- Wallis and Futuna
During the year in review, economic activity increased despite a rise in prices (4.7 percent annual inflation, compared to 4 percent in 2011) and delays in shipping between the islands of Wallis and Futuna. Due to unfavorable weather conditions, the Pacific Direct Line’s Southern Pearl V51 was kept in port at Matā Utu, Uvéa (Wallis Island) for three weeks starting at the end of June 2012 before being able to sail for Leava, Futuna, on 21 July. As a result, Futuna experienced shortages of food and other necessities. Overall, consumer spending remained high, with a decrease in household consumption (a 17.5 percent drop relative to 2011, which in turn had been up 41 percent from 2010) being offset by increases in vehicles imports (103 new registrations compared to 77 in 2011 and 53 in 2010). Funds transfers from France sustained economic activity, particularly through government spending. The public buildings and works sector was revitalized through various projects such as the Kafika multipurpose structure (athletic stadium), an investment costing more than us$5 million, and the improvement of the water supply network for about us$2.7 million. Although 2011 was a dynamic year for imports (us$67,703,864), they fell by 1.7 percent in 2012. This drop can be attributed to an increase in the cost of industrial materials. Exports remained weak; only 20.5 tons of seafood were exported abroad for a total value of us$145,651.
On 15 September, Tominiko Halagahu became the faipule (district chief) of Hihifo for the Royalists, succeeding Heneliko Kavahe‘eaga. From the village of Vaitupu, Tominiko Halagahu is a member of the Halagahu family (one of the main royal families from the northern district) and was formerly seen as supported by both Royalists and Renovators (anti-Royalists). However, Renovators objected to his appointment, denouncing him as the onesided choice of a few northern Royalists and the Royal Council.
Plans for upgrading the mobile phone network in the territory to 3g service are currently in limbo. The president of the government of New Caledonia, Harold Martin, who is also chairman of the board of directors of opt nc (the New Caledonian Office of Posts and Telecommunications), stated in an official report to Wallis and Futuna authorities in early 2012 that as part of the special agreement that links the territory and New Caledonia, opt nc would set up a 3g mobile phone network. Previously, the Territorial Assembly had invited proposals to improve telecommunication systems in the territory—a move that turned out to be controversial. Two private telecom operators, Broadband and Digicel, responded to the [End Page 225] call for proposals, and when opt nc submitted a bid after the announced deadline—and was subsequently awarded the contract—the other two companies strongly objected. The majority in the Territorial Assembly at the time justified their actions by citing the “special agreement” with New Caledonia. The main objection being raised by the current majority in the Territorial Assembly is the high cost of the contract with opt nc. The financial plan calls for a territorial contribution of about us$10,079,000, with a $6,550,000 investment by the Caledonian operator. In the end, the lion’s share of the income from operating the network would be allocated to opt nc. Since the election of the new majority last year, the 3g issue is now tied up in the assembly. Harold Martin is currently under investigation in another case for favoritism and conflict of interest in the awarding of the 3g contract in New Caledonia (Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes 2013a). On 18 September, a fourth operator entered into the fray: Xalu Nouvelles Technologies Company, represented by Luc Danell, who is alleged to be involved in shady business practices in France (Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes 2013b). Later, the 3g mobile phone issue experienced another twist when the French administration put a new project on the table in Paris. This time there were no more questions of external operators but only of territorial investment amounting to about us$7,887,980. The French State would contribute about 30 percent...