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Wednesday 25 November 2015 | Published in Regional

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PORT VILA – A specialist in Vanuatu governance issues says the dissolution of the country’s parliament could set back much-needed relief programmes.

President Baldwin Lonsdale announced the dissolution and called a snap election night after the government and opposition failed to resolve a political impasse.

The opposition had argued against dissolution, which will delay the passing of the budget at a time when the country is in the grip of a severe drought and still reeling from the effects of Cyclone Pam in March.

The Australian National University’s Siobhan McDonnell, who was an advisor to a former Vanautu government, says the government is now in caretaker mode until an election some time in the next two months.

“There are really critical disaster relief issues that seem to be coming to the fore now in Vanuatu. The drought has been particularly extreme and this is a really critical time to really be governing well in Vanuatu.”

McDonnell says relief programmes and other services can still run on current budgets and provisional funding, but most of their 2016 funding has to come out of a fresh budget.

She says the president’s decision to dissolve the country’s parliament comes as little surprise.

“The president’s always been holding this card. He’s been hoping that the government and opposition could find a way to govern, but at the end of the day he’s obviously decided that that’s not looking likely in the near future – and so he’s decided to dissolve parliament.”

Baldwin Lonsdale said dissolution and a snap election were in the best interests of Vanuatu.

“That is a very interesting question,” McDonnell says.

“The opposition has been very keen to govern as they say rthey are incredibly concerned about the passing of the budget for next year, so that all of the governmen’s services continue to function.

“Vanuatu is currently in the midst of a drought and it looks like those conditions are worsening and these are potentially going to create disaster-like conditions because many people have not recovered gardens from the cyclone earlier this year.

“So for those reasons the opposition was very keen to get in and govern.

“Essentially this government is now in caretaker mode it is not really functioning because so many cabinet ministers and so many members of parliament in the current government are in jail and lost their appeal on Friday.

“We are essentially looking at an election where we have got 14 by-elections where you could have a whole series of new candidates coming up. So it is hard to predict what the new parliament will look like.

“There are already reports of certain services not being funded but really it was about putting everything in place for next year by making sure that current servicing continues into 2016.

“Caretaker mode allows for some of that provisional funding to be allocated but really all of the 2016 funding has to come out of that next budget.

“There are really critical disaster relief issues that seem to be coming to the fore now in Vanuatu. I have just come back from Efate where the land is incredibly dry. People’s gardens have nothing in them and there are households that don’t have any food.” - RNZI

Test match in profit

APIA – The Samoa Rugby Union says it ended up making a profit from hosting the All Blacks in Apia, after receiving some additional sponsorship money.

The SRU announced in July it was facing a loss of US$580,000 from the historic test, citing smaller than expected earnings from broadcasting and sponsorship.

SRU chief executive officer Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai says since that announcement, the Samoa International Finance Authority provided additional sponsorship from the test, turning the deficit into a profit of US$300,000.

“After the match when we did our financials specifically for the match we had made a loss but down the track the main sponsor that we applied for funding, towards that particular match – the All Blacks and Manu Samoa – came through in the end a couple of months afterwards, so that gave us a bit of profit in the end. We made about 800,000 Tala.”

The main hindrance to earnings was the reduced capacity of 8000 at Apia Park following extensive renovations.

He says the SRU spent a lot of money addressing safety issues around the ground and upgrading the changing rooms and technical areas, with support from the government.

- RNZI