4 Sep 2006

Vanuatu Lands Minister defends signing MOU with American investor for freehold land

7:53 pm on 4 September 2006

Vanuatu's Lands Minister has defended his decision to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with an American Investor over a freehold ownership deal in Santo.

Maxime Carlot Korman says a Texas-based investor, Ralph Fair of Pacific Vanguard Corporation, has expressed a desire to take freehold land in Big Bay to establish a Free Trade Zone.

A local chief, Remi Vatami, has voiced concern over the government signing the MOU without more consultation.

But Mr Korman says Vanuatu needs the development that foreign investors like this bring.

"His intentions: unlike the others, the first coming in Big Bay, he doesn't want to have a lease from this place. He made straight away clear... so we put it in the memo, that we would sign the freehold title. Now if it's come and we don't make legislation addressing freehold titles, he will say Thank you very much, Vanuatu, goodbye."

Mr Korman says he supports this kind of development because Vanuatu has squandered many opportunities to make money by not previously introducing the freehold title.