Back to Kiribati

Just under a year ago I came to Kiribati to identify an aviation investment project. I flew in with our lawyer Marta and administrative assistant Daniel to finish the process by negotiating the terms of the $US 23 million grant we would be providing.

Since Marta was with me I arranged for a VIP reception and whileIMGP0288 she waited in the lounge I went out to have a look at the runway which is deteriorating very quickly. The photo to the left shows the high quality of the middle of the runway. I paced off some 350 square metres which we need to get fixed very soon.

We went to the east end of the runway to look at some of the issues there. I noticed some IMGP0291debris on the runway and asked them to clear it. Even though I’m a very keen cyclist the idea of having an old rusty bike wheel on the runway when a plane is taking off is a bit of a worry.  Debris on the runway caused the crash of the Concorde in Paris, and we could spend a lot of time picking up things off this runway. I do wonder what the impact of all the small stones, dust and other detritus being sucked into a jet engine is.

After a full day of meetings on Thursday – I’m also doing a major road project here – we negotiated on Friday. It was a long and intense day but we managed to get through everything. Compared to my negotiations for the road project this was much easier. Those were done with me in D.C. and the government team here in Kiribati. Definitely an advantage doing it in person.

IMGP0292 Daniel and Marta were keen on taking a break so on Saturday I took them to North Tarawa where there is a resort. I crashed in the hammock for a few hours and then we went for a 1 hour walk north to ‘Broken Bridge’ where there was a good swimming spot.

The tide was coming in but even so the water was like a bath, very warm. Swimming against the tide was like being in my ‘Endless Pool’. Very hard work and good exercise.

Since the tide was coming in I decided it was timely to head back. As you can see from the photo IMGP0294to the right, it was a good thing we didn’t wait much longer as what were knee deep fords between the islands were now chest deep.  Marta commented that she had not been on a mission before where she had to do anything like this.

We got back to the resort and then went to get a boat across the channel to where our car was parked. There was quite a queue of people waiting and we decided to be patient rather than IMGP0295contribute to the overloading. There were some very large women who almost tipped over the boat!

A nice bit of downtime from what is usually a very hectic mission schedule. Now if I could only catch up on some sleep I’d be in good shape for heading to Tuvalu next week.  


6 Responses to Back to Kiribati

  1. Vernon says:

    I trust you enjoyed the 5* treaatment at the Otinttai Hotel!

    • triduffer says:

      Ha ha. Very funny. For readers of this blog not familiar with Otentaai, it is the largest hotel in the country, owned by the government. To best describe the quality of services, one of my team had to stay there once and was woken up when a rat ran across her at night. The phone has apparently been disconnected. When Jim Adams, the World Bank Vice President for East Asia visited Kiribati that is where he stayed. Gave him a very accurate impression of Kiribati. If I can I stay at Mary’s or FEMA Lodge.

  2. Jeanie Bull says:

    Wow, nothing daunts you!
    glad the crossings were chest-height – not head height. Marta is quite the intrepid explorer too. 🙂

  3. Vernon says:

    I liked the WB slide show of the current rehabilitation of the main road and it certainly looks most professional but I thought the original time scale for completion was perhaps over optimistic even though you had MD of NZ as main contractors, a Group I have encountered in Malaysia and with a solid track record in the developing world. I fear it will become like the Forth Bridge and that MD will be drawing a pension from its maintenance for many a year.

    The more pressing need is the runway which as you have pointed out doubles up not only for aircraft landings and takeoff, which many in the villages abutting the perimeter find intrusive and regard it with a certain illegitimacy, but also as a playground and football pitch for the youngsters. In short there is a serious accident in the waiting and I am surprised that Air Nauru and others continue with the frequency of landing jet services.

    I trust your imminent departure to all things French including the coconut crabs at the PV Yacht Club and croissants freshly baked at the Boulangerie in Vanuatu will be more to your taste and that the Otinttai will just be a memory.Au Revoir.

    • triduffer says:

      Yes, MD is a really good contractor and living up to their reputation. Good news on the aviation side. A contractor has started constructing the fence around the runway which will go a long way towards reducing the incursions. We’ve put in a number of gates which will provide access across the runway to the plantations so hopefully the fence will not be cut.

      The Government has awarded contract for paving the runway–MD also won that one as well so we can be confident that it will be of good quality. The Bank is not directly involved with that aspect of the aviation work as we are not financing it, although we are ensuring it meets our safeguard requirements.

      Yes, Vanuatu definitely has better accommodation and food than Kiribati, but I’d still rather be home in NZ at my wife’s organic vegetarian Bed and Breakfast (!

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