Shaun Gilchrist provides a roundup of recent happenings
What a difference a month makes. This last month has been an interesting period for business, especially due to the release of the long awaited government taxation review.
Without a doubt, the number one topic of discussion is the proposed tax plan. While the topic is not new to the business community, since our last edition we have seen the publication of the “revenue review discussion paper”.
The positive: we no longer have to sit and surmise the direction recommended by the review committee. Business owners and employees can see how this will affect us on a day-to-day basis. To date we have seen two community consultations here in Port Vila, the first for public servants, which saw a full house, followed by what appears by all accounts to be a poor turn out of bus/taxi drivers and small business owners.
The general consensus by business owners that the structure and implementation is a forgone conclusion, and the consultation is no more than a PR exercise. I think it is a little premature to be jumping to conclusions. We need to allow the government receive feedback, and see how and where that effects the plan.
I was speaking with a longer term business owner recently who said the challenge they have with what is being proposed is that, unlike the Australian or New Zealand Corporate and income taxations systems, where 95% of the working population are supporting the 5% who do not work, this has 5% of the working population supporting the 95%.
Work on the seafront beautification continues in earnest. While the long-term prospects of this are positive, there are a few businesses in the Nambawan Café area that are not currently seeing the positive. They are now boxed into a small, segmented area with limited access. One owner in the area is reporting a 40% reduction in business compared to 2014. Let’s hope for their sake that the works around this area are finished as quickly as possible. No, it is not all doom and gloom out there for business.
Two key areas of tourism arrivals—the Wharf and Airport— are progressing well in their respective projects. The wharf meeting all its targets. The airport meanwhile continues to move forward with the plans for the refurbishment of the runway in early to mid-2017 and then a new terminal. Remember these are not just discussions. These are actual projects meeting milestones.
In the commercial side of local business, there are still a number of mid and large size companies that are either under contract or pending contracts for sale. Some of these employ 15 to 40+ staff and it is a positive sign to see that despite much of the negative discussions there is confidence in business community, both domestically and from foreign investors to commit hundreds of millions of vatu into substantial investments. Hopefully in next month’s edition we will be able to outline one such investment that is currently pending settlement.
Finally one of the positive signs of investment is the Akiriki Resort on first lagoon. This project under C&K has been progressing in the background for some time now and is almost at completion. With the opening due in late 2016. This will be operated by Ramada, which will again see further international skillsets and standards introduced to the Vanuatu Tourism and Hospitality Industry, not to mention the career opportunities for NiVanuatu staff. Another positive news story for Vanuatu and our ever-important Tourism Sector.
As a final comment: rather than sitting about and complaining about the tax plan, get out there and get involved in the discussion. It’s the only way that things can change.
Shaun Gilchrist is the owner of Trilogy Consultants and has been a resident of Port Vila since 2009. He is involved in a number of local business, sporting and charity organisations.