Vt20B Govt budget for 2017; details released on legislation to be tabled in upcoming Parliamentary session

Vanuatu Parliament chamber

The 2017 annual budget for Government amounts to Vt 20,242,223,265. Undoubtedly this is bigger than ever before, but happily income tax is not yet required of us. The parliamentary program for the coming weeks starts next Monday with the Extra-Ordinary sitting. Then there is the Ordinary Sitting beginning on 8 December, and the Special Sitting to amend the Constitution starts on 12 December.

As we promised on the weekend, here is some additional information on each of the pieces of legislation Government will be tabling at the upcoming Parliamentary sessions:

Bill for the Right to Information Actpdf-download
The Bill provides for the guarantee of the right to information of all persons and to establish practical mechanisms supportive of that right and for related matters.

Bill for the Referendum (Amendment) Actpdf-download
For the purposes of political stability, the Vanuatu Government has launched a political and electoral reform process and, in that context, Parliament is to review a number of proposed constitutional amendments. Under Article 86 of the Constitution, such amendments to the Constitution will not come into effect unless it has been supported in a national referendum. While Parliament is expected to determine the proposed amendments to the Constitution in November 2016, it is necessary to start planning the process for conducting a national referendum should the amendments be agreed by Parliament.

pdf-downloadBill for the Commercial Government Business Enterprise Act
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the Government to have control of business enterprises. Government Business Enterprises (the “Enterprise) have features of both private and public sector organizations. Like private companies, Enterprises engage in commercial activities with the goal of profit-making and compete with other private sector companies. Like public sector agencies, Enterprises are required to execute government policies, mainly in the form of delivering non-commercial services. This Bill will foster and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and will open new opportunities for Enterprises to compete and get finance to grow.

Bill for the Utilities Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Actpdf-download
This Bill amends the Utilities Regulatory Authority Act No. 11 of 2007 (the “Act”). The purpose of amending this Act is to achieve financial independence and sustainability which is reflected in the Financial Sustainability Plan developed by the Utilities Regulatory Authority (“the URA”) and approved by the Council of Ministers on 24 December 2014.

Bill for the Penal Code (Amendment) Actpdf-download
This Bill amends the Penal Code Act [CAP 135] (“the Act”). The main objective of this amendment is to strengthen the purpose of this Act in providing deterrence, especially individual deterrence for specific offenders. The goal is to impose a sufficient penalty to discourage the offender from criminal behaviour. It relates mainly to sexual offences such as abduction, incest, rape and unlawful sexual intercourse. The Courts have highlighted the fact that the current penalties need to be reviewed and amended to assist the Courts in applying appropriate and fair penalties according to the seriousness of offences committed.

Bill for the Immigration (Amendment) Actpdf-download
This Bill amends the Immigration Act No. 17 of 2010 for the purposes of amending the period for visitor visa for certain countries which the Government of Vanuatu has entered into an Agreement.

Bill for the Citizenship Amendment Actpdf-download
The Government wishes to offer citizenship for investors in a program to be known as the Real Estate Option Program (“REO Program”). The REO Program was previously as an amendment to the Act in 2014. The fees to be generated for the Government by the REO Program will be substantial and are projected to be at least in the hundreds of millions of US dollars. The REO Program has the added benefit, in addition to the fees generated for the Government, of directly providing employment and expansion of infrastructure at no cost to the Government. The project, in addition to any land rent, must pay an additional amount of 2% of the gross revenue derived from all income producing activity (turnover rent) to the custom land owners.

pdf-downloadBill for the Bureau of Standards Act
The purpose of this Bill is to strengthen and increase the quality, safety and competitive of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Forest products. Specifically, it will oversee the development and adoption of standards, conformity assessment of traded goods and processing facilities, manufacturing of goods and the accuracy of weights and measures used in trade. It also allows Vanuatu to implement Appendix 3 of the Code of Standards and implementation of Article 15 of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreements.

pdf-downloadBill for the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act
This Bill provides for minor uncontroversial amendments to the Customs Act No. 7 of 2013, the Employment Act [CAP 160], the Forestry Act [CAP 276], the Government Remuneration Tribunal Act [CAP 250], the Police Act [CAP 105], the Proceeds of Crime Act [CAP 284] and the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission Act [CAP 229].

Bill for the Convention on the Conservation of Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the Northern Ocean (Ratification) Actpdf-download
The purpose of this bill is to ratify the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean (“the Convention”) to protect Vanuatu’s fishing interest within the North Pacific Fisheries Commission (NPFC) area of competence.

And in other news… today’s Daily Post headline of Life Imprisonment for sexual intercourse with any child under 13 years details a provision of the amendment to the Penal Code to be debated by Parliament and which will have the approval of all parents in view of what seems to be an increase in such cases.

Following the Agri-Tourism Festival at Tagabe there have been interesting stories getting into print concerning rural projects. Kevin Salemalo’s efforts to put cleaned Maewo water taro into friendly packaging is a welcome addition to the local products on sale and Ben Joseph is today getting good publicity concerning his organic onions.

Daily Post today also carries interesting news of the training of teachers who hold degrees but not a teaching qualification. Known as the Untrained Teachers’ Program, it will continue throughout 2017.