Pacific Buzz (Feb. 13): Solomon Is recover | PNG seeks stability | Funding cuts | More

A fortnightly roundup of policy news in the Pacific by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy and the Development Policy Centre.

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How Australia’s aid program is helping to pay asylum-seeker bill

“Six weeks after Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that $375 million would be reallocated within the Australian aid program to finance asylum-seeker costs, AusAID has released (pdf, p. 102 onward) its updated 2012-13 budget estimates… Savings had to be harvested from all global, regional and country programs…” including deep cuts to the aid budget for the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Vanuatu [read more].

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A Guide to 1,000 Foraminifera from Southwestern Pacific, New Caledonia (by Jean-Pierre Debenay)

“With about 10,000 species living in salted and brackish waters, foraminifera constitute the most diverse group of shelled microorganisms in modern oceans, and substantially contribute to biodiversity. Abundant and sensitive to environmental conditions, they constitute one of the most valuable tools for environmental assessment and monitoring programs…” This publication reviews environmental conditions in the islands of New Caledonia and provides a taxonomic guide to dominant varieties of foraminifera in the region [read more].

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The economic costs of non-communicable diseases in the Pacific Islands

“There are three main messages contained in the recently released World Bank report ‘The economic costs of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Pacific Islands: a rapid stocktake of the situation in Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu (available here [PDF]) (the report did not include analysis of Papua New Guinea)…” [read more].

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Kastom: Art of Vanuatu (8 February – 16 June 2013)

10.00 am – 5.00 pm daily, National Gallery of Australia (free).

Kastom: Art of Vanuatu presents for the first time the unique collection of arts from this area held by the National Gallery of Australia. In the early 1970s the Gallery contracted an agent to field collect in Vanuatu resulting in the acquisition of nearly two hundred works, a selection of which will be accompanied by other important works from the NGA’s Vanuatu collection.” [image: Chubwan mask 15-17th Century, Pentecost Island].

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Opportunity calls in the South Pacific

Australia needs to change its view on some of its nearest neighbours and see them as a realm of opportunity instead of risk, says Associate Professor Sinclair Dinnen from the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program at the ANU. “The South Pacific should be seen as an ‘arc of opportunity’ rather than ‘an arc of instability’ which threatens Australian’s security and is an aid burden.” For more, read CAP news or listen to “Rethinking the South Pacific“, a Saturday Extra interview with Sinclair on Radio National.

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‘Informality’ in the World Development Report 2013: implications for Papua New Guinea

An enthusiasm for informal economic activity is sometimes dismissed as ‘promoting underdevelopment’. So facile a dismissal of this very important issue is rebutted by a careful reading of the latest edition of the World Development Report (WDR) which takes ‘Jobs’ as its subject. WDR 2013 adopts a broad definition of ‘jobs’, pointing out that ‘almost half of all workers in developing countries are engaged in small-scale farming or self-employment, jobs that typically do not come with a steady paycheck and benefits’. This new WDR is notable for a positive, if somewhat qualified, endorsement of the value of informal economic activity.

Asking ‘why some jobs do more for development than others’, WDR 2013 concludes that jobs with the highest ‘development payoffs’ are not found only in the formal sector. Indeed, ‘informal jobs can also be transformational’ (WDR 2013, xiii). The task for government is to ‘identify which jobs would do the most for development given their specific country context’. This implies that in some ‘country contexts’ informal economic activity could be embraced as a transformational element in a national development strategy. Such an approach has already been advocated, here and here, for the specific circumstances of Papua New Guinea (PNG) [read more].

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Pacific Buzz (Jan. 30): Fiji elections | ‘Mystery yacht’ | Poverty stagnation in PNG | Cost of NCDs | More

A fortnightly roundup of policy news in the Pacific by the Pacific Institute of Public Policy and the Development Policy Centre.

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Fowl or Fish? A submission to the ACIAR Review

“The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is a very important organisation. It is the only aid agency in Australia which has legislative backing, something that the much bigger AusAID lacks. More importantly… it is one of the largest funders of agricultural research for development in the world.” Read a submission to the ACIAR Review by the Development Policy Centre at the ANU.

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Fiji’s 2013 budget: on the road to growth?

“The Bainimarama Government delivered its sixth budget late last year. The budget significantly increases investment in infrastructure, especially roads, with new spending financed through government debt. Other announcements are more modest. This blog post concentrates on the implications of the budget for infrastructure and government debt levels…”

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2013 Fiji budget: an analysis

“…There is no doubt that the last seven budgets since 2006, including the revised 2007 budget, have been prepared against an environment dominated by fear, mistrust and uncertainty of the future…” [read more].

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Pacific catastrophe risk insurance pilot program (World Bank)

The Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Project pilot is now in the pipeline [read more].

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Governance in PNG: what can donors do?

“For what seems like decades, evidence-based policy has been a mantra. Practitioners are aware of this, just as enlightened researchers are aware of the pressures on aid agency staff. But even with the best will in the world, turning evidence into practice can be challenging…  In my (new) job with AusAID, I reflected on the implications of these findings for our program in Papua New Guinea (PNG)…” [read more].

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Aid Buzz (Jan 23): Aid and asylum seekers | Tick for seasonal worker program, at last | Commonwealth funding, but performance? | Australia’s ADB VP | More

Devpolicy’s usual round-up of Australian aid and development news – this issue covering December 2012 and January 2013 [This summary includes important information and analysis of the diversion of $375 million from the Australian aid budget to cover immediate costs associated with the government’s asylum seeker policies].

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Small isn’t always beautiful: how smallness undermines public financial management in the Pacific and what to do about it

“Much attention is currently being paid to public financial management (PFM) in Pacific Island Countries (PICs)…. but PFM reform is an arcane field, in which there is surprisingly little agreement as to appropriate models and the relative priorities of reform efforts. While PICs are often considered to have “weak” PFM systems, there is little analysis of how their systems differ from those in other developing countries. Few explanations for weakness have been presented beyond vague appeals to ‘culture’ or ‘governance'” [read more].

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UQ ePress new Pacific titles

Prof. Clive Moore (UQ) and Prof. Brij Lal (ANU) have been working to establish a Pacific series in the UQ ePress. The first publications in this series contain two new titles (the first in this list) and the reissue of five classic titles:

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World Bank Praxis Discussion Series: Health in a Developing World (focus on the Pacific)

The latest Praxis video discussion is informed by the November 2012 World Bank report on The Economic Costs of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Pacific Islands (with a focus on Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu).

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China and India in the Fiji equation

Professor Wadan Narsey, in his latest post to Lowy’s Interpreter, states that the Fijian government’s “…clear breach of its own decrees and roadmap to democracy, as described in my previous post, has unsettled traditional donors and must also create serious question marks over the continuing support by China and India.”

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Why the Fiji regime rejected the draft constitution

As Jenny Hayward-Jones described last Friday, the Fiji regime’s promise of a transparent and accountable ‘roadmap’ to parliamentary elections in 2014, following the writing of a new constitution to be approved by a ‘Constituent Assembly’, is now sounding quite hollow…” Read more in this recent post to Lowy’s Interpreter blog, by Professor Wadan Narsey, Adjunct Professor at The Cairns Institute (James Cook University).

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Pacific predictions 2013 – Fiji falters, and more

In January last year, Tess Newton Cain posted her predictions for Pacific politics, economics, and regionalism in 2012. Her latest post to suggests the big ticket issues in the region in 2013.

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PNG in 2013: politics, economics, PNG-Australia relations, and Ross Garnaut

Stephen Howes offers insights on key political and economic issues in PNG and the PNG-Australia and the questions these raise for the future of the country and the bilateral relationship in his recent post to [Listen to a follow-up interview on Radio Australia on 15 January 2013.]

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What constitutes donor dependence? Health financing in the Pacific

Sustainable health financing in the Pacific is a new working paper from the University of Sydney, Burnet Institute and Fiji National University’s Centre for Health Information, Policy and Systems Research. A recent post to by Joel Negin (one of the main authors of the report) reviews this report and underlying assumptions about donor dependence in the health sector.

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Increasing Resilience to Climate Change and Natural Hazards in Vanuatu project (World Bank project)

The World Bank project Increasing Resilience to Climate Change and Natural Hazards in Vanuatu is now in the pipeline. Read more about this pilot project to build resilience in the Pacific at the World Bank project database.

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Papua New Guinea – Country gender assessment for the period 2011-2012

A new report from the World Bank. PNG Country gender assessment 2011-2012 online.

Abstract: “Papua New Guinea (PNG) became independent in 1976 as a constitutional parliamentary democracy. The country has four regions (Highlands, Islands, Momase and Southern) and 21 provinces including the autonomous region of Bougainville and two new provinces recently created in the southern and western parts of the highlands region. Another province-level division is the National Capital District, which comprises the capital city, Port Moresby. Each province is divided into electorates that vote for members of parliament as well as for a provincial member of parliament, who serves as the governor of the province. The country has a population of just over seven million, with an estimated population growth rate of 2.8 percent. Nearly half of PNG’s population is under the age of 20 and the number of young people is expected to double in the next 20 years. Youth unemployment is high and rising, with only one in ten school graduates finding jobs in the private sector. With many young people leaving their villages in search of jobs in the towns and cities, there is a shortage of employment opportunities, which has contributed to the expansion of (mainly male) urban youth gangs, exacerbating problems of law and order.”

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Public Sector Management: Lessons from State-Owned Enterprise Reforms in Kiribati and Tuvalu

This policy brief from the Asian Development Bank highlights lessons of state-owned enterprise (SOE) reforms for economic growth in Kiribati and Tuvalu.

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ADB Pacific Economic Monitor (December 2012)

“The December 2012 edition of the Pacific Economic Monitor examines the fiscal position of ADB’s Pacific developing member countries and their budget plans for 2013. Special articles included in this issue focus on economic management and growth prospects in smaller Pacific island economies” [read the report].

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PNG: The six billion kina question

Graeme Smith follows up his earlier post to Interpreter (Are Chinese Soft Loans Always a Bad Thing?) with concern about a massive new loan reportedly under negotiation between China’s Exim Bank and PNG’s O’Neill government [read more].

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Pacific Buzz (December 19): 2012 in review

“The final edition of the Pacific Buzz for 2012 (our 25th for the year) is now online. Pacific Buzz will return on January 30, 2013. We wish all our readers a happy Christmas and New Year, and extend our thoughts to those in Samoa and Fiji affected by Cyclone Evan.”

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Up The Fly Without A Paddle

“The Global Mail investigates rumours of a mysterious plague down-river from a giant gold mine in remote Papua New Guinea, and uncovers disturbing questions about the flow of benefits from the resources boom” [read more].

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Last minute Christmas presents for the Pacific

Some readers of Outrigger may be interested in an innovative Christmas gift idea from Oxfam New Zealand. Oxfam has a tradition of facilitating gifts to communities in need and Oxfam NZ has a particular focus on the Pacific islands (with programs in PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji, West Papua, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and East Timor). To find out more about how you can give a gift to a family member or friend by giving to a family or community in need in the region, see Oxfam Unwrapped.

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Pipe Dreams: The PNG LNG Project and the Future Hopes of a Nation

This new investigative report by Jubilee Australia considers the “circumstances, events and impacts associated with Exxon Mobil’s US $19 billion gas project in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands…” This Report “argues that, contrary to the official discourse, there are serious risks that the revenues generated by the project will not mitigate the negative economic and social impacts of the Project. In fact, it is very likely that the Project will exacerbate poverty, increase corruption and lead to more violence in the country.” [read more, or download].

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Disaster relief for Samoa and Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Evan

The New Zealand NGO Disaster Relief Forum (NDRF) maintains a list of NGOs actively involved in assisting with emergency relief efforts in the region. Please visit the NDRF site to find out how you may contribute to disaster relief this Christmas for communities in Samoa and Fiji affected by Cyclone Evan.

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Request for proposals: UNDP/NGO Pacific Resilience Program

The UNDP is looking for an implementing partner (International Non-Governmental Organisation) for the Pacific Resilience Programme, based in Fiji [read more].

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Congratulations, Ana Lautaimi Soakai (PMPA Awardee)!

The Pacific Institute congratulates ANU Master’s graduates Ana Lautaimi Soakai (Crawford School) and Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (College of Law) and who were among 30 Pacific students studying in Australia to receive the Prime Minister’s Pacific-Australia (PMPA) Award last Thursday (6 December 2012). Here we offer extracts from an interview with Ana about her work and what she hopes to achieve with her PMPA Award. [Read more about Tauvasa and his PMPA in an earlier post to Outrigger.] Click the photo of Ana (top left) to see her with The Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, Chancellor of the ANU (standing to her left) and Prof. Tom Kompas, Director of the Crawford School at her graduation ceremony last Friday.

Ana Lautaimi Soakai was born in 1984 and raised in the Ha’apai island group, Tonga where she attended a local primary school (GPS Pangai/Hihifo). She then moved to Tonga High School (THS), Nuku’alofaand was Head Girl Prefect in her final year. After completing Form 7, she passed a bursary program and was awarded a scholarship from NZAID to study a Bachelor of Economics and Information Systems at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. She completed her degree in mid-2007 and immediately began work in the Revenue Services Department (RSD) of the Kingdom of Tonga. The following year, she became a senior economist with the Project and Aid Management Division, in the Tongan Ministry of Finance. In late 2010, she received news that her application for an Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) was successful and in early 2011, she commenced a Graduate Diploma in International Development Economics (IDEC) at the ANU’s Crawford School. This year she completed her Masters in International Development Economics.

Ana’s Prime Minister’s Pacific Award (PMPA) will enable her to spend three months in Pacific Islands Trade and Invest (PITI), the ‘region’s lead export facilitation, investment and tourism promotion agency.’ PITI is a part of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat, and as such is responsible for promoting international industry and business opportunities for all of the 14 PIF member countries. Ana has met with staff from PITI  and is already impressed by their professionalism. She is excited about her PMPA placement and believes her time with PITI will give her valuable new insights and a better understanding of issues related to economic development in the region. We are sure that her colleagues at Pacific Islands Trade and Invest will enjoy their time with her.

Ana has made a big impression at the ANU. Like her fellow ANU PMPA Awardee Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee, she has made significant contributions to mentoring programmes for Pacific Islander youth in Australia run by Pasifika Australia. This year, in addition to her other activities and her Masters program, Ana was also President of the Toad Hall Resident’s Advisory Committee. She has loved her time as a student at ANU, particularly her time in residence at Toad Hall, where she has enjoyed the strong sense of community among postgraduate students from very diverse backgrounds. She has also greatly appreciated the support of her Pacific brothers at Toad Hall (from Samoa and Fiji) – most recently for the meals they cooked for her throughout her final exam period.

Ana’s sense of gratitude is infectious. In reflecting on her time at ANU, she expressed her appreciation for her fellow students and residents, but also for her extended family in Canberra and at home in Tonga, who have supported her emotionally and financially with her studies. Ana believes this inclusive and intimate approach to extended family is as fundamental to Pacific islands cultures as it is to her own wellbeing – it kept her from feeling isolated, lonely and homesick during the two years she lived in her small room in Toad Hall, away from her immediate family.

On Friday, 14 December 2012, in a graduation ceremony at the ANU’s Llewellyn Hall attended by her parents and members of her extended family (pictured left), Ana’s two degrees were conferred. For Ana, this was a moment for profound gratitude. One of seven children, her parents went to great efforts to ensure she and her siblings received a good education (she is the only university graduate in her family). Her Dad worked for 33 years as a linesman with the main electricity utility in Tonga (TPL) to pay for the children’s education. Her older brother worked as a fruit picker in the Emerald region of Queensland for 7 months earlier this year (under the Australian Government’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Scheme) to buy his own land in Tonga, but also set money aside each month to pay for Ana’s parents to come to Australia so they were able to attend her graduation. Ana’s gratitude for these and other blessings is ultimately to God. She believes “we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.”

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Taking the High Ground (Terra Australis 37): The archaeology of Rapa, a fortified island in remote East Polynesia

Edited by Atholl Anderson and Douglas J. Kennett.

“This volume brings the remote and little known island of Rapa firmly to the forefront of Polynesian archaeology. Thirteen authors contribute 14 chapters, covering not only the basic archaeology of coastal sites, rock shelters, and fortifications, but faunal remains, agricultural development, and marine exploitation. The results, presented within a chronology framed by Bayesian analysis, are set against a background of ethnohistory and ethnology. Highly unusual in tropical Polynesian archaeology are descriptions of artefacts of perishable material. Taking the High Ground provides important insights into how a group of Polynesian settlers adapted to an isolated and in some ways restrictive environment.”

This book is available online free from ANU Epress.

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Strongim Gavman Program in PNG reviewed

An ambitious and sensitive program of Australian aid – the Strongim Gavman Program (SGP) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) – was the object of an independent mid‑term review in late 2011 and early 2012. Margaret Callan, a former AusAID official who is now a Visiting Fellow of the Development Policy Centre, led the review team…” [read more or jump to the Stongim Gavman review].

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Conference: The South Pacific Agenda for Survival and Growth: A Framework for Coordinated Participation of Asian Donors?

11-13 December 2012, Port Vila, Vanuatu.

“The New Zealand Asia Institute of the University of Auckland has partnered with the Pacific Institute of Public Policy to host guest speakers and academics from the Pacific, New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and United States (Hawaii)… A selection of academics will present papers on issues ranging from Chinese foreign aid in the South Pacific to the strategic priorities of the US in the Asia Pacific Region. Guest speakers will offer regional perspectives on foreign assistance from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tuvalu…” [read more].

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Growing the future, but can government manage the risks? PNG’s 2013 Budget

PNG maintained its position as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and the Pacific in 2012. Preliminary GDP figures show growth of 9.2% in 2012, on the back of 11.1% growth in 2011…. Against this backdrop, the 2013 National Budget foreshadows a significant slowdown in government revenue growth, as modest growth in consumption, income, and company taxes are offset by declining mining and oil revenues….  The $US6.5 billion 2013 Budget plans for a 23% increase in nominal expenditure, raising the size of the expected Budget deficit to 7.2% of GDP” [read more].

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PhD positions for Pacific research project (Massey University)

Two PhD positions are offered as part of the Marsden-funded project, “Harnessing the power of business: the contested involvement of corporations in community development initiatives in the Pacific” [read about other Marsden Fund Pacific-related research in this earlier post to Outrigger]. One student will work under the supervision of A/Prof Glenn Banks on two mining sector case studies, and one will work under the supervision of Prof Regina Scheyvens on two tourism case studies. Applications due 20 December 2012. Project start date: March 2013 (funding for a 3 year period). Continue reading

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Congratulations, Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (PMPA Awardee)!

The Pacific Institute congratulates ANU Master’s students Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (College of Law, pictured left) and Ana Soakai (Crawford School) who were among 30 Pacific students studying in Australia to receive the Prime Minister’s Pacific-Australia (PMPA) Award last Thursday (6 December 2012). Here we offer extracts from an interview with Tauvasa about his work and what he hopes to achieve with his PMPA Award. [We profile Ana Soakai in a post to Outrigger on 15 December 2012.]

Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (pictured above) was born in 1982 and raised in Port Moresby where he attended an international primary school, Tokarara High School, Port Moresby National High School and then the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). He graduated from UPNG with a Bachelor of Laws degree with Honours in early 2005 and was admitted to the PNG Bar at the end of that same year after completing training at the PNG Legal Training Institute. In early 2006 he joined the Office of the Solicitor General, in Papua New Guinea’s Department of Justice and Attorney General. In 2011, he was awarded an Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) to pursue a Master’s degree in Law specialising in Government and Commercial Law. Tauvasa completes his degree at the end of this year and will return to PNG to re-commence his work as Deputy Solicitor General (State Defence) in the Office of the Solicitor General.

Tauvasa is passionate about his profession and hopes that the experiences he will gain through work experience supported by the PMPA scheme will help him make a significant contribution to efforts to improve the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice and Attorney General as a whole. With around 20 lawyers and an average load of around 400 cases per lawyer, lawyers in the Office of the Solicitor General need all the help they can get. Tauvasa notes “with charging and recovering costs that his office simply cannot cope with the current caseload and that they at times brief out matters to private law firms through the Attorney General often at great expense.” He is particularly concerned with workloads caused by serial litigants with often vexatious claims. Tauvasa feels keenly the responsibility of his office and recognises that “every time we lose a claim, we lose taxpayers’ money – money that could be spent on development, on improvements to peoples lives and livelihoods, especially in the rural areas where basic services and infrastructure are much needed.” He strongly believes that by working for the state (the primary client of the Office of the Solicitor General), he is working for the people of Papua New Guinea. He aims to help create a Government Legal Enterprise in PNG (an entity akin to the Australian Government Solicitor), which may advise and represent the Government of Papua New Guinea in courts and tribunals and help to de-politicise the work of his Office and that of the Department of Justice and Attorney General in the country.

Tauvasa is dedicated to his work in Papua New Guinea, even though the rest of his family live in Samoa. A citizen of PNG, he is one of a growing number of young Pacific Islanders whose familial connections span the Pacific Ocean. His Mother is from Central Province (with family from Baluan Island, Manus Province) and his Father is of chiefly Samoan (Tanuvasa from Manono) and Chinese ancestry. Tauvasa knows that this mix of culture, tradition and identity can be confronting for some, but for him it is about recognition of family and, as one Samoan saying goes, “People have more roots than trees.”

[See a media release about the 2012 PMPA awards on the AusAID website.]

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