- Wallis and Futuna
In a speech on 1 July 2003, Wallis and Futuna High Commissioner Christian Job officially announced that the institution of direct income taxation was being considered. This reform, which had been proposed by French Overseas Minister Brigitte Girardin during her visit to the territory in December 2002, would be undertaken slowly and deliberately. For indeed, Wallis [End Page 215] and Futuna's main problem lies in the deplorable state of its finances. On the one hand, tax revenue is essentially related to the taxation of imported products, because exports are nearly nonexistent. On the other hand, the territory has lived beyond its means for a long time, as generous but budget-consuming measures have gradually led to a chronic deficit in the local budget. Staff expenses have increased by a factor of 2.5 in ten years. Welfare has increased fivefold. Connected to this, although the airfare between Wallis and Futuna has an actual cost of 20,000 FCFP, passengers only pay 9,000 FCFP, thanks to a deficiency grant for the air service. To date, in addition to its direct spending, the French State contributes to balancing the local budget to the tune of 376 million FCFP.
All of this explains the implementation of a recovery plan that includes overhauling welfare schemes, revising the prices of domestic services, improving the tracking of expenses, retaining rather than systematically replacing government agents, and even considering changes to the tax system. With this aim, an additional clause to the development contract was signed on 23 July 2003 for 1.5 billion FCFP. The 2004 budget was carefully set up so as not to overestimate revenue or omit the slightest expense, including debts from previous years.
Wallisians and Futunians greatly regretted that when Jacques Chirac, president of the French Republic, visited New Caledonia on 23 July 2003, he did not stop in Wallis before flying on to French Polynesia. It was finally on 1 December 2003 that the special agreement between France, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna was signed in Paris. The agreement endorses the autonomy of French State services in Wallis and Futuna, and clarifies the support of France and New Caledonia for the economic development of the archipelago. A tripartite committee is to monitor this agreement.
In spite of signing the special agreement, it would seem that the archipelago of Wallis and Futuna actually remains closely linked to New Caledonia, both economically and demographically. The main problem between Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia is the overseas territory debt owed by Wallis and Futuna to Caledonian administrations for airline, hospitals, and education facilities. This debt comes to nearly 3 billion FCFP, and France is considering a deficiency grant to discharge it. When the agreement was signed, Senator Robert Laufoaulu pointed out that the health agency's sizeable debt was the responsibility of the French State.
Epifano Tui, a councillor in the opposition, resigned from his term of office on 18 July 2003. Tui "wanted to attract the attention of the elected officials, who according to him, only have deliberative powers, but no responsibility as far as the executive is concerned" (fm45). Because of the law on male/female parity, the second candidate on the slate, Salome Moeliku-Seo, was allowed to become the second woman in the current assembly.
Marie-Claude Tjibaou, an economic and social advisor in New Caledonia, traveled to Wallis as head of a delegation on 8 September 2003 in order to carry out a study on social [End Page 216] housing. On 15 September, Secretary of State for Transport Dominique Bussereau went to Wallis before visiting Futuna the next day. He agreed to help the territory find a new airplane for its domestic services. He also visited the site of the future fishing port of Halalo, the development of which will cost one billion FCFP.
Administratively, it seemed that High Commissioner Job was appointed to remind the public service of its duties. After the major postal services strike of February- April 2003, which ended inconclusively for the strikers, a strike by the staff of the Reseau France Outremer (RFO) in May-June 2004 also ended in a return...