The Business Sector 2022 YEAR IN REVIEW
Vanuatu started 2022 with uncertainty on what the year ahead would bring. There was the ongoing issues of dealing with COVID, the rollout of vaccines and businesses struggling to keep afloat.
EU, Vanuatu visa waiver agreement under threat
Due to concerns of deficiencies with screening and background check on applicants, the EU proposed a partial suspension of the visa free travel for Vanuatu passport holders. At the time, citizenship sales had exceeded the 2021 budget and was a significant revenue contributor to the Vanuatu Government.
Due to the concerns and the threat of suspension, the Vanuatu Government controversially appoints CS Global to supports it citizenship program. CS Global Partners’ responsibilities include promoting Vanuatu’s citizenship program in the international market, providing strategic marketing advice, developing and implementing the marketing and promotion plan, recommending strategies to manage risks internationally and locally, evaluating the citizenship options and how to enhance the citizenship by
Statistics released indicated that for the first time, root crops export have surpassed kava export. The above remark was made by Minister responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB), Willie Daniel Kalo, on the occasion of the second export of a container of root crops to Brisbane, Australia.
Root crops export exceed kava export:
ICL pays VT43M Dividend
Interchange Limited (ICL) paid VT43, 125, 000 in dividends to the Vanuatu Government, Vanuatu Post Ltd and the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) as shareholders. VNPF, as the major shareholder, received USD187, 500, while Vanuatu Post Ltd and Vanuatu Government both received USD62, 500.
Satoshi Island is real
Satoshi Island exists. The clarification was made by Mr. Anthony Welch yesterday, saying he has a beneficial ownership, (with others) on the lease on Lataro Island, East Coast of Santo for over last 12 years and they renamed it two years ago. He was responding to a front page article in the weekend edition of the Daily Post article titled, “VFSC: Satoshi Islands does not exist”.
Groundbreaking of VT2.5B China funded Projects
February 4, 2022 marked another milestone in the relationship between the Republic of Vanuatu and People’s Republic of China, with the groundbreaking of the new Presidential Palace, new Foreign Affairs office extension and the new Ministry of Finance building by Prime Minister Bob Loughman, and the Ambassador of China to Vanuatu, Zhou Haicheng.
VT3.5B for Sarakata Additional Hydropower Facility
The Government of Japan will be providing a grant of approximately VT.5 billion for the construction of
an additional hydropower facility at the Sarakata River in Santo, and the upgrade of existing transformer
Russia Invades Ukraine
On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War, which began in 2014. The war will affect world energy prices and threaten world grain supplies adding additional pressure on worldwide inflation.
LOCKDOWN – COVID-19 arrives in the Vanuatu Community
On 04 March 2022, an active COVID-19 case was confirmed at Vila Central Hospital who had no travel history, indicating transmission at community level. The Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed that the COVID-19 community transmission was the result of a quarantine breach. On 6 march a Declaration of Public Health order was signed by the Minister of Health at the time. The order was for an immediate lockdown of Efate and Offshore islands. Non-essential businesses were to cease operating and all inbound and outbound domestic travel including inter island shipping stopped. A curfew was applied from 6pm to 6am for 72 hours.
The effect on local businesses was dramatic as commerce ground to a halt. The local markets were empty
and rumours of a hard lockdown created panic buying at Au Bon Marche. Commercial Banks continued to operate but with reduced levels of service and reported that commercial activity from their client base had greatly reduced.
On the 20th March, new orders were signed by the Minister of Health. These orders changed the dynamic of the Lockdown. Whilst the 6pm to 6am curfew remained, the main change to the new order, as confirmed by the Director General of Health to the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council, was to allow non-essential businesses to operate from the hours of 6am to 6pm. Emphasis was placed on the strict adherence to protocols of mask wearing in public, social distancing and hygiene. There were heavy fines for breaches. Businesses were able to now operate as normal during the day.
In response to the lockdown and the effect on the business sector, on the 25 March the Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Johnny Koanapo, announced that the Council of Ministers in a meeting had approved the third economic stimulus package worth VT1.2B to assist small to medium sized businesses that had been impacted by the lockdown.
The EU confirms that Visa Free Travel is partially suspended
The Council of the European Union (EU) has partially suspended the visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu, due to the risks posed by its investor citizenship schemes (‘golden passport’ schemes).
The decision was conveyed in a statement released on March 3, 2022. It will now be published in the Official Journal and will enter into force two months after publication.
VT57.9 Million Claim by SATOSHI ISLAND
Satoshi Island Limited has filed a legal complaint against Vanuatu Financial Service Commission (VFSC). Mr. Anthony Welch from Satoshi Island, traditionally known as Lataro island in SANMA Province told Daily Post on Thursday this week that they are claiming VT57.9 million in damages from the VFSC, over an article which questioned the existence of Satoshi Island, license of the Crypto Community on the island and the risk of scams in the cryptocurrency field.
Due to a surge in cases on April 2 the Government brought back the 6pm6am curfew to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, as daily cases
continue to surge.
Curfew lifted in Efate and Offshore Islands
On April 22 the government announced that the curfew was lifted for Efate and outer islands. All public gatherings which included church gatherings, social events were now able to commence but under strict COVID protocols of physical distancing, mask wearing, with hand washing or hand sanitisers.
The Government announces that Vanuatu to begin quarantine-free travel
from July 1.
The Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) announced that Vanuatu will open its borders to fully-vaccinated international travellers from 1 July, 2022 with no quarantine or arrival caps, with agents able to book their clients on flights to Port Vila with the country’s national carrier, Air Vanuatu.
Vanuatu’s Economic Growth Forecast At 1%
Vanuatu’s economic growth is forecast at 1% in 2022. This was disclosed in the Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2022, ADB’s flagship economic publication, which was released yesterday.
Petroleum Price Hike
Prices of petrol at pumps in Vanuatu increased on by VT22 per liter, Wednesday, 20th of April 2022.
“With the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022, the demand for oil cause prices to hike,” the Department of Energy (DoE) advised.
“The crude oil price hikes are therefore reflected in the downstream side that shows in the imports of petrol and diesel in February 2022 into Vanuatu by the petroleum product supplier.
Minister assures private sector of Gov’t support
In an interview with Glen Craig from the Vanuatu Business Resilience Council, the Minister of Finance, Johnny Koanapo assured the private sector of the governments support and announced the rollout of the third stimulus package worth VT 1.2B through the Wages Subsidy Scheme
and Small Business Grant.
VNPF TO OPERATE ELECTRICITY ON TANNA, MALEKULA
The Government announces that Vanuatu National Provident (VNPF) will be taking over the operation and
management of electricity services on the islands of Tanna and Malekula. Minister of Finance, Johnny Koanapo, confirmed to the Daily Post that VNPF had won the bid to supply electricity on these two islands, through the tender process.
Over VT500M Payout in Hardship Loans by VNPF
At the beginning May, the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) had already paid out VT590, 338, 089 in COVID-19 Hardship Loans to 14, 899 members. General Manager (GM) of VNPF, Parmod Achary, says 1, 800 applications were yet to be processed. The COVID-19 Hardship Loan was implemented in March, following the first COVID-19 community outbreak.
GOV’T EYES MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Internal Affairs, Ishmael Kalsakau, announces the intention to increase the minimum wage before the end of 2022 and is considering increasing severance pay entitlements from one month to two months for each year of service. The VCCI stated its opposition to the increase in severance.
Over 200 locals engaged in VT4 Billion VMF Cook Barracks Project
The Cook Barracks project which commenced in February reflects the growing relationship between Vanuatu and Australia. Prime Minister Bob Loughman, who made the above comment, said the project valued at over VT4 billion was also assisting to upskill over 200 locals who are currently working on the site under Australian construction companies Icon and Reeves International, the head contractor for the project.
TLAC not consulted on proposed severance, minimum wage increase
The Tripartite Labour Advisory Council (TLAC) was not consulted on the Government’s plan to increase the minimum wage, along with severance payout changes for private sector workers. The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) made this clear to its members after a TLAC meeting to find out more about the bill that had been presented in Parliament last week.
Another flour shortage in the capital
Many bakeries have cut down on bread production and have ceased to deliver to businesses as another flour shortage hits the capital. Due to delays in shipments, there have been three dire flour shortages now, two in late 2021 and now this shortage is affecting bakeries, said the Manager of Shefa Bakery, Galini Jean Louis.
UNELCO pays over VT180M in dividend to VNPF
The Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) has received a cheque of over VT180 million in dividend from UNELCO this week. This dividend payment is for last year’s financial year. VNPF had increased its shares from 40% to 49% in 2020.
Vanuatu Borders Re-Open on 1 July
Vanuatu opened its borders to tourists after two years. 1st of July marked the opening of Vanuatu’s international borders. During the flight Air Vanuatu flight attendants were decked out in a special uniform
to mark this much awaited day. The first international visitors who set foot in Vanuatu after more than two years were given a favorable treatment by excited tourism officers at the Port Vila Airport. String band songs greeted them as they arrived. They were given ‘salusalus’ and local gifts before leaving the arrival area. Families and friends embraced themselves after not seeing themselves since the COVID-19 pandemic.
VNPF sells WILCO properties for over VT1B
The Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) yesterday received a check of over VT1 billion, as payment for the Wilco Properties. The check was received by the Chairman of the VNPF Board, Letlet August and the General Manager (GM), Parmod Achary, from Wilco Management.
Further increases in Fuel
The price of diesel fuel in Vanuatu would increase by VT12 on July 14 2022. This was confirmed by the Department of Energy (DoE). According to the DoE, as informed by the Société de Services Pétroliers (SSP) Vanuatu, the increase would bring the retail price from the current price of VT217 /L to VT229/L.
Telstra acquires Digicel Pacific
Telstra, Australia’s leading telecommunications and Technology Company, announced it had officially acquired Digicel Pacific, in partnership with the Australian Government.
MOU signed for ICL’s second marine cable in the country
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Governments of Vanuatu and New
Caledonia on 29 July effectively paving the way for a second submarine cable installment from Port Vila to Lifou, in New Caledonia.
Vanuatu and New Caledonia signed trade MOU
Vanuatu and New Caledonia sign an MOU declaring their intention to trade. The Trade agreement was expected to be signed at the end of this year. There are 15 products of Vanuatu and New Caledonia to be traded.
Motion against Loughman Government Lodged
8 August, at least 27 Members of Parliament (MPs) signed a Calling for an Extraordinary Session of Parliament to debate a Motion of No Confidence against Prime Minister Bob Loughman
In response to the pending Vote of No Confidence, the PM asks the President to dissolve Parliament. The signatories of the Motion of No Confidence against Prime Minister Bob Loughman file an urgent application to challenge the President’s decision to dissolve Parliament. The challenge by the opposition is dismissed by the supreme court on 8 September and a snap election is called.
The YJ-AV12 twin-otter was redelivered to Hevilift, a Papua New Guinea based Aviation Service Business which owned the aircraft. At the time a reliable source confirmed the aircraft was repossessed following outstanding debt owed by the government.
Air Vanuatu Problems continue with 737 at risk of being re-possessed
The national airline has confirmed that its Boeing 737 is at risk of repossession by its lessor. Air Vanuatu owed USD8 million lease payments to American Leasing Company (ALC), which is approximately VT897M, a source revealed. According to the source, Air Vanuatu has been given 3-months’ notice to meet this outstanding, starting mid of this month to December. While Air Vanuatu did not confirm nor deny this figure, it confirmed it has agreed with the lessor to sort out the payments within the given period.
VNPF acquiring additional 26% shares in UNELCO Engie
The Board of the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF) has endorsed for VNPF to purchase an additional 26% shares in UNELCO Engie, the supplier of electricity on Efate. Purchasing this additional 26% shares will boost VNPF’s shares from 49% to 75%, making VNPF the major shareholder in UNELCO Engie.
‘Trial’ return of cruise ships in Vanuatu to start on November 9
The Vanuatu Government, through the National Cruise Tourism Management Committee (NCTMC) announce the official return of international cruises to Vanuatu, commencing on Wednesday, 9th of November 2022. The National Cruise Tourism Management Committee (NCTMC), led by the Department of Tourism (DoT), endorsed on Monday, 12th of September 2022 a “trial” return of the cruise ships in Vanuatu waters commencing on November 9, after more than two years of border closure and subsequent suspension of the international passenger vessels into the country.
Vanuatu-based company Interchange Ltd (ICL) has launched its new satellite bandwidth service, AelanSat. The service was delayed in launching for some months due to COVID-19 related disruptions to global supply chains and shipping of essential infrastructure. AelanSat will work in conjunction with the existing sub-sea cable ICN1 to push fast bandwidth to every corner of Vanuatu without relying on towers.
BRED Vanuatu officially opens third local branch
“We are pleased to announce the opening of our new fully-fledged branch at Tagabe/Bladinere area
which was officially commemorated on Thursday, 29th of September 2022,” the Bank stated. BRED Tagabe, as BRED Vanuatu’s third local branch is located at BRED HAOS TAGABE, on the outskirts of Port Vila’s CBD.
SNAP Elections held
Following the Dissolution of Parliament, Snap elections were to be held on 13 October. Polling stations throughout Vanuatu’s 18 constituencies opened their doors at 7.30am on 13 October for the people to cast their votes. Over 300,000 eligible voters have registered in the electoral roll to cast their votes
today, to elect the new 52 Members of Parliament.
New Government formed
The final results of the 2022 snap election were release on Sunday evening of the 23rd October. 14 out of the 52 sitting Members of Parliament lost their seats with the majority of the existing MPs returned. 10 new MP’s and 4 former MP’s including 2 former Prime Ministers won seats in the new legislature. On the 4 November, Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau is elected the new Prime Minister of Vanuatu leading a coalition of UMP and the former opposition.
Welcome Back Cruiseships
Vanuatu’s capital was a hive of excitement and bustle yesterday as it welcomed the arrival of Pacific Encounter, the first cruise ship to return to Port Vila after more than two years. Pacific Encounter celebrated its arrival to Vanuatu by pledging to fund a new ambulance for ProMedical, and other initiatives such as 200 volleyballs to help the community health and wellbeing program that is developed around the achievement of Vanuatu’s remarkable Women’s Beach Volleyball team.
Air Vanuatu a Mess: PM
Prime Minister (PM) Ishmael Kalsakau has labelled the current status of Air Vanuatu as a ‘mess’. He made the remarks in his maiden speech as PM, during the appointment of the new Ministers at the Parliament Rotunda on Friday evening last week. PM Kalsakau acknowledged the national flag carrier is a source of national pride in Vanuatu, but it has come under a lot of scrutiny in the past and recently.
Government Broadband Network paralysed by cyber-attack
The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) has confirmed the Government’s Broadband Network has been compromised since Sunday, 6th of November 2022. A statement from the
OGCIO yesterday relayed that as a result all the online services such as email, network shares, VoIP services and other government online services offered by the government are currently down. This has paralysed all government ministries and department.
‘Tamtam’ Sub-Sea Cable to Connect Port Vila and Lifou
Local company Interchange Limited (ICL) and l’Office des Postes et Télécommunications (OPT) signed a landing party agreement this week, which will allow for Vanuatu’s second sub-sea cable to land on Lifou, New Caledonia. The cable, nicknamed the ‘Tamtam’ cable, will be the second to supply global bandwidth to Vanuatu, providing backup in the case of a disruption to the existing sub-sea cable that connects Vanuatu and Fiji (ICN1).
Petrol Price Increases, Mazut Price Drops
The Department of Energy (DoE) has confirmed that prices of petrol at the pumps have increased by VT3 per litre at the fuel stations, starting on Monday December 19, 2022.
“The price of petrol has gone from VT193 per litre to VT196.
IPDS pays VT40M Dividend to Gov’t and Ifira Trustees
The Ifira Ports Development and Services (IPDS) paid VT40 million in dividend to its two shareholders yesterday, the highest payout since 2014.Of the total dividend, VT19, 600,000 was paid to the Vanuatu
Government and VT20, 400,000 to Ifira Trustees Limited (ITL).
Virgin Australia to resume Port Vila flights in March 2023
Virgin Australia’s Corporate Affairs team announce that the airline will resume direct services from Brisbane to Port Vila, starting on 10 March 2023, with up to five flights a week.
The airline will only be connecting Port Vila and Brisbane, with connections available from Sydney as well as other domestic Australian markets via Brisbane.
Air Vanuatu Problems Continue
Air Vanuatu’s problems continue with flight delays causing problems with passengers both local and tourists. The shareholders of Air Vanuatu have decided that the Board of Directors (BOD) not to be paid any salaries, entitlements, or benefits, in order to begin the process of saving the national airline.
This was relayed via a press statement on the 27th of December, amidst ongoing flight disruptions, which have frustrated both local and international travellers this Christmas season.