12 Jul 2005

Vanuatu minister calls for debt write-off

1:10 pm on 12 July 2005

A Vanuatu government minister is calling for the country's debt to be written off by international financial institutions.

The Trades, Commerce and Tourism Minister, James Bule, has told the Daily Post newspaper that Vanuatu should use the Pacific Island Forum's Pacific Plan to push for debt cancellation.

Mr Bule argues Vanuatu and its neighbours ought to be able to get debt relief, because leading developed countries recently agreed to cancel debts owed by African countries.

Officials say Vanautu owes 1-hundred and 15 million U.S. dollars, and the country also has a large trade deficit.

Meanwhile, aid workers are welcoming the proposal.

Helen Corrigan works for the non-government organisation, Wan Smal Bag, which helps young people in Port Vila learn music and theatre skills.

Ms Corrigan says the youth of Vanuatu stand to gain a lot if the government spent more money on urban projects, instead of paying off debt.

"People under 25 make up almost 50 per cent of the population here and there is a real issue with unemployment; young people coming into town, attending school, and then, either not completing school for a variety of reasons, some of which are lack of school fees or whatever, and then they're just hanging around. And these numbers are increasing, you know, throughout, not just in the areas that we're working in, but throughout Port Vila."