Marae arrest highlights the need for fairer, more equitable alternatives to the sleaziness of Vanuatu’s offshore financial centre

Clarence Marae refused bail in Australia was the headline of this blog’s posting at midnight last night. Marae is charged with of conspiring to defraud the Australian Government of AUD4.5 million (around Vt 424 million) in taxes. The Vanuatu Government refused the extradition of Marae to Australia when first requested in 2008. They must have known the worst: Marae worked for them. Thus do the present day political and financial operatives in the once highly respected Vanuatu tax haven bring down the pioneer finance centre of the region. The country’s first Finance Minister, Kalpakor Kalsakau, recently told Daily Post how Vanuatu was always in surplus after Independence and established as the premier tax haven of the South Pacific — a model followed by other island countries. No longer a model, Vanuatu’s government now advertises in Hong Kong on television and buses for unsuspecting foreign investors from Asia to come here for job opportunities and thus push barrows of cement on building sites, depriving locals of jobs.

Meanwhile, as Daily Post goes on to say, local hard workers, island farmers, continue to make good money from what they can do easily and best with no help from Government — cut copra. Malakula farmers netted over 26 million vatu with the first shipment through VCCE to the Philippines in September. The second load has just been completed shipping. While the world market price has dropped, copra remains the mainstay of the Malakula economy. No thanks to the Malakula-led national Government, who main completely irrelevant for 99% of the country.

Were he back in power, Barak Sope tells Daily Post he would bring back the urban land corporation, VULCAN. Yes, it did work well in some ways, but none of the villages surrounding Port Vila ever benefited as was intended, and there was mismanagement of certain funds but no leaders ever faced serious charges. So what’s different now? Well, more of the funds are actually being stolen by the Ministers. Barak Sope must just insist on our electing only honest leaders.

Vete Association supporters attempted to protest at the Electoral Office Friday because of the refusal of the Electoral Commission to accept David Abel’s candidacy for the elections due to his criminal convictions. They were briefly apprehended and cautioned by police.