Vanuatu, Republic of: Interview with The Hon. Seoul Simeon

The Hon. Seoul Simeon

Minister of Youth & Sports of Vanuatu (Government of Vanuatu)

The Hon. Seoul Simeon

Vanuatu, as many other countries in the region is striving to attract FDI. In your opinion, what are the biggest competitive advantages that Vanuatu has to offer international investors over the rest of the Pacific Islands?


As newly elected minister of Youth and Sport, I believe (at this stage) that Vanuatu is trying to attract more investors by means of promoting its culture and upgrading the human resources standard. All of which is part of a set of running changes that is showing Vanuatu becoming more technologically advanced than in the past.

When compared to other countries we are a peaceful nation, where even locally (in each island), our culture empowers chiefs (tribe), which enforce a stable social system ensuring peace and security with no need for police forces to be resident on those locations. Everybody lives in peace and that is representative of our life standard.


The MoYDS aims to aid the youth of Vanuatu to live healthy life styles, promoting active life styles and healthy eating habits. How are you actively working in these areas as new elected Minister?


We are closely working together with the Ministry of Health to ensure that NCT (National Healthcare Intervention), is progressively reduced by means of introducing healthy food habits and overall healthy life style.

Within this scope, we are also focusing in the younger generations, launching (this year) programs to introduce High School sports in a consistent manner; for in the past similar initiatives were attempted but then stopped. This aims to stimulate young people becoming actively healthy, not only to attend school but adopting a sportsman/women lifestyle.



Does it also comprehend promoting the development of women through sports in Vanuatu?


We are looking to empower our youth, not discriminating between gender. You have seen several men and women participating in volunteer service ensuring these programs become successful, but the majority being very skillfully woman.


Vanuatu is hosting the 2017 Pacific Mini-Games in December. The countdown has started. How is the preparative going?


So far so good, and we believe that all works will be finished on schedule, plus we have the capacity to pay for the games; it’s really going well. We are sending our team to China for 5 months to prepare it and then having them back for final “tuning”. The Government is fully committed to ensure that we shall again host the games and get more medals, so Vanuatu is ready to host these next Pacific Mini-Games


How do you expect this celebration can move forward the economic development of Vanuatu?

That is a great question, bringing in and accommodating people from over 24 countries is a huge challenge but it also represents a high potential opportunity for our tourism.The Sports Complex is being built not only with the games in mind, but also to host future events.
Besides the games dedicated infrastructure, we are developing attractions in the Sports Complex’ surroundings as well as inherent accessibilities. In fact, the entire city is being “upgraded”, so everything will be beautiful and attractive.


What is the image of Vanuatu and your Ministry that you want to promote on an international level through this multinational event?

While other countries are preparing themselves to come to Vanuatu, my ministry is preparing a program to welcome them with specific opening and closing activities, which will show the distinct cultural environments that we have on our provinces and islands. These shall be represented on both opening and closing ceremonies, to show Vanuatu’s rich cultural diversity to the world


You were elected Minister of Youth and Sports on November 2016. What are your goals for your next years as Minister Youth & Sports of Vanuatu?

I have been in politics and also have a public service background, so for me it is a matter of planning and carrying out administration activities. As a new minister (and during my term), my focus will be on empowering our youth (which represents round 70% of the population, many of which coming from very humble social contexts), enabling them to gain skills and start their own business (based on those).

We are also talking with the Solomon Islands’ British High Commission to access the possibility of applying for skills program, however no matter how small our resources may be, this Government is committed to invest them in this area of empowering our youth.


What is the major challenge you are facing at the moment and how are you doing to overcome it?

This is the smallest Ministry in the government, hence the budget is very small. Additionally, everyone comes to us asking for money for current needs or events (like a sports tournament); during my term, I will work to make the Government sensitive towards the need of financially backing up our defined priorities, so also increasing our Ministry’s budget.


You are one of the youngest politicians in the current Government with a paramount responsibility: the healthy growth and development of young people, the future of the country. Why do you think the Prime Minister the Hon. Charlot Salwai has delegated this crucial role on you?

The actual Prime Minister is an expert and has shared/ extended the responsibility to us (the new leadership), so we have to prove the Nation (as also to him, as prime minister), that we can perform the required changes.
And why I was chosen for this role? I am not sure. Maybe being a political partner. Now, I was entrusted with this Ministry and I will make sure to do my best to fulfill the mission at hand in this 11th legislation



In the future, for what would you like to be remembered in Vanuatu?


It is a very nice question. I will make sure to leave an image of accomplishment, not only in the Sports context but, as previously stated, towards our youth development. By means of supporting the creation of Business Activities, which then will be transferred to other Government Departments (such as the Department of Cooperatives), for monitoring, nurturing, supporting and facilitating purposes. It is an area not previously tackled, and I have plenty of experience in small business enterprises (training and supervising).


From your perspective, what role do international investors play within the activities that are under your Ministry? How important are them for your Ministry and the activities you want to develop – mentioned before?

It is important for International Investors to come out and become part of what the Government has embraced as the economic evolution policies for our nation. Specifically concerning my ministry, international organizations are welcome to come onboard and support us towards our Youth Program. When you invest on young people they will (later on), become part of the organizations, which will benefit from qualified resources. If the economy is improving everyone is happy, including the investors.


As you are well aware, the readers of HBR include many of the world’s most influential business and political leaders. What final message would you like to send them about Vanuatu and your Ministry?

All ministries in this cabinet are committed to supporting us (the smaller ministries) in ensuring that these mini-games will be a great and successful event. After completion, Vanuatu will stand at a completely different stage regarding the potential to attract other investments