Vanuatu - Politics, government, and taxation

During the colonial period from 1906 to 1980, Vanuatu, then known as the New Hebrides, had the distinction of being ruled by 2 colonial powers, Great Britain and France. This "condominium" arrangement has sometimes been termed "pandemonium" since there were 2 systems of administration, education, and courts. Furthermore, in addition to the 2 colonial languages of English and French, inhabitants spoke one or more of about 100 indigenous languages. For most ni-Vanuatu (people of Vanuatu) the only effective language of communication was, and is, Bislama (a kind of Pidgin which has strong elements of English vocabulary and Melanesian grammar).

After obtaining independence from Great Britain and France in 1980, dual systems continued to operate in some contexts, especially education. Systems of administration, courts, etc. were combined, but still operated in at least 2 languages. The country adopted a republican system, with a president as head of state (elected by an electoral college of parliament and regional council presidents), and a prime minister selected by a parliament of 52 members elected by universal suffrage of all citizens aged 18 and over. A considerable number of political parties have formed and reformed since independence, but in most cases they are based on the colonial language split, either being Anglophone (English-speaking) or Francophone (French-speaking) parties.

The primarily Anglophone Vanua'aku Party, with Father Walter Lini as prime minister, held power from 1980 to 1991, when parliament voted him out in a no-confidence motion. Subsequently, Francophone parties, usually in coalition, have tended to form the governments. In the late 1990s, there was a great deal of political turmoil as governments changed and various political leaders were accused of corruption. In early 2001, Barak Sope, an English speaker, was selected as prime minister of a coalition government. Following much political turmoil in the late 1990s, the English-French divide appeared to be less important, as coalitions were sometimes forged across languages.

Local government is administered by 6 regional councils, and there are municipal councils in the 2 urban areas of Port Vila and Luganville. Authority over matters of tradition is held by malvatumauri (national council of chiefs) who are elected by district councils. These chiefs usually represent land-holding groups. As in many parts of Melanesia, they do not necessarily gain their position by inheritance but rather through skill in achieving economic and political power at the local level.

There is no corporate or personal income tax in Vanuatu. Import taxes accounted for 66 percent of all tax revenues in the country in 1997. There are also export tariffs that account for most of the other tax revenues. Application for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) means that in the future, these trade taxes will have to be progressively reduced. This means other types of tax may have to be imposed, according to David Ambrose and Savenaca Siwatibau in the Pacific Economic Bulletin.

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations a Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Vanuatu 4,000 (1996) 154 (1996) AM 2; FM 2; shortwave 1 62,000 1 2,000 1 3,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Philippines 1.9 M 1.959 M (1998) AM 366; FM 290; shortwave 3 (1999) 11.5 M 31 3.7 M 33 500,000
Solomon Islands 8,000 658 AM 3; FM 0; shortwave 0 57,000 0 3,000 1 3,000
a Data is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
b Data is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
c Data is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].
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