Today is a special day for this government; it marks the end of three yearsof drafting, re-drafting and consulting on Vanuatu’s next 15-year National Sustainable Development Plan.

You have all been invited here today as professionals in your respective fields to validate the contents of this Plan,which has been titled “Vanuatu 2030, the People’s Plan” to reflect the unprecedented level of consultation and collaboration which has gone into the drafting.

Staff from the Department of Strategic Policy, Planning and Aid Coordination (DSPPAC) of the Prime Minister’s Office have this year undertaken six months of provincial consultations, from March to August – visiting15 locations from Loh (Torres) in the North to Anulgahat (Aneityum) in the South – to meet with communities, provincial governments, elected representatives, the private sector and civil society.

However, the development of this Plan goes all the way back to October 2013, with the National Development Symposium at Mele village, where the initial discussions began. Then in June 2014 there was a Public Forum at Chief’s Nakamal, which was broadcast live on Radio Vanuatu and Television blong Vanuatu and allowed members of the public and civil society to share their visions for the future.

Throughout these extensive public consultations that have informed this plan, Ni-Vanuatu resoundingly called for a balance between the social, environmental and economic pillars of sustainable development, with our cultural heritage as the foundation of an inclusive society. In the consultations we discussed our biggest development challenges and their solutions.

Importantly for me, the Plan is founded on our culture, traditional knowledge and Christian principles, and builds on the successes and learning from our collective development journey that commenced at Independence in 1980.

Our most recent national plan, the Priorities and Action Agenda 2006 – 2015sought to deliver a just, educated, healthy and wealthy Vanuatu, and was the first concerted attempt to link policy and planning to the limited resources of government.

As we look ahead to the next 15 years, we now seek to enhance our level of ambition and extend the linkages between resources, policy and planning to the people and place they exist to serve. In effect our development journey remains on the same course, but we are upgrading the vehicle to get us there in a more holistic and inclusive way.

Vanuatu 2030will serve as the country’s highest level policy framework. It will inform all new policy discussions in every sector, and act as an overarching guide for government planning over the next 15 years.

The document outlines a series of ‘national sustainable development goals’ and Policy Objectives to translate the vision into specific priorities that can be actioned. They provide a framework in which we can track and report on our progress, and by now these Policy Objectives should be familiar to most of you who have been involved in the consultations.

The goals and policy objectives will be delivered through coordinated and interlinked government planning and service delivery. Line ministries, provincial and municipal annual plans and work programmes will elaborate on the policy objectives for which they are responsible. Sector plans, in every sector, will need to be updated to align with the priorities and development aspirations of Vanuatu 2030.

This Plan will also further strengthen the link between these strategies and the long-term national vision, which in turn should guide annual budget allocations.

DSPPAC, as the technical office supporting the Prime Minister, will ensure that the Prime Minister can carry out his mandate for strategic leadership and cross-sectoralcoordination by leading the implementation of the government’s policy agenda.

This transition will likely highlight structural changes to the 'machinery of government' so that it is best equipped to plan, resource and deliver the necessary services and activities.

Since Independence we have achieved a great deal, and we have encountered many difficulties and setbacks along the way, some from natural disasters and some from other sources. Before proceeding, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to revisit some of the main issues that are have formed part of the context within which this Plan was developed and is now to be implemented.

There are many issues in addressed within the Plan that I will not be able to cover, but you will have a chance to listen to the Director’s presentation later and read through the Policy Objectives yourselves.

I will begin by addressing the issues of concern with regard to population. According to the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO), the country has approximately 289,121 people with an annual growth rate of 2.3%. This would mean that Vanuatu’s population will exceed 300,000 within 2 years. With a total land mass area of 12,190 square kilometers it is estimated that each square kilometer will accommodate around 24 people as of now. What this means, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that demand for land and service delivery will increase as the population continues to grow bringing with it its own challenges.

Nearly 60% of Vanuatu’s population which is about 173,473 is under the age of 25 with about 87,000 under the age of 15, so we have a very young and growing population.

On employment, the total national Labor force in 2014 according to the Vanuatu National Statistics Office was around 21,796 which was approximately 13.2% of the total population. There is still so much work to be done to engage the rest of Vanuatu’s population into the formal labor force.

On natural disasters, just over a year ago Vanuatu was hit with one of the most devastating cyclones the region has ever seen with loss of life, property, destruction of infrastructure, and displacement of hundreds of people. The country is still in recovery mode and will take many more months, even years to regain some form of normalcy. Threats of earthquakes and tsunamis, damage from volcanic eruptions and flooding are regular occurrences throughout the archipelago.

On the political front, political instability has robbed this nation of so many resources for so many years and detracted from focusing on national development priorities. We have seen the ramifications of corruption but we are optimistic of positive changes into the future.

On the issue of the provision of services to rural Vanuatu, the Government will continue to implement the Decentralization Act which has provided the basis for development in rural areas through devolution of power and resources. We must continue to focus on providing opportunities for Ni-Vanuatu in their respective localities. According to the Vanuatu National Statistics Office, only 13.2% of Vanuatu’s population in 2014 is in the formal Labour Force – the majority of these people live in the urban centers of Port Vila and Luganville. The Government is therefore obligated through the Decentralization Act to create the necessary conditions for investment in these rural areas to encourage more local participation in business and creation of more employment for those living in rural areas.

The government is committed to providing more services to these rural communities, and that must begin with our schools, health centres and dispensaries being properly resourced and staffed in order to deliver the education and health care to our communities without unreasonable costs to them.

On the economy the main bedrock of our economy, since before independence, has been in agriculture – particularly the production for export of cash crops such as copra or kava, or even beef. Nowadays we are trying hard to encourage individuals and communities to engage in processing activities, wherever possible, to ‘add value’ to our raw commodities and increase the proportion of the final export value which stays in Vanuatu and goes back into our economy.

Tourism currently is our biggest export; and we must make the most out of our most valuable resource – our beautiful country and our status as “the happiest people in the world”. We need to spread these successes and opportunities, however, throughout the country, and as such the government will continue to encourage the tourism industry to grow in rural areas, outside of its traditional bases – here on Efate and in Santo.

There are also other small, but growing industries which make up our private sector, particularly the information and communications technologies (ICTs) companies, and others. There is certainly scope for more services industries to grow over the coming years; making the most of our increasingly educated, bilingual workforce.

Finally, there are other supporting sectors such as the transport industry both on land and sea; the telecommunications sector and those who provide our utilities such as electricity and water. The construction industry, in particular, is experiencing a period of growth at the moment due to public investment and the government’s reconstruction activities. The quality of our physical infrastructure – our roads, bridges and wharfs – can have a large impact on people’s ability to engage in the economy, and the government is committed to not only upgrading, but properly maintaining, our key infrastructure.

Last but not least, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the fact that Vanuatu will be graduating from ‘Least Developed Country’ to ‘Developing Country’ status at the end of 2020. It is expected that this will mean a gradual reduction in international support, as suchVanuatu will have to increasingly resort to its own resources to run its affairs and depend less on finances from the International Community.

With this context in mind, we bring to you this draft document for your consideration and endorsement as a compass directing national development over the next 15 years and beyond.

Today, you have been invited here to look closely at the Validation Draft, and to ensure that all of your feedback to date has been faithfully represented in the Policy Objectives.

The government is committed to its implementation, monitoring and to reporting on its progress. Its success, however, is dependent on collective ownership and collaborative partnerships between the people, government, community leaders, businesses, civil society and our development partners. Together we have the capability to fulfill our potential and achieve the Vanuatu we want. This is a national plan for all people, and we all must take responsibility for its implementation.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, this Plan builds on the progress made and lessons learned under the Priorities and Action Agenda, and the Millennium Development Goals, which also expired in 2015.

Vanuatu 2030 charts the country's vision and overarching policy framework for achieving a Stable, Sustainable and Prosperous Vanuatu within the next fifteen years. The national vision and the framework for action outlined in this Plan have been informed by the priorities voiced by our people, over the course of a three-year consultation programme undertaken across the whole country. Our united voices articulate what we want for ourselves, our children, future generations and our country.

I sincerely believe that with the right policies, investments and collective commitment we can translate our development aspirations into reality.

Finally, I would like to once again thank you for your attendance today, and sincerely thank all the people of Vanuatu who have contributed to producing “Vanuatu 2030”, and delivering what is truly “The People’s Plan.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for your attention.