14 Aug 2013

French Polynesian government struggles to revive economy

4:57 pm on 14 August 2013

The French Polynesian government is struggling to revive the economy beset by record unemployment.

While seeking investors, much depends on continued support from France.

In a bid to secure funds, most ministers were sent to Paris last month but after a flurry of meetings across the administration, there was little help for the mission led by Gaston Flosse.

"The publisher of the Tahiti-Pacifique monthly, Alex du Prel, explains."

ALEX DU PREL: The French people, especially the elite, are very trained speakers. 'We're going to do this. We're going to do that'. And that's all losse has got. Apparently, the only thing reasonable would be that it would give another advance on treasury, which they've already given three in the past year and a half. Actually, the Minister for Overseas, Laurel, should be in Tahiti in December and sign the cheque, but already they've mentioned, according to confidences I've obtained, that this six billion francs would only close the holes they have already, so they're going to need another five later on. So Flosse, they went over there with 'Oh, look. We made a tax reform'. Actually, it wasn't a tax reform, it was a tax increase on a very sick economy. And you can not squeeze a dry lemon, you know, so we'll see what comes out of that.

WALTER ZWEIFEL: When the nuclear testing ended back in the '90s, there was this talk about restructuring the economy. We've gone down the track for almost two decades. This has simply not happened. Is there any move on the part of France to really try to restructure this economy?

ALEX DU PREL: Well, the problem is that the economy that was set up since the early 1960s over here, it was done by the French political elite. And what they did, they just made a copy-paste of the system in France. Yet Tahiti is not a modern industrial society. So they introduced a consumer society into a country who's only resource used to be the nuclear tests. And now the nuclear tests are gone, they recognise they have to change, but nothing has changed. It has become more and more dependent. The thing is, if you have a sugar daddy, you're not going to go to work. You're just going to ask for more and more as long as Sugar Daddy gives it to you. And this is what's been happening here. And the problem from France which was supposed to help the population actually helped the ruling class, which became very, very rich when you compare it to any other Pacific area. From the egalitarian society we've now created a bipolar society where you have the rich and the poor and the rich are protected.