In his response, to the speech by the Head of State, during the official opening, of the first ordinary session of parliament, on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister, Bob Lougman, reiterated that national developments, must always take place in the atmosphere of peace, and in accordance with the rule of law and order, and peace in the nation.
He acknowledged the national developments made in 2019, by the former government and the opposition in the eleventh legislature.
“I also noted many development progresses made by both the last and previous governments and that has raised this nation to another level where we are at today.
“Most importantly, I give credit to the citizens, the chiefs, the churches leaders, community leaders and business communities in all these developments of our country.
“The President spent time this morning (Tuesday morning in parliament) to explain the fundamental duties and expectations of elected leaders and what is rule of law, importance of working in accordance of the law, and duties of each and every one of us and the citizens to uphold the constitution and building integrity of national institutions in our nation.
“The constitution is a fundamental pillar of a nation that promotes the values of democracy and justice all the time. The government of the day will always respect and uphold these fundamental principles in fair and just way in the running of the nation,” the PM said.
Loughman assured that the present administration will always address the development needs of the citizens while ensuring the rule of law are respected and adhered to.
The head of the government noted that Vanuatu has arrived at its 40 years journey as an independent nation.
“Despite COVID-19, preparations are going ahead for Vanuatu to celebrate the 40th anniversary of independence with pride, honour and hope, as a nation,” the PM stated.
He confirms the 40th anniversary celebrations will take place in all the islands of Vanuatu including area councils.
“It is time for us to celebrate our 40th anniversary and of our developments and challenges since 1980 up to now,” PM Loughman remarked.
On the current government policies, Loughman provided an update on the country’s economy.
“Following the COVID-19 and TC Harold, we expect our economy to go through a “contraction period” at a growth rate of 1.1% of the GDP.
“With the government stimulus package improvement and the immediate response to the two disasters we have seen our economy picking up at a growth of 0.6% of the GDP.
“Under the COVID-19 Stimulus package we plan to inject Vt5.9 billion into the economy of Vanuatu as a “short to medium” term response to COVID-19 crisis.
“With this opportunity, I wish to quickly brief the parliament on key components of the stimulus package.
“Employment Stabilization Payment is Vt1.1 billion.
“The government is helping the business sector to keep their employees on payroll with an amount of Vt30,000 to those who are registered with the VNPF starting as of March 2020.
“Small Medium Enterprises(SMEs) Vt400 million.
“We also provide a “one-off grant payment” of Vt60,000 to the SMEs who have an annual turnover of Vt200 million or less.
“Tuition Fee Exemption- Vt600 million, in this we also have fee exemption support to parents in both the public and the private schools with an amount of Vt42,000 for each child. This fund goes directly schools.
“Commodity Support Grant- Vt300 million.
“We do not forget the farmers and those who focus in growing kava, cocoa, coffee and coconut. The stimulus package also include them.
“The Shipping Support Grants is Vt100 million to help shipping owners and the citizens to have their produce enter major market centres.
“Tax Relief Measures is Vt779 million. Part of this package is revenue “ foregone” to taxes with an amount of Vt796 million.
“This include road taxes cancellation, rent tax cancellation, work permit fee cancellation, and residence permit fee cancellation.
“Recovery and reconstruction Program is Vt3 billion.
“The last component is the recovery and reconstruction program which is part of the medium to long term recovery strategy which will end at the end of June 2020.
“With this stimulus package, we aim to keep our economy at a level which is sustainable and can support citizens of our country to have a good living.
“The government policies under the stimulus package targets the economic sectors that can create a “quick win” in this country’s economy,” PM Bob Loughman, outlined in his response to the Head of State’s speech.
He highlighted the present government long and medium term policies, improvement in business opportunity and investment environment with desire to work with citizens to increase primary production such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, strengthening agriculture value chain and encourage farmers to ad value to their products, expand and attract investment in these sectors, improve resilient infrastructure, improve quality education and accessibility with the goal of “ leaving no one behind” and the government priority is for the government to explore ways that will enable citizens towards cheaper, sustainable, and high quality education, improve opportunities for employment for youths and encourage entrepreneurial skills development.
“With the COVID-19 crisis we want to strengthen the capacity to improve health infrastructure services so as to manage our country in a self, healthy, secure and free from COVID-19,” he outlined.
The Prime Minister touched on improving service delivery through the decentralization service delivery to the rural areas, urban management to ensure safe working environment, labor mobility policy, at national and international to ensure greater benefit for workers and economy, and strengthen the capacity in foreign ministry to manage external relations in a way that Vanuatu will benefit better from it.
The PM also pointed out the present government policies on improving resilience and natural resource management, ensure social inclusion, security, peace and justice, and the integral land management reform.
Prime Minister Bob Loughman, said it is his prayers that God will bless the MPs and all the people in their constituencies throughout the country.