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“It is time for Vanuatu to take the leadership role in the Pacific. We must be awake and follow the sound of music as it goes.”
This is the persuasive message from the country’s Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey, at the opening of the historic Vanuatu Agri-Tourism Festival at Tagabe Agriculture Station Wednesday.
He said, “Let us go back to the basics by empowering our farmers to return to their lands to cultivate them to provide for the essential needs of our people”.
He congratulated the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Tourism and Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Matai Seremaiah and his Director General, Howard Aru and their staff for hosting the biggest initiative ever.
Not only that but the DG’s address to the Ministers of ACP House in Brussels six weeks ago, took the ACP by storm. They spoke of nothing else except the direction that Vanuatu is taking to develop its agriculture and tourism through its Agri-Tourism Policy.
“Today Vanuatu is listed as the number one country to model Agricultural Policy that is driven by CTA. We are the first which makes the larger countries in Africa and Caribbean look so small. We’ve come a long way,” the Ambassador said.
“This is as a result of the presentation that the DG made. He has a powerful voice.”
The Ambassador said ACP is pumping so much money into Africa every year.
“You ask yourself, where did the money go?”, he said adding that there is no legacy to indicate how or where the money has been spent.
In comparison he said, “But when you come to the Pacific in Vanuatu or Samoa, you find traces of legacy of how the money has been spent”.
Looking back to the birth of Comprehensive Programme in 1997, the Ambassador said the first victim of CRP was the Department of Livestock. “Livestock industry has been dead over the last 20 years due to a lack of extension capacity to bring in what is relevant to stay,” he said.
He cautioned the Department not to re-invent the wheel saying local beef is organic and is the best in the world. “The restocking programme that the Government is embarking on is going to return the country to the world map, I can assure you,” the Ambassador said.
Meanwhile, he said during the MPs’ visit to China last week, the Chinese want millions of tons of beef every year, a demand which the country cannot meet.
He said the festival marks a turning point for the country.
“Life is becoming expensive and the cost of living in Vanuatu is one of the highest in ACP.
“It makes it very difficult to negotiate for international meetings to be held in Port Vila.
“But Deputy Prime Minister and your Minister, we including your DG, argued to host two major meetings in Port Vila. One is on reflection point of World Trade Organisation.
“Let me state here that I was the chief negotiator for Vanuatu to become a member of WTO.
“And today Vanuatu is benefiting substantially from the Enhanced Integrated Framework. Vanuatu is the best country ever beating the Solomons, Samoa, Tuvalu and Kiribati,” he said.
“We are heading towards our graduation from the LDC Grouping in less than two and half years.
“The good thing is the Government through the Ministry have translated a substantial amount of money from EIF to support the productive sector of tourism in Vanuatu. This is an achievement I want to place on record.
“It shows the commitment of the Government in recognising tourism as the gateway or leading industry for the economic development of the country to be realised.
To prove that Vanuatu is recogises globally, it has already been selected to host the first Pacific Week of Agriculture next year.
““This is a Vanuatu initiative because we want to experience what is happening in the Caribbean. A very high number tourists go to the Caribbean islands. ACP pumps a lot of money to support their tourism policies.
In fact the First PA in Agriculture attended a meeting in the Gayman Islands, one of the world’s smallest finance centres.
The Ambassador said next year’s Pacific Week of Agriculture will be hosted by CTA. The event will be attended by the Director General of the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation. He will spend five days in the country.
Another achievement which shows that the world is watching over Vanuatu is the International Food and Agriculture Development (IFAD) which funded the cyclone recovery phase with a cheque of $US500,000, to support farmers with seedlings for their new farms.
“At the same time we learn of funding which has been used by the Government at its own liking.
“I told the Deputy Prime Minister in his capacity as Head of Government that we learned through the media of many donors providing assistance to Vanuatu but where did the money go?” he asked.
“We are now 36 years old so when a country provides us with funds, we must decide how to use the money,” he advised and spoke against historical practices which include foreign consultants that come in who are paid so much money so that by the end of the day, it becomes clear that none of the money is able to trickle through to the rural economy.
“This is what I am speaking out against in Brussels today.
“I am the only one speaking up because I believe in private sector development and empowerment of the people of Vanuatu,” he said.
Finally the Ambassador reminded the Government that funding from EDF11 totalling 42 million euros (US$45 million) is available. “Let us be diligent and work hard through the line ministries to make sure that those funds do not return to Brussels,” he concluded.
SOURCE: VANUATU DAQILY POST/PACNEWS
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