Anne Hidalgo, Tahiti and the cliché of the vahiné

“Tahiti!” Tahiti! » The exclamations are not the result of an enthusiastic campaign to promote French Polynesia, they come from the municipal opposition which gave voice to the mayor of the capital, Anne Hidalgo, during the Paris council, Wednesday November 15. In question, his recent three-week trip to Tahiti, then to Raiatea, where his daughter lives.

Embarrment of the team in communicating about a half-public, half-private trip in a difficult national context on the one hand, unleashing of criticism on the costly exoticism of the journey on the other: the affair calls up an old European cliché persistent, that of the vahiné and its blue lagoon, in which the French of the Pacific now regret being locked up. Faced with the tragedies of the world, “can we decently go and relax in the sun”attacked Alexis Brézet, from Figaroon Europe 1, Wednesday.

The territory of 280,000 inhabitants is certainly splendid, and it lives mainly from tourism, which brought in 645 million euros in 2022, according to the Institute of Statistics of French Polynesia (ISPF). But in these archipelagos scattered over an area the size of Europe, 16,000 kilometers from Paris, isolation remains a daily challenge.

“Between myth and structural handicap, Tahiti is perceived as the trip of a lifetime”, noted the ISPF in its 2022 annual report. Travel is expensive between France and the Pacific, preventing many overseas travelers from traveling, as between the Polynesian islands themselves. The transport costs of the municipal delegation have been revealed – 40,955 euros for six people.

“A two-speed society”

In Polynesia, economic growth has made a remarkable rebound after Covid (3.4% in 2022, according to the IMF), the university is advancing at the forefront of ocean research, start-ups receive awards from the French Tech, the official label of the French authorities. But the country is subject to generalized inflation: + 6.4% in 2022, a historic peak, leading to prices 39% higher than those in France. Its GDP per capita remains half that of the average French person (18,000 euros), the youth employment rate is very low (34%), and social coverage is far from that of the average French person, according to the Overseas Emission Institute. .

Also read the analysis: Article reserved for our subscribers In Tahiti, the dark side of the tourist paradise

Polynesians suffer from poverty double that of the mainland (30%, compared to 15%), a life expectancy lower by five years (for men) to seven years (for women), a rate twice as high of obesity or prevalence of diabetes, and the world record for gout… in the blue paradise, “a two-speed society”described the ISPF.

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