Monday 29 Nov 2021 | 17:15 | SYDNEY
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Pacific Islands

Honiara as the smoke subsides

This morning the 36-hour lockdown imposed after rioting struck Honiara in Solomon Islands has lifted. The scene is a sorry one, buildings burned, debris on the main road, shops looted and exhausted police making way to work with the Australian Defence Force, which arrived last night. Unfortunately

Dark days for Honiara in the shadow of geopolitics

An uneasy calm has settled over the Solomon Islands capital Honiara after protests outside the national parliament on Wednesday calling for Prime Minister Sogavare’s resignation descended into civil unrest. A building inside the parliamentary compound and a police station were set alight amid

Forecasting vaccination in the Pacific

While Australia reopens to the world, its Pacific neighbours continue to face the dire consequences of the pandemic. Despite a guaranteed flow of vaccines thanks in large part to Australia, widespread coverage for some Pacific nations is far from reach. Early in the crisis, Pacific countries were

Palau faces the dragon

In 2015, tourism officials from the tiny Micronesian island nation of Palau likely scratched their heads in bewilderment at incoming figures on visitor arrivals. A record number of tourists had touched down that year in the archipelago, but more perplexing was the figure of 91,174 visitors from

Economic diplomacy: Remaking the Pacific house

Under construction After Build Back Better World (B3W), the Blue Dot Network and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP), the latest entrant on the acronym-strewn path to a renovated region is disarmingly bland. Infrastructure ++ is the leitmotif from a quietly

The Indo-Pacific Operating System: How can America shore up the regional order?

Five essays from experts from, or based in, Southeast Asia provide a sense of the region’s complexity and the nuance with which any effort to shore up – or rebuild – regional order must grapple

Politics and Covid-19 funds in Papua New Guinea

In 2020, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape directed 20 per cent of the District Services Improvement Program funds (DSIP), which are paid to the 89 open MPs representing the district electorates, to be spent on health. The government then allocated an additional K2 million in 2020 to

Telstra’s Digicel Pacific challenge

The deal with the government insulates the telco from financial risk. But accepting the role of Australia’s lead business ambassador in the region makes it no set-and-forget investment. This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review on 29 October 2021

The promise and peril of statistics in Fiji

The 101-page document appeared quietly on the Fiji Bureau of Statistics website in early September. But almost immediately, the 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) Main Report, with a preface by then Chief Executive of the Bureau Kemueli Naiqama, garnered attention on two counts

Australia and Digicel: Hands-off no more?

The Australian government’s decision to finance Telstra’s takeover of the Pacific’s biggest telecommunications provider, Digicel, via a $1.33 billion loan from Export Finance Australia, is the clearest indication yet that competing with China is changing government-firm relations in Australia

Supreme Court and parliamentary politics in PNG

When can the Supreme Court interfere in the activities of the parliament in Papua New Guinea? This question was answered in the 1994 case brought by then opposition leader Christopher Haiveta against Paias Wingti, prime minister at the time, in which the Court ruled that the affairs of the

Maseratis in PNG: stuck in reverse

Who would have thought, three years ago, that buying a fleet of more than 40 luxury vehicles to only be used once, in a developing country with rugged roads, was a bad investment? Literally everyone – except apparently the then government of Papua New Guinea under Prime Minister Peter O’Neil.

Pacific Step-Up needs a Covid-era reboot

Through thickly vegetated jungle paths, teams of doctors hike for hours to reach Fiji’s most remote villages. Travelling ahead of them, as reported in The Guardian recently, are packhorses carrying ice-chests filled with AstraZeneca vaccines.  Fiji is no

An aid to innovation in PNG’s informal economy

Papua New Guinea’s informal economy is a sleeping giant with massive potential. This untapped sector can be an engine for broad based growth right across the country. Informal economic activities cover legal enterprises that are not registered for taxation and not counted in GDP calculations.

China’s declining Pacific aid presence

In November 2018 Port Moresby was a sea of red in the build up to the APEC leader’s summit. Chinese flags covered every road of Papua New Guinea’s capital while “China aid” was emblazoned – literally – on every traffic light. With China’s President tacking an official two-day state

AUKUS: France’s strategic outcry

Last week Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom announced a new security partnership (AUKUS) and, in the process, put an end to the Attack class submarine program negotiated by France and Australia in 2016. After calling the decision “a stab in the back”, French Foreign Minister

Economic diplomacy: After AUKUS in trade, aid and technology

Waiting line China is now the top export and import partner for 12 of the other 20 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group and a top one-way partner for five others. The US score on this measuring stick is two and one. This is one very basic way of seeing how China’s bid

The future is female in PNG

It seems fitting that the progressive political party that helped Papua New Guinea to independence 46 years ago, and has been the ruling party for the past two years, should have the country’s first-ever female president, Erigere Singin. It’s a bold step and one in the right direction for Pangu

Beyond Fortress Australia

The reality of living in a pandemic has dawned on Australia. Covid cases at the time of writing are high and still climbing. The virus is here to stay. Equally clear is that ring-fencing the country from the world — the ‘Fortress Australia’ policy — is no longer viable

Economic diplomacy: After Kabul, Australia looks to India

Suitcase intelligence Bob Carr recalls in his Diary of a Foreign Minister how a senior Australian intelligence official told him bluntly in 2013 that the war against the Taliban was failing. “We spent a billion dollars in Uruzgan province … We could have achieved the same result if I had been

Pacific needs partnership, not just leadership

Book review: Richard Marles, Tides That Bind: Australia In The Pacific (Monash University Publishing, 2021) There’s much to like in Richard Marles’ new essay on Australia’s relations with the Pacific, Tides That Bind. Above all is the author’s passion for his subject. Those who

Keeping PNG connected by investing in radio

News that Australia’s Telstra could be a buyer of the Pacific Island region’s prominent mobile network and media player Digicel has put communications technology in the spotlight. The Australian government is set to underwrite the deal which some reports suggest could be worth up to A$2 billion

Aiding the Pacific during Covid: An update

More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, how much outside financial support is the Pacific receiving and how far does this go in helping the region weather the crisis? This time last year in The Interpreter we took stock of the provision of Covid-19 related external financial assistance to the

PNG: What to expect in the 2022 elections?

Papua New Guinea will conduct its tenth national election in 2022. A by-election held this week for the Port Moresby North West (MNW) electorate provides a preview of what to expect next year. In PNG, a by-election is required when a vacancy occurs more than a year before the return of writs

New Caledonia eyes final vote on independence

France is showing signs of frustration as it exerts all efforts to underline the real consequences of independence for those long-standing New Caledonian residents who will vote in a third and final referendum before the 1998 Noumea Accord ends next year. French Minister for Overseas Territories

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