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Marshalls goes for top dollar

Tourism, airports key to island plan

Marshall Islands’ revived investment agency is in search for new money aimed at boosting the island economy, its ailing aviation and tourism industries in particular. Chief Executive Officer of Marshalls’ Office of Commerce and Investment Ravuni Uluilakeba is spearheading the search. RMI poached him from Investment Fiji where he was CEO for several years. In an interview with this magazine during a recent tour of Fiji, Uluilakeba said OCI has set the target of seeking US$100 to $150 million. This money he said would be enough to kickstart many investment opportunities in this northern Pacific island economy.

This includes a $20- $30 million extension of Majuro International Airport, as well as urgent upgrade of airstrips in the outer islands. Such an exercise, Uluilakeba said should take 12 to 24 months to complete. “In recent years, tourist numbers into the Marshalls has been quite low,” Uluilakeba told Islands Business. “By injecting fresh money into both the airport in the capital and upgrading those in the islands, we hope to revitalise this important industry.” OCI has also been in talks with the School of Hospitality of the Fiji National University. Uluilakeba said the training of hotel workers as well as seafarers under the FNU’s School of Maritime is also in the ‘to do’ list of his office.

Getting into joint ventures with the government’s shipping company is also under consideration. Acquiring three more freighters would greatly improve island travel and and movement of cargo. With its current fleet, it takes a g o v e r n m e n t boat up to three months to make a round trip, something Uluilakeba wantsto reduce to a month. “ We ’ r e t a l k – ing to all potential financiers and donors,” he said. “At least two overseas financiers are keenly interested, and we have also been in touch with the World Bank, the ADB and the UNDP. Already, we have secured the assistance of experts from Mauritius to help identify gaps in our investment processes.

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