The Economy

Fertile soil, abundant rainfall and tropical heat favour the cultivation of a variety of products, and the economy is based on primary production. The total annual value of visible exports is about VT2,000 million, principal items being copra, fish, meat, cocoa, shells and timber. Annual imports amount to about VT7,000 million in value, the main items being motor vehicles, foodstuffs, machinery and base metals.

In Port Vila, retail trading, including duty-free shopping, pre-dominates, and hotels and tourist services are also prominent. Banks, trust companies, legal and accountancy firms, diplomatic missions, aid agencies, and government departments occupy most of the office space.

There is some light industry in Vanuatu, consisting of abattoirs, beer, meat-canning, printing, beverages, baking, clothing, buttons, soap, cement, furniture, timber-milling and dairy products. The government wishes to encourage more industrial development, and commercial activity generally, especially in joint ventures with the indigenous people. To establish any business, it is necessary to obtain a business licence from the government.

Vanuatu receives preferential treatment for trade with the European Community involving locally-produced goods, where not in conflict with the E.C.’s common agricultural policy, nor with its regulated markets. Some trade preferences with Australia are also available.

Tourism is important, resulting in Port Vila having three international hotels and several excellent restaurants. A deep-water wharf at Port Vila can accommodate large cruise-liners, which call weekly there or at Santo, which also has a deep-water wharf, and a hotel and restaurants in and near it.

The over-all cost of living is similar to Australia, though many items are imported and therefore more expensive. Rented furnished accommodation costs from VT50,000 per month for a good two-bedroom flat to VT150,000 or more per month for a three-bedroom house. Domestic electricity can cost over VT15,000 per month if air-conditioners are used. A house and land of good standard cost from VT10,000,000 upwards. Shopping facilities in Port Vila are quite good, and many articles are free of import duties for tourists.

Employment and residence require permits, but these are usually granted to skilled workers. Other persons of good character and substantial income may also be allowed to reside, in particular those with VT50 million or more to invest.

Office premises can be rented at from VT800 to VT2,000 per square metre per month, main street shops at VT2,000 – 3,000, and factories at VT400 – 600.

The minimum wage is fixed at VT30,000 per month for a full-time worker.

Public holidays are –

1st January 1st May Assumption Day (August)
Good Friday Ascension Day 5th October
Easter Monday 24th July 29th November
5th March 30th July 25th & 26th December

Business hours are from 7.30 to 11.30 a.m., and 1.30 to 5.00 p.m.

Standard local time in other parts of the world in relation to Vanuatu time, is-

New Zealand 1 hour ahead
Eastern Australia 1 hour behind
Hong Kong, Manila, Western Australia 3 hours behind
Singapore 3 1/2 hours behind
Europe 10 hours behind
U.S.A. East Coast 16 hours behind
U.S.A. West Coast 19 hours behind