Staff Reporter –
A Manukau based Tax Barrister and former IRD Solicitor has taken up the challenge of bringing investors and entrepreneurs of Malaysia to the Pacific Islands.
Dave Ananth, who writes a Column in Indian Newslink has been in New Zealand for more than 30 years and has become a close friend and admirer of the people from the Pacific Islands. His eagerness to promote these economies with sound investment has made a Strategic Partner with a number of Trade Promotion Organizations based in Auckland and Investment Promotion Authorities based in the Pacific Islands.
Investment Ready Projects
Mr Ananth said that there was substantial interest in Malaysia and other countries of the Asia Pacific region to explore existing and emerging opportunities.
Currently on a tour of duty in his home country as an advisor for the implementation of GST, he is also engaged with the Vanuatu Investment Promoting Authority to explore investment-ready projects.
“Pacific Islands have always been close to me with their wonderful and friendly people. A strategic alliance with Malaysia and its neighbours is what the Islands needs to boost their trade and investments. Countries of the South Pacific must look at outside traditional trade countries and offer incentives where possible,” he said.
These countries should offer incentives to attract Asian businesses, he added.
Among the countries he is ‘accredited’ as Strategic Partner are Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
According to Mr Ananth, a few Pacific countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are familiar with Malaysians. However, most of the Islands are unknown although there is some trade with Malaysia.
Fiji has diplomatic presence with its High Commission in Kaula Lumpur, while Vanuatu has a Consulte . Many others are not represented.
“The Pacific Island countries would do well to set up a Trade Commission together and speak as one voice. Although accounting for just 7.6 million people, these countries share 15% of the Earth. This is incredible and must be seen as an advantage to do business. You cannot always look at climate change and blame it on poor infrastructure and developments and say that it is so difficult.” Mr Ananth said.
Fiji has a population of about 880,000, while Tuvalu and Nauru have 10,000 each. Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically-dispersed countries in the world, consisting of 33 coral atolls spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean.
Solomon Islands is geographically splintered with 1000 small islands and has a low population density with 500,000 people living in 90 inhabited Islands.
Some Pacific Island countries have limited natural resources, narrowly-based economies, distanced from major markets, and are vulnerable to cyclones and rough weather.
But they have tremendous potential.
“We need simple and workable projects rather than grandiose plans. I hope that Malaysia and other Asian countries will adapt a sister city in the Islands and transfer knowledge and investment for a start. We seem to think of the distant future without focusing on what can be done now,” Mr Ananth said.
“China is the most prominent in the South Pacific, replacing New Zealand and Australia as a major source of imports. Apart from trade, China provides concessional infrastructure loans. Other Asian countries are not doing enough. Recognition must be given to the fact the Pacific Islands are sovereign and independent nations and that has a lot of value internationally,” he added.
Ananth advocates of Free Trade and Free Commercial Zones as a part of the development plan in South Pacific.
“Foreign investors want a conducive working and trading environment. They also seek incentives, tax breaks, infrastructure and others benefits. Government of the Pacific should consider these basic requirements. After all, they create employment, boost local consumption and accrue income from taxes,” he said.
“Malaysian medical practitioners should consider joint ventures with their counterparts in these countries and expand health and pharmacy care,” he added.
Mr Ananth is preparing for a Presentation on the South Pacific in Kuala Lumpur shortly.