Following a front page interview article in the 26th February edition of the weekly Vila Times newspaper, i wrote a “Letter to the Editor” in response to several of the comments made by the person being interviewed, a so-called “French investor and business owner” named Mathieu Hervillard.

Unfortunately, the Vila Times has no means in place for readers to respond to any article they print, and they informed me they do not have a “Letters to the Editor” facility in their paper. Given the disparaging comments made by Mr Hervillard about the real estate sector, the patronising comments he made about “Australian and French investors”, and the cringeworthy comments he made about “Chinese investors”, your readers may be interested in a response to his opinions. This was the letter:

Dear Editor,

Response to your interview with Mr Mathieu Hervillard in the Vila Times 26 February issue

I would like to make a few points in response to your interview in the Feb 26th issue of the Vila Times with “French investor and business owner”, Mr Mathieu Hervillard, who seems to think he is some kind of sagacious oracle on commercial life in Vanuatu.

First of all, Mr Hervillard’s ill-informed statement that, ”I personally think there is only one real estate agency here that works properly” says more about this man’s ignorance than it does about his powers of observation and assessment.

What possessed this young man with such limited knowledge and experience of Vanuatu (“It’s been around 15 years since the members of our family been here last time …and just last year I started to work here properly”) to make such a baseless declaration, is anyone’s guess.

I cannot speak for any other real estate operators in Vanuatu, but since our company, which has traded in this country since 1991, has had no previous dealings of any kind with Mr Hervillard or his family, he is in no position whatsoever to assess our business, let alone to condemn a whole sector with his pompous and dismissive statement.

Further examples of Mr Hervillard’s lack of judgment and immaturity were his embarrassing statements about Chinese investors in Vanuatu. Astonishing comments like, “Westerners do not know what is in their minds….” and “I don’t think Australian or French investors go and talk to them. They just don’t understand them and have no relationship with them…” and “I might be the only expat investor here who actually talks to them and spends time with them…” have left many of your readers shaking their heads in bewilderment.

I am neither Australian nor French, however i am certain i was not alone in taking offence at such patronising and simplistic comments.

Surely Mr Hervillard’s view of the world – and himself — is not so distorted that he actually does believe the preposterous notion that he is the only “expat” speaking to Chinese investors, or the only one who visits their homes, drinks tea with them or dines with them?

According to Mr Hervillard’s own words, whatever properties in this country that he now manages or may have an interest in, were largely acquired by his “grandfather, father and uncle” in previous years (“Before the Vanuatu independence and right after. 1980s”) – not by him.

That being the case, one would have thought that he might have been more gracious about his inherited, privileged circumstances, and less reckless about uttering the self-absorbed and narcissistic platitudes attributed to him in your interview.

In addition to our own real estate and development company, many other long term investors in this country own and have developed far more property than Mr Hervillard’s family, have created far more jobs, have increased the local infrastructure and have paid far more in fees and tax revenue to the Vanuatu Government.

While it is always welcome to see the media focusing on the importance of the private sector, perhaps your next interview with someone from the business community could be with someone from this group of people, whose views are likely be more representative, logical and relevant.

It is to be hoped for Mr Hervillard’s own sake that the passage of a few more years will help give him a more balanced perspective of the world, including Vanuatu, and perhaps help him to acquire a more rational set of opinions.

Yours faithfully,

Douglas Patterson

Director

Island Property

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