Special Envoy for Seasonal Employment looking at review of the scheme

MP Francois Chani, Government's Special Envoy for Seasonal Employment

Member of Parliament for Pentecost Francois Chani, the Government’s Special Envoy for Seasonal Employment with New Zealand and Australia says one of his task is to contribute to the review of the scheme.

He says he’s found some people in Australia, who are also farmers, to help him do the work, and that Foreign Affairs in Port Vila have been informed about these people to be engaged as consultants.

“Through the government, we found some people, who are also farmers and I’ve asked them to help us redesign the seasonal workers scheme to address all the failures found in the current scheme,” he told Kizzy Kalsakau of 96 BuzzFM's Vanuatu Nightly News.

He adds: “When I found that this (seasonal employment scheme) is huge, it is bigger than I can handle on my own, I found some people to help me with drafting some policy objectives.”

“I’ve found that the RSE (with New Zealand) and SWP (with Australia) are schemes by governments and countries who wish to assist us, by saying that ‘we give you this’.

"But we as a responsible party must also be able to say what we want the schemes to be, so that we have some form of ownership of the schemes as well. Because when you have ownership, you feel some responsibility also toward the schemes.”

The Government Envoy for seasonal employment says he has spoken to his counterpart in Canberra, and when the Seasonal Work Program (SWP) scheme comes up for review in June, and before he submits his views for the review, Chani wishes to also contribute his views.

This is so so that these can be combined to form something that both sides can have some form of ownership of the final product.

His wish is to see us maximize returns from the scheme, to see the bulk of the money spent here, and in one way, make it is a win-win project for everyone.

“When I was appointed, my first interest was to find out how these schemes engaging in season work for ni-Vanuatu work, and what Vanuatu gains from them in terms of trade.

“We see that Vanuatu gains from employment, workers experiences in seasonal employment and remittances into the country.

"I was also interested in where the bulk of the money earned by the seasonal workers is spent.

“Yes, it’s true, there’s a lot of money earned by the seasonal workers, but what percentage of this money comes into the country.

"That is the interesting part for me, which I wish to know. Also, there are issues and questions regarding employees, agents, and farmers, which we want to know.

“After my appointment, I have been visiting the Vanuatu workers in the farms in Australia, to find out why the workers are complaining, why the unions are complaining, why are the agents in Vanuatu complaining?

"These are the issues we must address, by finding them and letting government know about them.

“We can tell government ‘these are the issues we have found affecting the seasonal workers’ because it is a program we must not lose. We must not treat as just an employment avenue, no it is a form of trade, with a value now I think bigger than tourism because rural workers and involved and their income goes right back to the villages.

"We want those workers who go to know the value of their contribution and what they are going for. For example, I will want workers from my village to put down something, such as planting 100, 200 or 300 kava plants before they go, so that when they return, they have something to continue to earn an income from, the special envoy adds."

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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