The nation-wide discussions on the economic, social, environmental and cultural priorities for the National Sustainable Development Plan for 2016-2030 for Vanuatu have begun yesterday morning.

The national Priorities and Action Agenda (PAA) is set to expire in 2015. These priorities, set and agreed to in 2006, introduced a long-term national vision of a ‘just, educated, healthy and wealthy Vanuatu’ that captured the spirit of the preceding Comprehensive Reform Program.

Minister of Lands, Ralph Regenvanu, who delivered the opening speech on behalf of the Prime Minister, said nine years ago, the long-term goal for Vanuatu was four-fold.

“By 2015, we aimed to have achieved a significant increase in real per capita incomes as well as growth in employment levels. We aimed to be a world leader in our pursuit to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

“We aimed to reform the public sector, making it more productive and establishing a higher standard of governance and accountability. And we aimed to create an enabling environment to sustain private sector led growth”.

The Minister also outlined the challenges into achieving these goals. “In just nine years we have had some great successes and at the same we have faced considerable challenges to reaching our long-term goals with the priorities and actions agreed to in 2006.

“We have performed well in terms of economic growth which has translated into significant increases in real per capita incomes but have achieved mixed progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals thus far and in ensuring the equitable distribution of the benefits of this growth.

“Structural reforms for enabling private sector led growth lack sufficient implementation capacity and improvements to the public service have not met with the expected results. For the past eight years we have been working towards these longer term goals with the understanding that our vision and current set of priorities would need to be revisited by 2015 to reflect lessons learned and to ensure that we continue to address our development challenges and aspirations from 2016 and beyond.

The world is moving towards sustainable development and green growth which considers economic, social, and environmental priorities of equal importance. Out of the seven National Strategic Priorities outlined in the PAA, three of them are concerned solely with economic development and three of them are concerned solely with social development.

Minister noted that environmental objectives will be a focus in this next Development plan.

“Priority #4, which addresses ‘Primary Sector Development, Environment, Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management’, features four economic Priority Objectives and just two Priority Objectives that are solely environmental.

“In other words, our top priority is our economy, followed closely by our people, and very little priority is provided for our environment. We now realize that the PAA in its current form will not foster sustainable development outcomes and we must use this opportunity to revise Vanuatu’s development framework for the benefit of our future generations”.

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