Melanesia has had a lot going for it for more than a decade now. The exploitation of onshore and offshore resources have helped Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia – which form the Melanesian group of countries – stay ahead in economic growth rates compared with the rest of the region. On the back of strong demand for oil, minerals, hardwood, and other land based resources from the fast growing economies of Asia, a steady stream of income has been added to these countries’ coffers. Global majors have beaten a path to PNG to set up gigantic operations to mine minerals, petroleum and natural gas, with more investments on the anvil. Also, the extension of sovereign Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) thanks to the redrawing of the continental shelf boundaries according to the United Nations Law of the Sea has progressively added to the offshore resource exploitation potential of these countries. This has brought even more mining companies from all over the world asking for licences to prospect and to mine minerals from under the sea. The Melanesian economy will be on a strong path of growth over at least the whole of the next decade, according to economists. But what does all this newfound wealth mean to the common citizen in Melanesia? Is it having a positive impact on the quality of life of the average Melanesian? Is the great abundance of resources that the Melanesian people collectively own in good hands? Should one go by the sordid political developments in many of these countries over the past several years and more so in recent months one cannot be faulted for being pessimistic. Fierce political rivalries, unbridled corruption, administrative failure and worsening governance are taking a heavy toll on the countries’ achievement of development goals: the riches earned from the exploitation of mineral resources are scarcely reaching the common man.
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• We Say is compiled and edited by Samisoni Pareti