MP-elect for Port Vila, Ralph Regenvanu, has stepped in to assist his voters who lost their means of earning an income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic, by closing borders and restricting international travel, has stopped entirely the tourism industry in Vanuatu, which is the single biggest employer of people living in Port Vila.
While the Government has announced an economic stimulus package which includes waiving of many Government taxes and fees and subsidising a portion of employees’ wages, people who are not on a salary but who survive off services provided to wage-earners have not been given any relief to date by the Government.
These people include taxi and bus drivers (mostly men), street food vendors (20 vatu market mamas — almost all women), handicraft sellers (almost all women) and kava bar operators (mostly men). MP-elect Regenvanu, has stepped in to provide assistance to his voters in last month’s election who fall into these categories; people who have lost incomes but will not be immediately eligible for any assistance from the Government.
On the advice of his constituency executive, Regenvanu has provided over 1.4 million vatu worth of rice to his voters who are in family units consisting of a couple or a single parent with child dependents in which no member of the family has paid employment; that is, households in which the “bread winners” of the family survive off services provided to wage-earners but do not themselves earn salaries.
Regenvanu says that in extreme situations of economic hardship such as these, he has a duty as a servant of the people receiving considerable allowances paid by the public to make sure that some of those funds are used to support the least fortunate in the society. Rice has been distributed to Ralph’s voters throughout Port Vila.