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E Commerce Training for Women in Business

Dear VCCI Members,
Read below an email from Pacific Island Private Sector Organization (PIPSO) on E Commerce for Women in Business:

 

In an effort to support Pacific females in business, 12 women from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are being given the opportunity to undergo PCF Grow Project training, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with PIPSO and PCF. Participants will be put through 10-weeks of training – all of which will be online and conducted by James.

The business women will be selected through a process implemented by PIPSO. The women will be a mixture of those who do not have an online presence and those who do but have had challenges in fully utilizing their websites and social media presence for sales and marketing.

There will be no cost required in setting up websites for participants, however each candidate would be required to pay for Shopify Shore.
We are inviting expressions of interest for female business owners looking to improve sales via training provided by the Grow Pacific project.

Criteria:
· Business principal(s) must be female and based in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
· Have an existing product or range that can be sold and fulfilled via a website
· Be available for weekly online training and support sessions

Please let interested female participants complete this online form to submit their application: http://www.growpacific.com/form-grow-pacific-participants/

PACER Plus Sustainability Impact Assessment

Dear VCCI Members,

Read below, an email from Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG) who is calling for endorsement of a report based on the assessments  made so far on PACER Plus :

On August 26th, Trade Ministers from around the Pacific regional, including Australia and New Zealand will meet in Christchurch NZ to sign off on controversial free trade deal known as PACER-Plus deal.  
 
Civil Society Organisations from across the Pacific region,  Australia and New Zealand have long held concerns about the impacts of PACER-Plus and those concerns appear well founded given the assessment in “Defending Pacific Ways of Life: A Peoples Social Impact Assessment of PACER-Plus”.  A copy of the report can be downloaded from the link below.  
 
https://pasifikaaffairs.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/defending-pacific-ways-of-life-a-peoples-social-impact-assessment-of-pacer-plus/
 
The Peoples Social Impact Assessment  was commissioned as a direct respond to the Office of the Chief Trade Advisors (OCTA’s) hastily organised and flawed impact assessment of PACER-Plus.  The report comes after years of negotiations with the OCTA to ensure that a comprehensive and independent SIA would be undertaken.  
 
A small working group of civil society actors have explored all the options including taking the matter directly to Pacific Forum Leaders meeting for consideration, and have agreed as a first step to endorse the this report and urges your organisational support for the attached civil society letter to governments, demanding that no agreement to conclude PACER-Plus is taken at the Christchurch, Special Trade Ministers meeting.  
 
We also welcome individual endorsements.  Please send organisational/ individual endorsements to: research@pang.org.fj no later than Friday the 15th of July, 2016.  
 
For further information or clarification please contact: campaigner@pang.org.fj
 
We would appreciate it if you could kindly send to your networks. Please do not share on social media.

Validation Workshop for VCCI’s Proposed Certificate III in Business and Certificate III in Finance

The validity of VCCI’s proposed Certificate III in Business and Certificate III in Finance was the focus of a stakeholder validation workshop held at the Chamber of Commerce on Monday 6th June 2016. A group of twenty selected stakeholders, comprising business owners, industry bodies, employers, community groups, government and training and education representatives, were involved in the workshop.

The workshop was part of a series of activities involved in the process of ensuring that the characteristics of the proposed courses as well as its individual components meet the needs and expectations of the stakeholders and is also technically correct.When stating the purpose of the workshop during the introduction, the VCCI Training and BDS Manager explained “We consulted with you in 2015 to inform the focus, structure and content of these courses, now we are here to confirm that what we have developed is certainly what you wanted”.

VCCI’s proposed course are intended to meet the needs of micro, small and medium enterprise businesses to respond to the challenges they face and the concerns they have about future business growth and success that could be addressed with skills development through training. The Certificate III in Business is intended to develop an individual’s competencies on how to manage and operate a micro/small business. The Certificate III in Finance is intended to develop an individual’s essential accounting and bookkeeping skills to manage finances for a small business or organization.

The workshop involved presentations on the courses’ descriptors by the VCCI course development team followed by a focus group assessment by stakeholders, organized into sub-groups with specific areas of focus. Each sub-group had a course development team member with the role as moderator who guided the group’s discussions. Sub-groups assessed and discussed on the courses’ nomenclature, qualification description, outcomes, technical structure and rules, delivery and assessment strategy and requirements and units of competency.

The workshop identified and proposed some needed changes to the courses’ descriptors and their characteristics and individual components. The course development team is now addressing feedback from the validation workshop and will prepare final draft descriptors for stakeholders’ endorsement of the courses.

Developing a Holistic Ecosystem to Support SME Finance

 

 

SME

Panelists from left Boletawa (AFI), Hudson (Bred Van), Ricky (ANZ Van), Cocker (RBT), Tari (RBV) & Wahid (Malaysia)

The Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (PIRI) inclusive finance meeting that was held at the Holiday Inn from 1 to 3 June 2016during one of its session on Support SME Finance recognizes the fact that the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the national economy in any given country and is a critical component of growth.  Development of the SME sector brings inclusive economic growth to a country through job creation.  Broadening access to economic and business opportunities for traditionally underserved socio-economic groups in the region including low income households and SMEs can improve social welfare and boost national productivity.  Developing a holistic and coordinated framework is crucial to promoting the development of the SME sector.  Financial institutions play a particularly important role in driving this agenda.  Developing innovative financing models that go beyond traditional bank lending is crucial to providing timely financing opportunities for SMEs based on their needs and stages of business growth.

Ms Lisa Wahid, the Deputy Director of the Bank Negara Malaysia, gave a lengthy but notable speech on what Malaysia is doing to assist the development of SMEs.  She stated that the Malaysian government works together with the local financial institutions to ensure businesses are adequately assisted.  She mentioned five pillars that financial institutions in Malaysia have developed, are working on and are continuously reviewing to ensure demands are met.  The pillars are financial infrastructure, finance & guarantee schemes, avenue for obtaining information, data management and outreach/awareness programs.  To ease SMEs accessing loans in Malaysia, a consolidated loan application form agreed to by all banks is used so when a bank does not accept a loan application form, the sameform containing the same information can be given to other banks.  She stressed that the Pacific, as a group, can adopt the Malaysian model.

Experiences from players in the banking sector in Vanuatu shows that the SME market is quite small which affects lending.  The cost of doing business is high when lending out to SMEs and with that comes a great amount of uncertainty.  Some local commercial banks have embarked on some loan educational and mentoring programs whereby accredited bank officers work with entrepreneurs on developing needed banking information such as business plans to ease loan approvals.

Experiences from around the Pacific shared similar concerns faced by players in the banking sector in Vanuatu.  All were in agreement that there is a need for a proper definition of SME in the Pacific, there is a need for banks to be present in the rural areas/islands to serve the unserved, there is a need for financial literacy to be incorporated into school curriculums to promote entrepreneurship at early age and there is a need to have a regional SME bank to assist SMEs in the Pacific access needed funds.

VCCI recommendations to urgent matters affecting the economy of Vanuatu

On 30 May 2016 the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VCCI) wrote a five page letter to the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Honourable Sariboh Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, outlining a few recommendations that the private sector reckon the government of the day should embark on and/or consider to ensure a speedy turnaround of the nation’s struggling economy.

To improve the tourism sector the VCCI recommended to the PM that the VIPA fees for business renewal and new application be reduced to VT 10,000 and VT 20,000 respectively.  This is to encourage foreign investors to invest accordingly in this time of uncertainty.  Moreover the VCCI wants the Unions not to harass the hotel, resort and restaurant management teams since everyone is in a recovery mode.  The VCCI would like to encourage the local commercial banks to give grace periods on loan payments to businesses at this difficult time as well as the government should move quickly to finalize the airport upgrade plans with the World Bank to get Air New Zealand and Qantas to resume normal flights to Port Vila and promote cheaper airfares on Air Vanuatu to entice tourists to return to Vanuatu.

To ensure the finance sector improves the VCCI recommended that the government should support the “Boar Tusk” initiative by retaining Resolute Outcomes as consultants to lobby for Vanuatu’s return to the FATF white list and to provide a draft legislation to make Vanuatu FATF/APG compliant.  The VCCI is also recommending that the Financial Intelligence Unit be moved from the State Law Office to the Reserve Bank.  While the current government is getting credit for making the taxation review a priority, caution has to be taken not to rush it because it may affect the existing businesses as well as potential investors.  After learning that a proposed income tax legislation has been drafted, the VCCI is recommending that a cost/benefit study has to be undertaken on this tax initiative first before a proposed income tax legislation is drafted.

To assist the small and large commerce sector recover the VCCI recommended that the government guarantees that funding from donors intended to help the private sector to rebuild must reach the private sector.  The VCCI also recommended that the government outsourced contracts to the private sector as a genuine stimulus to the economy.  The government has increased the company re-registration fees from VT 10,000 to VT 60,000 a 600% increase which the VCCI reckons is not acceptable in this difficult time.  The VCCI recommended that the company re-registration fees should be increased to VT 20,000 but not VT 60,000.  The VCCI also recommended that civil servants should be more efficient and helpful at this time of difficulty.  Lastly to help this particular sector the VCCI recommended that the company tax and income tax being talked about should be deferred to 2018 to allow existing businesses time to fully recover and potential investors’ time to get established.

To give confidence to businesses in the agriculture sector the VCCI recommended that Section 12 of the Industrial Development Act must be deleted as it is hindering primary production as well as the government should relocate the Blacksands fish processing plant to Palekula in Santo since Mele Bay has the potential to develop further its tourism status.

For small manufacturing businesses the VCCI recommended that the Industrial Development Act be revised in its entity and review tariff protection policies which are causing loss to industries.  Moreover the VCCI recommended that to assist the aviation sector the government and the World Bank must upgrade the Bauerfield airport to Code E and have an Airport Master Plan in place for implementation.

To improve the land transport services the VCCI recommended that the Public Land Transport Authority’s (PLTA) budget be approved at the next parliament session for the establishment of the PLTA office as well as the government should have in place available funds to compensate businesses for man-made disasters such as the runway issue.

To ensure the shipping sector delivers adequately as expected the VCCI recommended that a new Shipping Act be passed to replace the current outdated one.  The new Act should be based on the South Pacific Community regional model which most Pacific countries have adopted.  More-so a new Maritime Act be passed as well to reflect the current international standards.  The VCCI reckons a Committee be created composed of public and private reps to guide the maritime industry in its operations and standards.

In order to upgrade the builders skills’ in the Building sector the VCCI recommended that the government should recognize the local building industry by subsidizing building materials and providing a budget to the Vanuatu National Builders & Allied Industries Association (VNBAIA).  Moreover all MOUs signed by the government and aid donors in relation to building must ensure that local builders are sub contracted to do specific jobs, certified individual builders are hired and only highly qualified professionals from overseas are recruited.  The VIPA must ensure that all incoming building investors be registered with the VNBAIA.  A Vanuatu Building Standards Council must be established to ease the compliance of building standards and supervise the performance of building technicians.  Other players in the building scenario such as the NGOS, Labour Department, Customs Department and the Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities must ensure that local builders are hired to carry out donor funded building projects, hired laborers from outside Vanuatu must have the consent of the local building industry, from 2017 onwards all building licensees must register with the VNBAIA and all government building and repair projects be given to local builders as first priority.

The VCCI is recommending on behalf of the Public Utility sector that the government should open and use a permanent alternate road to the airport from town via Bellevue before major road operations by the RMS begins and starts to disturb normal business activities.

Other recommendations that the VCCI made to the PM were the government needs to provide a detail report on how donor funds that came in after cyclone Pam were spent, feasibility studies have to be done before establishing satellite cities, feasibility studies have to be done before introducing new taxes such as income tax, payroll tax, etc, the Industrial Development Act has to be entirely reviewed, the APRA Bill is not needed as it duplicates activities stipulated in the reviewed Biosecurity Act and Agriculture Bill and the Agriculture Bill should be tailored more into standards and export certification rather than statistics collection.

The VCCI recommended that a more realistic unemployment plan is redundancy payment by the employer equal to 1 week’s pay per year of service capped at the equivalent of 3 months’ salary, increasing employers’ VNPF contributions by 2%, increasing employees’ VNPF contributions by 2% and the ability to draw down an unemployment entitlement from VNPF.Employers would be able to hire more staff – unemployment entitlements would be funded as accrued, so any unemployment payments would not threaten the continuation of the employer.Employees would have more security around payment of benefits because employers would have accrued funds for the purpose, and because unemployment entitlements would be paid by VNPF.Lastly but not the least on the leave entitlements the VCCI recommended that there should be a flat rate of annual leave at a level similar to other Pacific Island countries, employers propose 15 days annual leave which is still more generous than most Pacific countries and on maternity leave there should be a set rate where the employer funded maternity leave at a level similar to other Pacific Island countries, employers propose 12 weeks maternity leave at 50% of regular salary which is still more generous than most Pacific countries, in the medium term move from direct employer funded maternity leave to a system of national maternity insurance, with people contributing to a maternity insurance levy to VNPF and the VNPF administering the payment of maternity benefits.  On sick leave there should be a set amount of sick leave at a level similar to other Pacific Island countries and employers propose 10 days sick leave which is on par with sick leave provided in other Pacific countries.  Statutory leave benefits would not threaten the continuation of an employer’s business, employers would be able to hire more staff, more job opportunities for all and female employees would not be discriminated against due to the burden of employers having to directly pay maternity leave.

Lessor’s Benefit 5% explanation provided by Minister of Lands

Land Leases Act requires registered proprietors of urban leases to pay five percent (5%) on increases in unimproved values to the Minister of Lands (Lessor) on transfers.

(1) As of 27 February 2015 a registered proprietor of an urban lease must pay to the Minister of Lands, on behalf of the people of Vanuatu, a payment representing five per cent (5%) on the increase of unimproved value of his or her land at transfer. The payment is imposed by section 48B (1) and (2) of the Land Leases Act [Cap 163]. The relevant section reads as follows “48B Payment for transfer of urban lease (1)… (2) If a proprietor of an urban lease transfers that lease, the proprietor must pay to the lessor 5% of the difference in amount between the unimproved market value of the land at the time it was purchased and the unimproved value of the land at the time of the present sale.”

2. The payment to the Lessor (lessor’s benefit) was first enacted by Parliament in Land Leases (Amendment) Act No. 11 of 2004 but was restricted to the transfer of rural leases. By that amendment a lessee of a rural lease was to pay not more than 18% of the transfer consideration to the lessor unless the lessor and lessee have entered into other arrangements.

3. After it was effected for 6 months Amendment no. 5 of 2007, not only reduced the rate to not more than 10%, but also it was considered fairer to restrict it to the difference in the unimproved value of land at last sale and current sale. Still it was restricted to rural lands.

4. By Amendment no. 35 of 2014 the rate was fixed at 10% for rural lease transfers and the lessor’s benefit policy was extended to transfers in urban leases.

5. The rationality of the policy, amongst others, are:

(a) The Minister of Lands, by discretion or on account that an occupier had occupied a land prior to Independence, had leased land without premiums. This is considered unfair to the people of Vanuatu. Unfair land dealings was a fundamental issue in recent land reform exercises.

(b) It was only recent (2004) that Land Leases (Amendment) Act no.11 of 2004 required the Minister of Lands to charge premiums at 35 % of unimproved values for grant of new leases and      premiums for extensions at 10%. From 2009 premiums are assessed using contract rents and full rental values prescribed by Order of the Minister dated 19 August 2009.

(c) Once land enters the public domain in the form of lease it could be sold on the open market at market value. Market value of lands continue to increase in almost all subsequent lease transfers. Most leases have had changed hands multiple times, many without any development whatsoever.  Comparatively lessors do not receive economic benefit from subsequent sales except minimal fees and annual rents.

(d) Hence the payment to the Minister of Lands (Lessor) on urban land transfers is part of the matrix to address the obvious economic deficiencies to lessors in land leasing.

(e) Why 5% and not 10% as fixed for rural leases? The reason is that the Minister of lands collect registration fees on transfers and holders of urban leases have to pay other taxes, including property tax, unlike rural leaseholders.

6. The Lessor’s benefit is applicable to any urban lease at date of transfer and whose unimproved value at the present sale is higher than the unimproved value at date of last sale. “The unimproved value definition assumes that a land is notionally in its natural or virgin condition but it possess whatever advantages that exist as a result of extrinsic circumstances, such as roads, public services, amenities, land settlement in the neighbourhood, potential utility, and any other benefits that are not due to operations on the land itself by its past or its present occupiers”. That is all elements should be considered excepting any structural development or improvements (excavation or filling) on or to the subject land.

7. How is “unimproved value” determine?

The market determines the basis of values. Hence registered land valuers, and valuers at the Valuation Unit for this exercise, determine unimproved values from sales. As a process land valuers are required to analyze recent market sales and after making adjustments for relevant variables such as date of sale, size, topography, structures and improvements on or to land, aspect, locality detrimental factors, etc, using their experiences and skills, should arrive at the unimproved value of a land. In view of the above definition the“unimproved value” of an unimproved land may be the same as its “market value”. A valuer should consider case by case.

8. How do valuers determine 5% Lessor’s benefit on sales of improved land?

This is straight forward. Valuers look at vacant land sales in the area to determine the value of the land portion and apply it. The residue in the improved sale should represent the value of structures and/or improvements to or on the land. Where there are no vacant land sales in the locality a valuer could look at relevant and recent vacant land sales in other localities, making adjustments for variables mentioned above to arrive at the unimproved value of a subject land.

9. How could the Director of Lands find out if a lease is transferred significantly less than its unimproved value?

Clause 3(g) of Schedule in Section 112 of the Land Leases Act
empowers the Director to require a valuation report from the Valuer- General determining the unimproved value. If the valuation is in excess of the price or declared value the cost of the valuation shall be borne by the registered proprietor. Accordingly the Director shall apply the 5 % benefit on the unimproved value as assessed by the Valuer-General.

10. Is it against the law to under-declare lease transfer prices or values?

Yes. It is against Section 47 of the Stamp Duty Act [Cap 47] to wilfully evade duty. Every person who wilfully and  fraudulently evades or conspires to evade, or assists another person to evade, payment of duty to which any instrument is liable under the Stamp Duty Act shall commit an offence punishable upon conviction by a fine not exceeding VT 300,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

11. Are there any classes of persons exempt from paying 5% Lessor’s benefit on transfers?

Yes. Section 48C of the Land Leases Act exempts a  registered proprietor who transfers his or her lease to a member of his or her nuclear or extended family.

12. Could a registered proprietor ask an independent registered land valuer to assess the unimproved value of a lease?

Yes. However the Minister of Lands prefers to have the Valuation Unit assess unimproved values on his or her behalf. Where two different valuation reports arrived at two significantly different unimproved values, and the parties could not reach consciences, the matter should be referred to the Valuer-General for determination on which of the two reports is credible.

13. Does the 5% Lessor’s benefit apply on new leases and extensions?

No. New leases or extensions literally are not transfers. In new leases and extensions the Minister collects premiums assessed in accordance with subsection 32D (2) of the Land Leases Act.

14. How could the Valuation Unit know the unimproved value of your lease if you have paid only a premium for the grant of the lease to you?

If you obtained your lease after December 2004, and the Valuation Unit did assessed the premium you paid, the premium would have represented 35% of the unimproved value of your lease. Mathematically the Valuation Unit knows that you did not pay 65% of the unimproved value. Hence 35% plus (+) 65% equals the unimproved value of your lease the date it was granted to you.

Example: Premium paid Vt350,000 (35%) Unimproved value at last sale: Vt350,000 x (100/35) = Vt1,000,000

15 What if the premium you have paid had been decided arbitrarily [by the Minister] and less than what you should have paid?

If you have paid a low premium other than the amount you should have paid then the Valuation Unit would take it that the premium you paid represented 35 % of the unimproved value of the land at the date the lease was granted to you when assessing the lessor’s benefit. The unimproved value of the past sale would be assessed as in paragraph 14.

16. What if you did not paid any premium at the grant of the lease and you are transferring the lease for the first time?

Unleased state land or customary land held without a lease is said to have no value unless they become available in the public domain and could be traded in the market. This was the presumption for leases granted without premiums by the Minister in the past. Accordingly the unimproved value of the land at date of lease was zero. Effectively the difference in the unimproved value between the last sale and the current sale is the current unimproved value. Accordingly the 5% lessor’s benefit will be assessed based on the unimproved value at current sale.

For further enquiries contact the Principal Valuation Officer,
Department of Lands,
PMB 9090, Port Vila,Vanuatu
Email: ppata@vanuatu.gov.vu
VoIP 2611

2016 AGM on 26 May 2016 for all business license holders

This is a reminder to all business license holders that the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) will be holding its Annual General Meeting on Thursday 26 May 2016 at 4pm at the VCCI’s Conference Room. All business operators are invited to attend.

The meeting’s agenda includes a welcome by the VCCI President, approval of the 2015 AGM meeting minutes, matters arising from the 2015 AGM meeting minutes, 2015 annual report, auditor’s report and the election of new Council members.

There are vacancies in the VCCI Council to be Councilors. Members of VCCI are businesses who hold a valid business license. Members are invited to come to the VCCI HQ to fill up the nomination forms. Forms are available both in  French  and in English. Vacancies for large commerce, building, air transport, public utilities, land transport, finance, small commerce and shipping sector representatives need to be filled.Council members who previously represented the above sectors in the Council are eligible to be re-elected.

For any further information and application forms for nomination for VCCI Council member and Consent of Candidate, please contact Leipakoa Andre at VCCI Reception by phone on 27543 and by email at reception@vcci.com.vu

Private Sector meets Lands Minister

On Wednesday 27 April 2016 a meeting between the Minister of Lands, Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) Council members and those in the private sector especially businesses that are dealing with land and property development, property management, property valuing, land survey, real estate agents and land rent assessing took place at the VCCI.

The meeting was arranged so that the Lands Minister and his officials could explain as well as discuss further with the private sector the land reforms and the draft Subdivision policy. Over fifty people attended the meeting.

The discussion began with a query that when a company that owns a land is struck off the registrar, will the land be returned to the landowner and what will happen to the investments that had been invested into the land or property. The Lands Ministry responded that they are on the process of looking particularly at that Section which talks about the effect of the striking off of a company from the registrar.  They are working closely with the Bankers Association and the State Law office to come up with better amendments on this particular section.

The meeting’s next concern was centered on Section 38(1) of the Land Leases Act which requires “development” on the land in rural areas in order to maintain the lease.  If the lease has not been developed to at least 50% of the total project within 5years, the lease will be forfeited and the land returned to the landowner(s). This particular Section has caused great concern among the developers and the local commercial banks. The banks are now more cautious when making decisions on providing loans and mortgage finance on properties. This has negatively impacted investors’ interests in investing.  Businesses want the government to know that businesses are still recovering from the Cyclone Pam, and the Port Vila airport runway economic crisis has made matters worse. The private sector proposed that the Lands Ministry revisited this particular Section and make relevant amendments such as having a 3 year moratorium in place whereby the government through the Ministry of Lands will do assessments on leases that may be lost if they have not been developed and try to find out why the operations have not been done.

The Minister stated that the current government wants lands to be developed and not left lying idle.  Property owners of lands lying idle benefited from increased value when they have contributed nothing to that increased value and this is what the government is discouraging.
A member of the private sector present during the meeting asked whether the law is applied from the date of the lease or from the date of the transfer of the lease. The Lands Ministry will look into this query and respond later when a definite answer is reached.

A comment was raised on the registration of leases or obtaining leases in rural areas. With the new amendment it takes approximately 6 months to transfer a lease which is quite lengthy. The response was that if there is going to be any substantial change to the nature of the lease, the lessor has to agree.In terms of the time frame, the Minister agreed that 6 months is too long and that it will be reduced to two months. He also added that with the help of the Australian aid program, they are trying to bring down simple transfer to 10 days. It should be the same for mortgages and things that do not require major changes in the class or anything of the lease.

A comment was raised with regards to the roles of the Shefa Provincial Government and the Land Management Planning Committee (LMPC). At times, advice received from these two organizations are conflicting. The answer was that the Shefa Provincial Government and the other government departments only make comments but they do not decide. The LMPC is the only body that gives approvals.

A query raised was that in the new law when it comes to changing a residential lease to a commercial lease for instance, a sign must be erected after the application is made. However this is slowing down the process for investors if the landowners are not in agreement with themselves and if there are some objections. The answer was that the sign serves as a notice to inform people of the change and what is going to be build. If there is an objection from any individuals or third-party, excluding the lessee(s) and lessor(s), then under the law such objection goes to the Lands Ombudsman at the Ombudsman Office.

A participant asked if the LMPC is encouraging offshore investors. The answer was that the LMPC is only trying to encourage and is expecting to see good development and better investment to happen. The new land laws are only trying to facilitate better ways of achieving better outcomes. One of the areas the LMPC is trying to work on now is to identify potential areas for subdivisions.

A participant raised a query that if there is a land dispute over a developed land for instance, to whom will the payment be made to.The answer was that in that case, it is the Minister who is the lessor on behalf of the disputing parties therefore the money goes to the Customers Trust account at Bred bank and it is kept until such time when the dispute is resolved.

Towards the end of the meeting, a brief presentation was made by the Ministry of Lands Officials on the draft Subdivision Policy. The Minister and his officials proposed that the VCCI coordinates a committee made of private sector members to review the draft policy and submit its inputs to the Ministry for further analysis. The VCCI has set up a Subdivision Steering Committee (Private Sector) to review the draft Subdivision policy.

Small and Large Commerce Meeting

A meeting was held at the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (VCCI) Conference Room on Thursday 21 April 2016 between the VCCI Councilors who are representing the Small and Large Commerce business sectors in the VCCI Council and representatives of the Small and Large Commerce business sectors.

The main objective of the meeting was for the business owners in the Small and Large Commerce sectors to consult among themselves and see if there is a possibility of setting up an Association that they would turn to raise issues affecting their businesses.  The issues raised may then be taken up with the VCCI Council through the Association’s representative in the VCCI Council.After much deliberations, it was decided that a Vanuatu Small and Large Commerce Association will be created in four weeks’ time. In preparation for establishing the Association, a survey in the form of a questionnaire will be sent out to all businesses to fill in.The survey will be online in both English and French languages.Businesses can complete the survey by going to the following links https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/F28ZHZR for the English version and https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/GW5L7DY for the French version.  The deadline for completing the survey is seven days before Tuesday 3 May 2016 as agreed to at the meeting and a report will be prepared after that deadline to be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, as suggested.

During the meeting a lot of discussions also was centered on the current economic crisis that all tourism related businesses are facing. Small and Large Commerce businesses asked why the Vanuatu Government was not doing anything to assist the local businesses in Small and Large Commerce sectors in need during the current economic crisis, when it is the Vanuatu Government who is responsible for the airport runaway economic crisis. The Plan of Actions to deal with the economic crisis from the Vanuatu Government has yet to be published to answer this question. The meeting heard that more than 90% of the tourism sector and other tourism related sectors are affected and that the survival of businesses in the next six months is crucial. Businesses in the Small and Large Commerce sectors which include retail shops, wholesalers,boutique shops, bars, and restaurants are requested to submit to the VCCI what immediate assistance they need and the recommendations they would like to see actioned in the current economic crisis. As mentioned above, all this information will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry in the form of a report.

Before the meeting came to a closure, the businesses were told that the government under the Agri- Tourism Week Task Force is organizing in collaboration with the private sector and the other stakeholders an Agri-Tourism Week.  The event will be staged at the new Convention Center from 29th May to 2nd June 2016 and participation is free of charge however due to space limitation, there will be only around fifty booths for businesses inside the Convention Centre and thirty seven booths outside in the park of the Convention Center. The businesses that will be part of the event will only be displaying and promoting locally made products related to the productive sector, Agriculture, and Tourism.

For more information on the Small and Large Commerce Survey, the creation of Vanuatu Small and Large Commerce Association, and Agri-Tourism Week, interested businesses are welcome to call VCCI on 27543 or email  at reception@vcci.com.vu

Meeting with the Lands Minister

A meeting between the Minister of Lands, Honourable Ralph Regenvanu, the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) Council members and those in the private sector especially businesses that are dealing with property development, property management, property valuing, real estate agents and land rent assessing have been arranged.  The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 27 April 2016 at 10am at the VCCI Conference Room.

The purpose of the meeting is for the Lands Minister and his officials to explain to the private sector a few issues that needs to be cleared. Issues to be discussed include the land lease and management laws with regards to the productive, manufacturing and services sectors and the content of the draft Subdivision policy.

The private sector would like to, during the meeting, raise its views on the proposed land law reforms to the Minister. This is an appropriate avenue whereby views from both the government and the private sector on land issues will be deliberated on.

It is anticipated that after the meeting a common understanding on land issues between the government and the private sector will be reached.