CEO says VFIPA friend to investors

By Len Garae

CEO Howard Aru(centre) signs contract with Deputy Chair Francesca Grillo(left) and Member Liz Pechan for Vanuatu Hotel and Resort Association(VHRA)

Vanuatu’s Foreign Investment Promotion Authority newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Howard Aru, has signed his contract with Deputy Chair, Francesca Grillo and Member (for Vanuatu Hotels and Resorts Association) Liz Pechan, in the Board’s Conference Room yesterday morning.

While the duo congratulate him to his post and welcome his focus as he gets set to connect with investors, they also assure him the current Board will meet with their new CEO on Thursday this week.

It will be an opportunity to know him as they prepare to move forward in this challenging time particularly in the current global COVID-19 era.

But for the CEO this is his second reappointment to the post as he had contributed towards setting up the Office in 1998.

He thanks the current Board of Directors for “having confidence in me”.

While the VFIPA had its challenges back then but now the CEO admits they have a new set of challenges that perhaps are more far reaching than before.

“I’d like to encourage our foreign investors who are here with us in Vanuatu to thank them for their commitment in staying and continuing to invest in spite of the challenges that they may have faced over the years; political risks, cultural factors, disasters including the most recent Cyclone Harold and the current COVID-19”, he says.

“Whatever happens on the other side of COVD-19 is still uncertain as we continue to monitor what is happening outside of Vanuatu in our neighbouring countries especially New Zealand and Australia and to some extent Fiji, as they are the gateways to Vanuatu for our foreign investors.

“But there is a lot of work to be done internally to help better reposition ourselves as an Agency as I said which was quoted last week that VFIPA needs to bring back visibility, it has to be relevant.

“Investors need to know not just for the sake of legality but they need to have confidence in the ability for VFIPA to be able to assist them because investors are strangers and are guests in this country.

“Some have remained like a few that I know have become citizens and dual citizens for that matter too.

“But still this is not their culture, this is Vanuatu and a Melanesian country (and) we do things sometime or a lot of times differently than them.

“The system of Government sometimes can be difficult to maneuver so I think there is a lot that we can work with investors on to help them feel that they are wanted, to feel that they are of value to our country and that VFIPA becomes not just an entity that monitors them but is a friend to foreign investors to help them first to invest for new ones and to reinvest.

“I’d like to say whilst we will be doing a lot of internal review in looking at our own internal processes within VFIPA, I’d like to start meeting with people and talking to them and also with our other line partner agencies”.

In fact the CEO has already met with at least one donor agency and is focused on also meeting with key investors, big businesses in Vanuatu to ask them what their challenges are and how to work with VFIPA to assist them “as we move along for the next five or six months while we are still under lock down”.