Private sector seeks more Government support

The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for a second Government stimulus package in the wake of a decision to postpone the creation of a Tamtam Travel Bubble with New Caledonia.

Chair of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Antoine Boudier, says the organisation respects the Government’s decision to hold-off on the planned travel bubble, but the postponement will impact local businesses.

The Vanuatu Government announced this week it would put a hold on the planned Tamtam Travel Bubble with New Caledonia which had been due to start in April.

The Government believes COVID-19 community transmission in New Caledonia and two new confirmed cases in border quarantine in Vanuatu mean the travel bubble should not go ahead as planned.

Mr Boudier says as a result, the financial status of many local businesses has dropped by 30 per cent.

“We have requested the Minister of Finance and Economic Management, Johnny Koanapo, take action to address the problem,” he said.

“We have put our ideas together to help the Government and we are waiting for its response.

“Some businesses have suffered significantly [because of the pandemic] and we must work together to address Vanuatu’s economic status.”

Chair of the Tamtam Travel Bubble Taskforce, Dr Gregoire Niptik, says while the Government has postponed the New Caledonia Tamtam Travel Bubble, the taskforce is still looking at “other opportunities in the Pacific”.

And, he says the New Caledonia option is not totally off the table.

“We are currently monitoring the COVID-19 situation in New Caledonia and if the [community transmission] situation stops, we can allow that Tamtam Travel Bubble to go-ahead,” he said.

“The Vanuatu Government is negotiating for another date to begin the Tamtam Bubble once the COVID situation in New Caledonia improves.

“And, that does not stop us looking at other countries like Fiji, New Zealand or Australia if they are ready for a Tamtam Bubble.”

The Government has pledged to provide further support to local businesses this year and says the Council of Ministers will approve the measures once ideas are finalised.

An earlier Government statement said the support measures would include the suspension of school fees, and the reduction of business costs through by suspending the need for some licenses, permits and road taxes.

The Government said it also plans to introduce a subsidy that will help businesses meet the transport costs associated with exporting goods.

Mr Boudier says local businesses acknowledge the Government’s support.

“I have asked businesses to work with the Government to find solutions that will help them during this global COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

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