundering economic health. It’s practised everywhere – by politicians and their advisors and appointees, by senior bureaucrats in the public service, by police and by members of the judiciary. In turn, the evil of corruption creates a level of gross incompetence within these same sectors. Too many “jobs for the boys” (cronyism); too much nepotism; too much fraud, bribery and theft; too many self-serving power plays and so on.

UNLESS the government gets serious about eradicating the problem of corruption, Vanuatu will continue to muddle around in the economic back-waters of the world.

What the Government MUST DO, NOT SHOULD DO, is to implement its commitment to UNCAC (United Nations Convention Against Corruption), a commitment that has been sitting in the waiting room for the past four years. It must legislate for the creation of an independent, government-funded anti-corruption agency….NOW! No ifs, buts or maybes – it must do it NOW! This would prove to be a huge step in the process of eliminating corruption in Vanuatu.

QUESTION: I wonder how many MP’s would be prepared to sign a Statutory Declaration in support of the policy formation and legislation for such an agency, especially if the same Statutory Declaration meant they had to commit themselves to resigning from office should they fail to support such an initiative? None? A handful?

I just hope that the present bribery case will prove to be the catalyst for a change in attitude by the relevant leaders of this country. The time is right. Is the political willpower there. We shall see.

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Dear Prime Minister, whoever you are.

anonymousAt the time of writing this, I have no idea who in fact will be holding the reins of office as Prime Minister next week.

However, whoever it turns out to be, you will have the opportunity to be the very first SUCCESFUL PM we have had in Vanuatu this decade. EVERY Prime Minister over the past five years has FAILED this nation’s people. HOW? By simply allowing corruption to thrive instead of taking the most important step possible to stop it – establishing an independent but government-funded anti-corruption agency, preferably an ICAC-style agency similar to those established in Fiji, Hong Kong and Australia for instance.

On 14th March, 2010, the Vanuatu Government ratified the UN Convention to do exactly this. Five years on, nothing has been done by any government to honour this obligation.

It is not just the constant changes of government that has led to this as some have been in power long enough to at least initiate the formation of such an agency. Of course, it’s not just the previous PM’s who have been at fault. There has also been a distinct lack of interest in this matter by past Ministers of Justice, Ministers of Internal Affairs and their respective DG’s. Nevertheless, the buck stops with the PM.

So, Mr. Prime Minister of Vanuatu, whoever you may be, the question is whether or not you will continue the time-honoured tradition established by past PM’s by doing nothing or will you become the FIRST EVER Prime Minister to show that you are a man committed to the people of Vanuatu by doing what you are mandated to do – STOP CORRUPTION?

VNPF

Vanuatu National Provident Fund

There has been no word yet from the new government about the release of the VNPF’s Audit Report. Everyone is waiting, waiting, waiting………

VACC Logo 2-45

Then there is the matter of the government’s UN obligations to legislate the formation of an anti-corruption body. Is this being addressed?


Hopefully, we shall get some answers to these questions from the powers-that-be…….VERY SOON?

OPEN LETTER TO HON. PRIME MINISTER SATO KILMAN

Dear Sir,

I have been defamed in the media by and at the instigation of the Vanuatu Government’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Jeff Joel Patunvanu. This is an act for which I hold both Mr. Patunvanu and the Vanuatu Government responsible and therefore – accountable.

THE FACTS:

On 1st February, 2013, the web site www.vanuatu2u.com had as its lead story one entitled “This Smells of Conspiracy against Vanuatu”. Note: A transcript of Mr. Patunvanu’s article was also published in the “Daily Post”, Issue No. 3774, on Wednesday, 6th February, 2013.

Since the initial publishing on the www.vanuatu2u.com web site, the Government’s PRO’s false allegations have been repeated many times over in the media. Note: This particular web site has ALL news items directed to the Vanuatu Government’s PRO for vetting/administration.

The very first posting of the article by the Government’s PRO also contained a photograph of the members of the newly-appointed Steering Committee for the “Youth Against Corruption Vanuatu” NGO, one of whom was myself. It was quite clear who the allegations were directed at, namely, me. The following is a copy of the www.vanuatu2u.com article (the italics are mine), as it was then (it’s been changed on a number of occasions over the past few days since by the Government’s PRO):

  1. 3.            “An Expat working for an NGO in Vanuatu – Youth against Corruption is the former Wealth Manager of Mr. Saken Company in Vanuatu – Agari (as reported by The Independent Newspaper) I am currently getting this confirmed by VIPA and other agencies.”

The Government’s PRO, Jeff Patunvanu, further repeated these same allegations on radio on Sunday evening 3rd February, 2013 and again on Monday morning, 4th February, 2013.

The Government’s PRO, Jeff Patunvanu, when requested by me, on two separate occasions by email, to supply me with the relevant documents in accord with his directions and I quote –

Because this issue is now officially entering the official investigation stage all attachments now require password to view please contact me on jjpatunvanu@gmail.com and jjpatunvanu@vanuatu.gov.vu   if you are a member of the Media or Public who has a special concern to read this further and I will consider granting you password to read. “, he has chosen to ignore my requests completely.

In view of the foregoing, I wish to draw your attention to the following Vanuatu Law, one to which everyone in Vanuatu is bound:

CAP135:                                “Offences against Reputation

120. Criminal defamation

No person shall by spoken or written words, gestures or any other method maliciously expose any other person alive or dead to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or otherwise harm the reputation of that other person.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 3 years.”

By association, it concerns me greatly that the organizations and people with whom I actively work, including the Youth Against Corruption Vanuatu NGO, have also been adversely affected by these scurrilous and defamatory allegations that serve no other purpose other than to harm my reputation and hence – the reputation of those I serve, work with, socialize and live with. This is untenable.

In view of the foregoing, I hereby request that your Office, Mr. Prime Minister, respond to this letter as follows:

(1)    The Vanuatu Government makes a full and total retraction of these allegations in the form of a full-page public apology to me and to the “Youth Against Corruption Vanuatu” NGO members with such apology to be published in all three of Vanuatu’s newspapers as follows – the “Daily Post”, the “The Independent” and the “Vanuatu Times”. Additionally, this letter is to be published in its entirety on the home page of the www.vanuatu2u.com web site for a minimum period of one week. This apology is to be received by the herein-named media organizations by no later than 3.00 p.m., Friday, 9th February, 2013.

(2)    The Vanuatu Government publicly commits to the formation of an independent Anti-Corruption Agency. Note: The previous Government, under your leadership, Mr. Prime Minister, was presented with a petition for the formation of an anti-corruption body, in accord with the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), an action that had been ratified by the Parliament of Vanuatu on 14th March, 2010 but as yet un-acted upon by your Government. Consequently,

  1. This public commitment is to first take the form of a public announcement from the Prime Minister’s office via all Vanuatu’s recognized media organizations that it WILL legislate the formation of an Anti-Corruption Agency with similar operating principles and powers to those of Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) but naturally modified to suit Vanuatu’s own particular culture and circumstances and that the Government will list this action as a top priority upon its return to Parliament In March, 2013 – or earlier by way of an Extraordinary Sitting of Parliament;
  2. Secondly, the public announcement is to include a commitment, on behalf of the Vanuatu Government, to allocate sufficient operational funds for the Commission’s establishment and thereafter, its annual operations. The initial budget considered appropriate is to be no less than twenty five million vatu and is to be included in the 2013 Budget to be handed down by the Government in March, 2013;
  3. Finally, the announcement is to also attest to the fact that, subsequent to the legislated formation of said Commission, a qualified independent Chairman having the appropriate and relevant legal qualifications is to be appointed by the Vanuatu Government as soon as possible;
  4. This commitment is to be announced within seven (7) days of the publication of this letter in the media.

I call upon you, Mr. Prime Minister, to take up this challenge for the advancement of the Vanuatu Government’s stated commitment to the elimination of corruption at all levels in Vanuatu.

In closing, should a satisfactory response to this letter not occur in a timely fashion as qualified herein, I shall initiate civil and/or criminal action against the Vanuatu Government’s PRO, Jeff Joel Patunvanu and the Vanuatu Government itself.

I await your response accordingly.

Respectfully yours,

PHIL MANHIRE

7th February, 2013

Phil Manhire