Plea of a Businessman in Vanuatu and Vanuatu Government and VCCI MOU

Plea of a Businessman in Vanuatu

From businessman Adams Lopez, 4 January 2018I have 41 workers spread between 4 different businesses. I grew these numbers in the last 5 years. Vanuatu has a very expensive platform to do business. Businesses like mine, struggle to contribute to the growth of the local economy, without basic assistance from the local Governments, banks or aid funds.

As businesses, we have to constantly pay for business name, business license, import and export licenses, every 12 months or you risk losing your business. We tend to pay high costs in electricity, water, transportation and fuel, municipal fees and provincial government fees. Most people who came to this country to do businesses, were never aware of so many fees lurking to take a lion share of their initial capital. These hidden costs are to be renewed almost all in just 12 month. Once these investors make the first steps, they soon realized how difficult and expensive it is, but by then it is rather too late to retreat.

The fees are plenty. There are 3 different fees at the airport and the wharf if you are importing goods. There’s fees for VAT and a fee to clear that VAT. This basically an inconvenient exercise for small business with a limited customer pool. I paid my workers based on the quality and output of work done. I do not pay by minimum wage, because it does not reflect the unskilled and poor literacy level in Vanuatu. But I ended up paying my unskilled workers more than the legal minimum wage. From January to December every year most of my workers rarely feel the air-con or fan because they work outside in the wet, dry, hot and cold conditions. But they have supported their children in getting an education, food and medicine. My businesses core values give priority to family basic needs, so I pay weekly wages.

The biggest winner in my businesses is the labor and the Suppliers. In other words, my employees and suppliers ( Hardware and other stores) take the chunk of the income that my business earns . However this situation does not make me adjust or deviate from my business goals. These goals supports my passion to help build local economy and bring people out of poverty. However, the cost of doing businesses in Vanuatu is proven to be very expensive and extremely difficult for all sorts of reasons that cannot be explained, to the expense of its citizens. Most people, either local or immigrants will never see the projected return on their investment in a lifetime.

As a student at a very young age, I often believe, just like all of us, that our problems will be taken care of by our chiefs, pastors, and government. But early on, I realised I was far too wrong. As years goes by I noticed that this country, instead of improving the life’s of its citizen, is making worst.

Worst in all the necessary basic things required to make our country better. I now believed that my grandparents were more literate than our new generations. That level of literacy helped them to have a great life. Today our literacy, albeit very poor, hangs on a very thin layer of uninspired decision makers and their bad taste for development. Our local Government, I must say, is just so full of “ol big hed” who think they know how to run this country. And they believe so strongly they almost believe in their illiterate understanding of how a country works. Now you see they introduce VAT at 15% and you probably be thinking that’s good to bring in more money for the government. They increase minimum wage to 200vt and you are made to believe that would offset the new VAT increase.

But little do you know that businesses will eventually charge all these increases on you, the customer. You think you are going to fair well with the increase in living cost. You are on the wrong side of learning how a country works. Here is the simplest way of making some sense of how you can better understand these new scenarios.

If a country cannot increase business, if it cannot provide a comfortable environment for new businesses, if it continues to milk more for fees and hidden costs, there is no need to increase minimum wages and VAT. Because our government has not done enough to bring in new businesses and assist the private sector to create businesses that would increase employment, skills and opportunities, it has shot himself in the foot. By shooting yourself in the foot means you have disabled yourselves to be of any good.

If this country does not build the bases of its economy then it is wrong to increase the cost of living. The foundation of Vanuatu’s economy is in the private sector of creating products and export.

The government must not be seen as a business in itself. Government is a regulator that ensure compliance with good rules. By putting gate fees and book fees you are scaring the very businesses that make this country. If we are able to consume 600 sea containers of foreign goods each month and cannot export a minimum of 20 containers the same month, we are really cheating ourselves. In other words, all our little hard earned monies ends up in China where most of our goods comes from. Because we cannot make any new money, soon we should see our government kneeling on its knees to beg for more foreign assistance and aid. So the cycle of begging and poverty continues in this country, and grow worse by the day. If you who like to argue that there is no poverty in this country, I’m sorry to say you are living in a dream. If you say oh tourism would bring us the money, I’m sorry to say Vanuatu has very very little to offer for tourists. Vanuatu does not stand a good chance of being a favourite tourist destination.

The tourists you see in town are here on a circuit tour. Most of them would never dare coming back for a second visit. So what a hard year it’s going to be for the children of Vanuatu. For the 41 people I employed in my businesses, more than half would have to lose their jobs this January 2018, as goods and services prices takes the new price increases. As businesses, we constantly take new strategies to keep cost down. So I’m downsizing the number of my workers. Definitely, I will face a hard time trying to find skilled workers in a country lacking in skills.

While I do love my country and been part in creating jobs and building a local economy, I reserve the last straw of patience. Once that patience is evaporated, it will be a new beginning in a different country.

So let me, on behalf of many who do not understand the mechanics of our economy, urge our government to stop wasting time and money on the wrong advices from its economists and decision makers. Do not use our government as a comfort zone for illiterate politicians who wish only for himself and his electorates in his term in office and cannot contribute to building the economy. Stop your weekly meetings. People attending meetings every week never get things done. Stop trying to find the right formula for development or invent new wheels. Listen to the private sector where they ran their businesses by the book.

If only you can listen then you will learn where your money is coming from. In other words, put money where your mouth is. Do not waste any more time or you will see a massive drop in businesses in 2018 and those taking flights for a greener pastures. If you feel offended, have the guts to tell our people how to intend on building a good nation for all of us.

Vanuatu Government and VCCI MOU

The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), has proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Vanuatu Government and Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This will support the private sector and businesses of Vanuatu, to reform VCCI and take the private sector development to the next level.

VCCI urges the Ministry of Tourism Trade Commerce Industry and Ni Vanuatu Businesses in 2018, to accept and give the opportunity to arrange a meeting for VCCI Council, to brief the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism Trade Commerce Industry and Ni Vanuatu Businesses, on this key important MOU. This MOU will enable the reform of VCCI and the implementation of the goals and policy objectives, of both the Economy Pillar and Environment Pillar of the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) of Vanuatu from 2016 to 2030.