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Author: Vila Times Editor

Digicel draws on US$100 mln for hurricane spending

Hurricanes in the Caribbean and sluggish Pacific growth led to reduced free cash flow and slightly higher debt levels for telecoms Digicel Group, according to a report from Fitch Ratings released this month. “Our current leverage is in line with our expectations and we remain focused on deleveraging the business over time as per our stated strategy,” stated the telecoms, whose operations span more than 30 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Pacific Islands. Digicel refinanced roughly US$1.2 billion of its debt earlier this year to reduce its financing costs going forward, The Gleaner reports. Fitch said Digicel...

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West Papua may be included in future Pacific Games

West Papua is one of the countries that could be included in future Pacific Games as the Pacific Games Council (PGC) continues to discuss ways of being inclusive of all the countries within the region. The PGC’s Forum held after its annual general meeting in Port Vila was to hear members on several key topics such as associate membership, bid process and management structure The other names that were floated in general discussion that could be invited to become members of the regional games were Christmas Island, Bouganville, Easter Islands and Hawaii apart from Australia and New Zealand. These...

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‘There have been a conscious policy decision by China to push boats into the South Pacific’

Michael Field, whose book The Catch helped expose the labour and human rights abuses in New Zealand’s fishing industry, in the interview originally published by WikiTribune, discusses his new investigation into illegal fishing practices in the Pacific. Field’s recent investigation is “Murder and abuse: the price of your sashimi.” It details another, largely unreported, aspect of the murky high seas — the mysterious disappearance of observers tasked with ensuring maritime law is observed and helping preserve the planet’s fish stock. The piece deals with murder, men missing at sea and a legal system which is not set up to...

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Managing public funds is an issue for Pacific governments: MP

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in Solomon Islands says Pacific governments need to be more transparent with how they manage public funds. Douglas Ete, who is also an opposition MP, was in Wellington for training run by the UN Development Programme for Pacific Public Accounts Committees, RNZI reports. He said that in the Solomon Islands there has been a lack of transparency around how public funds, such as the National Development Fund, are administered.Mr Ete also said the lack of clarity for how governments manage money from donors, was an issue throughout the Pacific. “It’s an issue...

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Ambae farmers encouraged to go for seasonal work in NZ and Australia

Ambae island farmers who lost their crops during the Manaro volcanic eruption are being encouraged to take up overseas seasonal work. A team from the International Labour Organisation is visiting the island and its spokesman, Bernard Edward, said they wanted to encourage eligible people from devastated areas to join seasonal work programmes in New Zealand and Australia, RNZI reports. Meanwhile the acting commissioner of labour in Vanuatu, John Tasso, said there had been a significant increase in the numbers already involved in the overseas schemes. He said 4,155 ni-Vanuatu had been involved in New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme...

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Niue and American Samoa want to host Pacific Games 2025

Niue is one of two countries that have expressed their interest to bid for the 2025 Pacific Mini Games. Niue, which has a population of 1700, plans to have 8 sports at its games, should it be awarded the hosting rights. American Samoa is the second country to put its hands up. Pacific Games Council president Vidya Lakhan has advised both Niue and American Samoa that Executive Director Andrew Minogue will follow up in the New Year with the necessary documents. Future Games hosts – Samoa (2019 Pacific Games), Northern Marianas (2021 Mini Games) and Solomons (2023 Pacific Games)...

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Fiji Government wants to set up a new credit bureau

The Fijian Government will set up a new credit bureau by next year to replace a privately owned data bureau which the government closed down in 2016. The new data bureau plan was revealed by the International Monetary Fund’s Pablo Murphy Lopez in Suva, Islands Business reports. Lopez and his three member team were in the country for two weeks since the end of November to carry out their annual country surveillance commonly known as Article IV in the IMF vocabs. From their preliminary findings, Lopez and his team believed there was significant room to improve Fiji’s economy. He...

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ACP Group outraged over EU’s new tax havens blacklist

The African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group has “strongly condemned” the “unilateral and discriminatory practices” of the European Union in the publication of a list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. A statement following the 106th ACP Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels noted that in the last EU list, eight ACP member states had been included “despite the fact that these countries are compliant or largely compliant with the standards set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – the international body recognised for setting norms and standards on tax cooperation at the international level”, CMC reports. EU...

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Vanuatu signed visa waiver agreement with South Korea

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Bruno Leingkone and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea Kang Kyung-wha signed a Diplomatic Visa Waiver Agreement between Vanuatu and the Republic of Korea on December 5, 2017 during a bilateral meeting held on the margins of the 3rd Korea – Pacific Island’s Forum Foreign Ministers meeting which was held in Seoul from 4 – 7 December, 2017. The Agreement on Mutual Exemption for holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports will exempt diplomatic and official passports holders from both countries from visa requirements for visits...

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Vanuatu may close Seasonal Workers Program after ni-Vanuatu deaths in Australia

Pacific Island nations are threatening to axe a labour hire scheme in Australia after the deaths of 12 foreign workers amid claims of exploitation and slavery-like conditions. Twelve Pacific Island workers have died in Australia over the past five years, including four ni-Vanuatu, while on the Federal Government-run Seasonal Worker Program which was designed to alleviate labour shortages for Australian farmers struggling to find staff to pick and pack fruit and vegetables, The Courier-Mail reports. It’s claimed extreme neglect of the Pacific workers contributed to some of the deaths with allegations many were living in squalid conditions, being underpaid...

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