Pacific Island countries face catastrophic debt


The effects of climate change is causing Pacific Islands, including Fiji to experience what is termed “catastrophic debt”.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Director Programmes & Initiatives, Zarak Khan said this is where countries are now engaged in a cycle of debt, where they have to borrow more to mitigate the impacts of climate change and pandemic on their economies.

“So if you look at Fiji for example, we had Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016 and that was followed by numerous other cyclones at Category Level 5. The Fijian Government has had to borrow billions of dollars over the last several years to try and help the Fijian economy recover. Obviously Fiji and other countries are trying to build back better, meaning that we’re trying to have more resilient infrastructure that can withstand these catastrophic events.”

Meanwhile, climate change needs to remain at the top of the agenda for all political leaders in the Pacific region.

Khan said with some island states heading into national elections this year, it is imperative not to lose sight of climate change and its implications for the region.

“But also at the bilateral level, we need to encourage the largest emitters and biggest polluters in the world to take more action. We are not doing well, we are in bad shape at the moment. In fact, the UN Secretary-General said we are committing climate suicide because of the lack of action. So I guess the message to political leaders would be to stand with us as we going into the international meetings that are coming up and ensure that we can speak with one voice.”

Khan said all political parties need to be on the same page, ahead of the COP 27 Meeting in Egypt in November and other international events.

Khan was part of discussions at the two-day Resilience Learning Event in Suva.

The event saw disaster risk management stakeholders from Fiji and the Pacific region gather to exchange experiences and lessons on resilience action that have been taking place at national and regional level.