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Official Name - The Republic of Vanuatu
Land Area - 12,190 sq km - four main islands, eighty smaller islands
Population - 243,000 (2009), 247,000 (2010, IMF estimate) Citizens are known collectively as ”ni-Vanuatu”
Capital City - Port Vila, Efate
Religion - Predominantly Christian
Languages -Official languages: Bislama (Pidgin), English and French. There are also approximately 115 local languages in common use.
Currency - Vanuatu Vatu (VT)
Exchange Rate - NZ$1 = 75.48 Vt (as at 1 August 2011)
EEZ - 200nm
Political system - Unitary Republic based on Westminster Parliamentary model
National government - Coalition comprising seven political parties and a number of independents as at August 2011
National legislature - Unicameral Parliament, 52 members elected for four-year terms; universal franchise containing an element of proportional representation
Last election - September 2008 (legislature); August 2009 (Presidential)
Next election due - September 2012 (legislature); August 2014 (Presidential)
Head of State - President HE Iolu Abbil Johnson Kaniapnin
The President is appointed for a five-year term by an electoral college drawn from MPs and Heads of Local Government
Head of Government,Prime Minister
Hon Sato Kilman (Alliance – PPP)
Key Ministers -
Hon Hamilson Lini (NUP)
Hon Moana Carcasses (Alliance, Greens)
Hon Alfred Carlot (VRP)
Hon Iaris Harry Iauko (VP – Iauko faction)
Hon George Andre Wells (VP/NUP/Alliance)
Hon Ralph Regenvanu (Land & Justice Party)
Hon Marcelino Pipite (VRP)
Hon Steven Kalsakau (formally UMP)
Hon Willie Ruben Abel (VP – Iauko faction – aligned independent/PPP)
Hon James Nwango (PPP)
Hon Don Ken (NUP)
Hon Morkin Stevens (NUP)
Hon Maxime Carlot Korman (VRP – Korman faction)
Key Opposition MPs
Leader of the Opposition: Edward Natapei (VP)
Main political parties - Union of Moderate Parties (UMP); Vanua’aku Pati (VP); National United Party (NUP); Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP); Vanuatu Republican Party (VRP); The Alliance Group (the Greens Confederation (GC); People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Ground and Justice Party, Namange aute, Independents, Labour Party (LP), Nagriamel Movement, Natatok Party (NP)
GDP - US$648 million (IMF, 2009)
GDP breakdown - Goods 30% Services 70%
GDP per capita - US$2620 (IMF, 2009)
Real GDP Growth - 3.5% (2009); 2.2% (Vanuatu Reserve Bank figures); 3.0% (2011 ADB forecast)
Exports (fob) - Vt$248 million (2010)
Main exports (% of 2010 total exports)
Principal export markets (% of 2008 total exports)
Imports (cif) - Vt2,550 million (2010)
Main imports (% of 2010 total imports)
Principal import markets (% of 2010 total imports)
Current Account - Vt-281 billion (December 2010, Vanuatu Reserve Bank)
Inflation - 3.4% (2010, Vanuatu Reserve Bank
Gross external debt - US$129.8 million (World Bank, 2009)
Government budget - Vt24.2 billion (2010)
Source: Statistics New Zealand, Overseas Trade (to December 2010)
NZ Exports (fob) - $44 million
Main Exports to December 2010 (FOB, NZ$ million)
Medicaments, Aircraft, Wood (sawn or chipped), Iron or non-alloy steel (flat rolled), Petroleum Oils, Iron or steel structures, Refrigerators and freezers
NZ Imports (cif) -
Flour & meal, fish & fish products, ferrous waste & scrap, coconut and palm oil, copper waste & scrap, aluminium waste and scrap, coffee
Services Trade - Offshore finance services, tourism, export of labour
New Zealand Aid Programme allocation -
2008/09: NZ$17 million
2009/10: NZ$18 million
2010/11: NZ$19 million
2011/12: NZ$19 million
Other key donors (2011/12) -Australia: AU$70.1 million (2011/12 estimate) EU: €4.5 million (2012 estimate)
Vanuatu has an official population of 234,000, 76% of which live in rural areas. It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, with over 115 spoken languages – including the three national languages of Bislama (Pidgin), English and French; the last two reflecting its colonial heritage as an Anglo-French Condominium.
In recent years Vanuatu has been regarded – with some qualification – as a ‘Melanesian success story’. The political and economic turmoil of the 1990s has been replaced by relative political stability and sustained economic growth (around 3.5% in 2009 and 2.2% in 2010), based primarily on the services sector, including tourism, infrastructure and real estate. Aid programmes have also grown in this time, further adding to Vanuatu’s positive economic momentum.
Nevertheless Vanuatu faces significant challenges. Standards of education, health, housing and sanitation are among the poorest in the Pacific and most of the population live a subsistence rural lifestyle that leaves many families struggling to pay for the provision of basic services.
New Zealand’s links with Vanuatu are long-standing, dating back to Bishop Selwyn and the founding of the Melanesian Mission in 1849. Traditionally, people-to-people contact occurred around church and education links, but the advent of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in 2007 has seen people-to-people linkages flourish, with over 2000 ni-Vanuatu travelling to New Zealand each year to seek work in New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industries. Professional partnerships between the New Zealand public and private sector and their Vanuatu counterparts are also an increasingly important and valued part of the bilateral relationship, including in areas such as correctional services, aviation security, labour, passports and business mentoring.
Artefacts and human remains of the Lapita people, the first inhabitants of the Vanuatu archipelago, have been unearthed near Port Vila on Efate Island and date back at least 4,000 years. Polynesian voyagers from the east later settled parts of the island group. The first European sailed through the area in 1606, followed by Spanish, Portuguese and French explorers, including Louis Antoine de Bougainville who referred to the islands as a “garden of Eden”. In 1774, Captain Cook explored and charted the islands, which he named New Hebrides (after the Scottish islands). There gradually followed a range of missionaries, black-birders, whalers, sandalwood traders and colonists.
Britain and France established a Joint Naval Commission in the New Hebrides in 1887, which gave equal influence to both countries, and in 1906 the territory became the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides. Following the Second World War concerns over alienation of land and loss of political independence gradually led to calls for independence. By the mid-1970s (by which time the Condominium had come to be referred to locally as ‘the Pandemonium’) Britain and France recognised the need for constitutional reform, and with ni-Vanuatu agitating for further rights, they agreed to elections. On 30 July 1980 the New Hebrides gained independence and became the Republic of Vanuatu. Father Walter Lini was the nation’s first Prime Minister. The struggle for independence by the leaders of the 60s and 70s is a factor in Vanuatu’s subsequent world view and foreign policy.
The last two decades have been marked by political instability and fragmentation of the original political parties formed post-independence, initially founded on linguistic lines (English and French). Successive governments have been characterised by multi-party coalitions preoccupied with political survival rather than strategic policy-making. A core of long-serving politicians, from whom the senior leadership is typically drawn depending on the balance of power, is supplemented by ambitious newcomers and one-term candidates. The political culture generally reflects the ni-Vanuatu tradition of “big man” patronage and it is common for whole communities to vote en masse rather than as individuals.
Over 2003-2004 there were three Prime Ministers in quick succession following a series of reshuffles and the internal disintegration of PM Edward Natapei’s coalition-leading Vanua’aku Pati (VP). The next government led by francophone Serge Vohor was strongly nationalistic and concerned at Vanuatu’s apparent dependence on Australia and New Zealand. Against the wishes of his Ministers, Vohor also sought to switch recognition from China to Taiwan. After only six months in power, that government lost a Vote of No Confidence and in December 2004 Ham Lini (a younger brother of Fr Walter Lini) became Prime Minister. Subsequently Lini was able to govern for nearly four years, despite frequent challenges to his leadership - a period which provided relative political stability to Vanuatu.
Vanuatu’s most recent elections were held in September 2008, with the Vanua’aku Pati forming a five-party coalition out of a fragmented electoral result. Edward Natapei became Prime Minister for the second time. Natapei was deposed as Prime Minister in December 2010 with Alliance Group leader and People’s Progressive Party President, Sato Kilman, becoming Prime Minister. Sato Kilman’s government was then ousted in April 2011, but reinstated in May 2011.
The majority of Vanuatu’s population is engaged in rural subsistence agriculture. Vanuatu's formal economy is narrowly based on tourism, real estate, construction and agriculture, with the principal exports being coconut oil, copra, copra meal, kava, beef and cocoa.
Vanuatu’s economy continues to perform well, although its annual GDP growth has slowed from the past highs of a 6% growth average to 2.2% in 2010. Vanuatu receives significant aid programme assistance which has supported its economic development. Annual inflation in 2010 was 3.4%, a 1.1% increase on the previous year, and was largely driven by increases in excise taxes.
Rapid growth in Vanuatu’s population, currently estimated to be rising by 2.3% per year, is somewhat offset by the strengthening economy which helps sustain GDP per capita. This overall economic growth indicator masks, however, a widening gap in wealth distribution across Vanuatu society. Unemployment is increasing in some communities, especially around the main towns of Port Vila and Luganville, although the economic impacts of the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme may have gone some way to reduce internal migration from outer islands to informal urban settlements.
The Vanuatu Government began an Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Comprehensive Reform Programme (CRP) in 1997, aimed at restructuring the economy and government in order to support sustainable growth and deliver improvements to the quality of life for ni-Vanuatu. The CRP promoted economic growth oriented on the private sector and reduced public expenditure. While it has resulted in some improvements, more needs to be done to continue to support ongoing work in strengthening governance and economic development.
After negotiations with the OECD, Vanuatu has been removed from the OECD list of non-cooperative jurisdictions under the Harmful Tax Initiative, having committed to, but yet to substantially implement, the internationally agreed tax standard. In 2008 Vanuatu re-commenced accession negotiations for the World Trade Organisation and is expected to become a member in 2011. Vanuatu is part of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA). Vanuatu has signed Tax Information Exchange Agreements with Australia and a number of other countries including New Zealand. Vanuatu is interested to sign further agreements with other countries in the near future.
Vanuatu joined the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum (then known as the South Pacific Forum) on independence in 1980. A year later, it joined the United Nations. It is also a member of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund. As a member of the Africa Caribbean and Pacific group, Vanuatu enjoys preferential trade links with the European Union. Vanuatu is a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and hosts the MSG Secretariat which opened in Port Vila in May 2008. Vanuatu hosted the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in August 2010.
Formal diplomatic relations were established between New Zealand and Vanuatu following Vanuatu’s independence in 1980. A resident New Zealand High Commission was established in 1987 in Port Vila, with accreditation prior to that coming from Honiara. Vanuatu’s Honorary Consul in Auckland was upgraded to a Consulate-General in January 2011. Both countries enjoy a regular programme of high-level visits and exchanges, and have been working together to develop a number of bilateral initiatives aimed at strengthening the relationship and supporting Vanuatu’s development goals.
In October 2006 Vanuatu was selected as one of five Pacific “kick-startstates” facilitated for the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. This scheme enables ni-Vanuatu unskilled and semi-skilled workers to find temporary employment in the horticulture and viticulture sectors in New Zealand. New Zealand employers have shown considerable interest in recruiting temporary labour from Vanuatu. RSE workers from Vanuatu are consistently the highest participants from the Pacific, with 2,342 RSE workers in 2008/09 and 2,137 RSE workers in 2009/10. The RSE scheme adds another strand to the people-to-people links between New Zealand and has delivered real benefits to ni-Vanuatu RSE workers and their families and communities through remittances, work experience and skills gained while in New Zealand. It is estimated that 60-70% of remittances go to the rural regions.
Defence links between New Zealand and Vanuatu were established in 1986 under the NZDF Mutual Assistance Programme and in 1981 an exchange of letters on defence co-operation was signed. The New Zealand Defence Attaché based in Port Moresby is accredited to Vanuatu. The RNZAF makes regular maritime surveillance patrols over Vanuatu’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on behalf of the Vanuatu Government and the NZDF provides assistance to Vanuatu in disaster preparedness and response. In 2011, the HMNZS Canterbury and a contingent of NZDF personnel carried out a range of construction projects and medical outreaches in Santo under the US-led Pacific Partnership Mission.
The New Zealand Aid Programme supports Vanuatu in the areas of economic development through tourism, infrastructure and private sector development; basic education and scholarships; and law and justice through support to correctional services and provision of New Zealand judges. New Zealand also gives support to civil society organizations for improved delivery of basic services. Particular efforts are being made to ensure that assistance benefits rural communities.
The New Zealand Aid Programme’s bilateral funding allocation for Vanuatu is NZ$19 million in 2011/12. Of this, approximately 16% is allocated to Economic Development, 47% to Education, 31% to Strengthening Governance and 6% to the Small Projects and Medical Treatment schemes. Major initiatives include a domestic shipping project, strengthening the customary land tribunal and the Vanuatu Correctional Services project, involving the construction of a new prison in Port Vila and on-going capacity building and institutional strengthening of the Correctional Services Department. In education, New Zealand is working with Australia, UNICEF and the Government of Vanuatu to increase access to and the quality of basic education.
Vanuatu also benefits directly from New Zealand's regional aid programmes – approximately NZ$8.85 million in 2011/12. These include economic and governance activities, partnerships with New Zealand Government agencies and NGOs, and support to regional agencies such as the University of the South Pacific, the Pacific Community, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Forum Fisheries Agency.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, with $14 million (about US$10m) of New Zealand funding, completed in 2011 a five-year US$65.69m Compact with Vanuatu which constructed two major roads on Efate and Santo. The new roads have seen traffic flows increase so far by 98% in Efate and 42% in Santo. Several new tourism businesses have opened along both roads and at least thirteen new market stalls along the Efate Ring Road. Travel times have reduced by an estimated 50% on Efate Island and 75% on Santo. Vehicle operating costs have reduced, with an estimated saving of US$6 million in the first year. 167 ni-Vanuatu workers gained construction skills as a result of being employed on the roading project.
New Zealand is contributing up to a further $1 million to repair three bridges that were not in the original project scope. The repairs on the two Santo bridges are proceeding immediately and the design for the repair of Epule Bridge on Efate is underway.
New Zealand is the second largest source of visitors to Vanuatu, after Australia. The number of New Zealanders travelling by air to Vanuatu has remained steady for the past two years at around 11,000 travellers, although this does not record the numbers that visit Port Vila on day excursions from the many cruise ships which call.
New Zealand does not have a reciprocal visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu. New Zealand passport holders are granted an initial tourist visa for 30 days on arrival. This may be renewed month by month to a maximum of four months. All foreign visitors are required to hold a valid outward ticket. Applicants’ passports must be valid beyond six months of arrival in Vanuatu. Vanuatu residency may be granted to both investors and workers provided certain conditions are met.
Ni-Vanuatu citizens wishing to visit or transit through New Zealand require visas. Visitors’ visas can be granted to a maximum stay of nine months within any 18-month period.
Mr McKenzie Kalotiti
P.O. Box 17427
Phone: +64 9 918 6327 (office)
+64 0212164722 (mobile)
The Safe Travel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Vanuatu [external link].