Vanuatu daily news digest | 16 January 2013

Opposition MP Ralph Regenvanu points out that Port Vila already has the national convention centre planned for near Parliament. It was in place for the ACP meeting last year at the Le Lagon, he tells Daily Post today. The huge amount of funds for another complex “should be rather spent on so many other needs of the country such as schools, repair of government properties, infrastructure, better hospitals and clinics and roads in the islands”, suggests Regenvanu. Daily Post’s editorial takes the same line and points out the lack of maintenance of Vanuatu’s schools, hospitals and health centres. There’s also the issue of urban planning and green space: 90% of the Parliament Park will be taken up with this ugly, unwanted monstrosity. The people of Port Vila will have lost yet another precious open space for recreation.

A source within Government sheds light on why this future white elephant is proceeding: the Chinese Government is forcing the Vanuatu Government to accept the Vt 1.3 billion project, as the Chinese have already contracted the construction company, China Jiangsu Provincial Construction Co. Ltd, an enterprise owned by—you guessed it—the Chinese Government. A clear case of boomerang aid. Our source also informs us that the Vanuatu Government tried to back out of the deal, but China refuses to take no for an answer. The Vanuatu Government is normally very vocal about perceived interference from donor countries, but strangely silent on this matter. Why is this? Wasting money on this magnitude is deeply insulting to the people of Vanuatu, China.

DG of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Johnson Binaru, points out that Bauerfield cannot be extended to take Boeing 747s. The geography of the area defeats such a plan. However, Binaru mentioned three proposals being considered to have 747 arrivals: an International Finance Corporation project “involving private partnership”, an MoA signed with the “Shanghai Corporation” and a package from the World Bank “Vanuatu can tap into.” All a bit too vague, surely, and what of Minister Lini’s friends, the Koreans, whose idea this 747 airport seems to be? What do they stand to gain from the proposal? The Secretary-General of Shefa Provincial Council, Michel Kalworai, has called an urgent meeting of the Vaturisu this week to discuss Ham Lini’s proposal.

A note for the budding aviation and infrastructure policy geniuses in Government and the private sector: the 747 is now over 46 years old and is being phased out. As commenter Alan Churchill points out, airlines today prefer smaller, cheaper, more efficient aircraft like the Boeing 767 and the Airbus A330, both of which require a runway length similar to what we already have, and both of which are capable of travelling from Asia.

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