Airport upgrade bids announced next month; Claims Airports Vanuatu Ltd used as a political slush fund

Luganville's Pekoa International Airport: companies also bidding to upgrade the country's northern international airport.

Luganville’s Pekoa International Airport: companies also bidding to upgrade the country’s northern international airport.

Bidding in the Bauerfield runway upgrade project also sees four companies vying for consideration for the Whitegrass Tanna and Santo Pekoa airport improvements. Four companies chose only to bid for the Bauerfield project. Long-term and newly arrived companies are bidding. Winning bids will be jointly approved by Government and the World Bank. Successful bids are likely to be known within a month.

Severe criticism surrounds Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL)’s management practices, with politicians accusing previous regimes of malpractice and of misusing AVL funds on motions of no confidence. Public Utilities Minister Napat was answering questions from Ambae MP Mata in Parliament. The Minister said AVL “is quite messy. It is dirtier than dirt. And it is very difficult for us to address these issues because each time the government changes a sacked board is appointed.” (Daily Post) Surely another case for another urgent Commission of Inquiry?

Ports and Harbours is making every effort to ensure inter-island ships do not exceed licensed passenger numbers during the holiday season—which is also the cyclone season. Lengthy suspensions apply where captains  overload their vessel.

Christmas Day and New Year’s Day both fall on Sundays this year, so the Tuesdays following each have been declared public holidays. The President has signed an order to effect this.

Radio Vanuatu news today featured Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, MP Andrew Napuat, speaking eloquently about how Area Councils will be managed in future. Up to now they have been run by political appointees, Napuat says; this will now end. Mechanisms are in place to make a change over to professional administrators whose performance will by managed by community representatives. Area councils are being strengthened to try to better direct government service delivery, a policy of the Salwai Government. (Radio Vanuatu)

The Education Minister, Jean-Pierre Nirua, has stated that he wants all schools must teach both English and French. He made the statement last week on Tanna when launching the Recovery programme for works following Cyclone Pam. This was his message in all the schools he visited: we should no longer have English schools and French schools but Vanuatu schools, following one system, whether church, NGO or state run. He will soon place a paper on the topic with the Council of Ministers. (Radio Vanuatu)

Also concerning education on Tanna, extensions to Whitegrass Airport are likely to affect Imanaka School. There will be discussions with the community to decide how to move the students to another school and plans will be established by the Ministries of Education and Public Works. For the airport expansion, Minister Napat (Public Works) has stated that Government has already given compensation for land that is to be used. Lengthening of the runway to 3000 metres and repairs to the terminal are required.

Minister Napat has also further explained to Radio Vanuatu News that a new bridge is being considered for the Pankumu River,  south Malekula. The estimated cost is Vt 500 million. Negotiations are for funding from the United Arab Emirates.