Miscategorization of visitor entry concerns trade development committee

A senior officer of the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Cooperatives and ni-Vanuatu Business presenting at the second meeting of the NTDC.

By Jonas Cullwick

The National Trade Development Committee (NTDC) has expressed concern that miscategorizing of visitors to the country as a result of poor information gathering through immigration cards is generating flawed data. This concern was one of a number of points raised in the Trade Statistics discussions of the NTDC at the second meeting of 2017.

The committee agreed that the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu (RBV) should continue to provide updates on the latest data on International Goods and Services by the RBV in order for NTDC to see External trade development picture from the raw data.

It also requested the RBV to continue to share the Services data in relation to WTO modes of supply which addresses all development needs, including those of international trade negotiations and agreements.

And it instructed the NTDC Secretariat to work with Public Service Commission (PSC) to follow-up with the Department of Immigration about the issue of visitors miscategorising their purpose upon entry, and also about business visitors not receiving receipts upon payment.

The Meeting was provided with an update on the trade statistics, by the RBV that included both updates on trade in goods and services, and a discussion of the methodology.

Following the presentation, the representative from Vanuatu Hotels and Resorts Association (VHRA) stated that there was an issue that the records from the immigration cards do not match up with the other sources of data. One issue is that a business visa costs Vt20,000, and so some people will tick holiday instead. This distorts the data.

The Senior Economist at the RBV agreed, and outlined other flaws with the data, such as relying on self-reporting from visitors about how much they spend. She suggested that everyone needs to work together to improve these statistics.

The Director of the Department of External Trade stated that they use this data when they are conducting trade negotiations. There is a big deficit in trade in goods, which is slightly offset by the surplus in services.

The Acting Director, Department of Industry (DoI), spoke about the promotion of AgriTourism and handicrafts and other products. He asked how these figures were counted.

The Senior Economist explained that if you sell physical goods, then that will count towards the merchandise export statistics.

The representative of the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA), spoke about how RBV used a different definition of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to VIPA. The Senior Economist explained that if foreign ownership was over 10% of the value of the business, then this counted as FDI.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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