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Thursday, 13 December

20:00

China International Import Expo: a new opportunity for Pacific states? "IndyWatch Feed Politics.pg"

The recent China International Import Expo (held in Shanghai from 510 November) represented a valuable opportunity for Pacific island countries (PICs) to promote their products to Chinese importers and consumers. The eight PICs that have diplomatic relations with China Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Cook Islands and Niue displayed their featured products (Table 1). Although the expo was designed to showcase Chinas commitment to promoting free trade and reducing its trade surplus with partner countries, the sheer scale of Chinas economy means that an imbalance in bilateral trade between China and PICs is ingrained.

By examining the trade relationship between China and the 14 PICs, I argue that while Chinas exports to the region have grown more steadily than its imports over the past decade, the imbalance is less serious if Chinas exports to the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) are excluded. There are practical ways to increase PICs exports to China.

Table 1: Products featured by PICs at the Shanghai expo

Source: Yolanda Jiang, Pacific Trade and Investment Commission (China)

Ups and downs

An overview of bilateral merchandise trade between China and the 14 PICs for the period 2007 to 2016 is presented in Figure 1 below. Chinas exports underwent a more than sixfold increase over the decade, notwithstanding declines in 2013 and 2014 largely caused by a reduction in exports to RMI of US $400 million and US $200 million respectively. Chinas imports showed a slower growth pattern, with an overall increase of 315 per cent and fluctuations in imports in 2009, 2012 and 2016. The drop in 2016 reflected an import decrease of US $144 million from PNG and US $84 million from Solomon Islands.

Trade imbalance

China is in trade surplus with PICs and the gap is widening. As Figure 1 shows, Chinas exports to the 14 PICs exceeded its imports throughout the years 200716, with this increase partly driven by the growing number of China-funded infrastructure projects (especially to PNG).[1] Trade betw...

10:49

China gets the message. Keep the coal fires burning "IndyWatch Feed Politics.pg"

if for power youre yearning. With apologies to Vera Lynn. If you really want the home fires.

A recent report from the activist group CoalSwarm included satellite imagery that shows many coal-fired power projects that were halted by the Chinese government have quietly been restarted. In total, 46.7 gigawatts (GW) of new and restarted coal-fired power construction are either generating power or will soon be operational. If all the plants reach completion, they alone would increase Chinas coal-fired power capacity by 4%.

Abroad, it is the same story. By the end of 2016, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, China is involved in 240 coal-fired power projects in 25 BRI countries with a total installed capacity of 251 GW,27 making it the most important global player in the development of coal-fired power projects.

Over the past year, demand for energy is up substantially, as high as 15% in the case of natural gas. Given the overwhelming need to boost economic growth, climate change issues are largely absent from official action: Chinese authorities are focused on securing these energy supplies.

Many of Chinas initiatives, including much of its Belt and Road (BRI) development initiative are focused on serving the countrys need for energy, through the building of pipelines, power facilities and ports in more than 70 countries. In particular it focuses on:
securing natural gas and oil supplies:
imports through pipelines from Myanmar and Turkmenistan
planned imports via the nearly completed Russian Power of Siberia10 project
and a proposed Power of Siberia 2 pipeline
from the Middle East, via pipelines through Gwadar, Pakistan to Kashgar, China
securing LNG supplies from as far away as Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Qatar, the United States and Canada, as well as from Russias Yamal project13 along a Polar Silk Road.
securing oil supplies from Oman, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Congo, South Sudan, Brazil, Venezuela, and Canada.

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Wednesday, 12 December

20:00

Suitable accommodation for seasonal worker programs "IndyWatch Feed Politics.pg"

Accommodation is one of the largest expenses incurred by seasonal workers participating in Australias Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and New Zealands Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE). The cost of accommodation varies depending on the employer and availability in the area. The provision of suitable accommodation is a condition of the pastoral care policy of both programs and is the responsibility of employers, not the workers. Workers must pay for this provided accommodation with deductions taken from their pay regardless of whether they are earning an income or not. There has been public criticism about accommodation for seasonal workers in Australia and New Zealand. Reports have shown that some Pacific workers have been placed in overcrowded and substandard lodgings with inadequate facilities and rates set too high (this was also noted by an SWP agent in March 2018 in personal communication with the author of this article). This blog looks at some of the challenges, as well as changes that have recently occurred in relation to accommodation standards in the RSE, and argues that such changes should also be considered in the SWP. More research is recommended, in addition to better oversight from governments.

RSE and SWP accommodation

Seasonal workers are employed in regions where accommodation is often scarce, especially in peak seasons. Many growers, in particular small-scale operations, consider it burdensome to provide adequate accommodation and pastoral care for their labourers. RSE employer surveys reveal that suitable and reasonably-priced accommodation for workers to live in for periods of up to nine months remains one of the most challenging aspects of pastoral care for some employers.

There have been many unsubstantiated claims that accommodating RSE workers have inflated rental prices in various regions, such as Marlborough in New Zealand, and as RSE worker numbers increase the scarcity of housing is becoming apparent. Growers have responded in various ways; Hotus Ltd, an RSE employer based in Blenheim, recently built customised accommodation for their workers. The...

Tuesday, 11 December

20:00

Accessing justice: police responses to domestic violence "IndyWatch Feed Politics.pg"

This is the final blog presenting the findings of a research project exploring the impact of family and sexual violence (FSV) on families and children. Previous blogs have looked at services to address FSV in Lae, the impact on families, and the impact on school attendance. This post presents our findings on the relationship between the women in our study and the police, including the reasons they did or did not seek police help. This is important in light of the focus over the past decade on the police and criminal justice system in responding to family violence, as reflected in the enactment of the Family Protection Act 2013 and the rollout of specialist Family Sexual Violence Units (FSVU) in many police stations.

Overall, the emerging findings of our study, detailed below, suggest caution with regard to the adoption of policies such as mandatory arrests, or no-drop policies, that remove agency from the survivors and may push them even further from the system that is ostensibly established to support them.

Women navigate between informal and formal support mechanisms

Although there are valid reasons to object to binary distinctions between formal and informal justice systems, given the hybridity that characterises much of PNG, we use the terms formal and informal to reflect how the different mechanisms are conceived by our 71 interviewees. The main informal community mechanism available to women are the blok komitis (see here and here), an ubiquitous feature of local governance in PNGs urban settlement communities. Blok komitis can be problematic for women seeking to address FSV and IPV for a number of reasons. For instance, they charge table fees which many women cannot afford, and the outcomes often involve compensation payments, the terms and prices of which are set at the discretion of the komiti. They are also often based on local ethnic or social groupings, so members of the komiti may be kin to the perpetrator. Moreover,...

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