‘Going gets tough’ for Pacific partners at Finance Forum

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Tough questions need to be asked as the Pacific confronts climate change, lack of progress in sustainable development and the growing vulnerabilities in the region, Fiji’s government says.

Addressing the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Suva last week, Fiji deputy Prime Minister Professor Biman Prasad said a “business as usual” approach to these challenges would be “the surest way to disaster for the entire region”.

Taking a swipe at development partners including New Zealand, Australia and the United States, Prasad said Pacific communities were struggling, and it was “time to ask some hard questions”.

Associate Finance Minister David Parker attended the summit and said the aim was to promote regional stability through “shaping the regional architecture so that it is fit for purpose and can generate Pacific-owned solutions to the challenges of today”.

Ministers discussed the key economic and socio-economic issues facing the region and the draft ‘roadmap for economic development’, he said.

In February, Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni pledged further funding to the Pacific for climate change science to help with the hard-hit and hugely depended-on fishing industry.

This followed Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s record $1.3 billion (US$778 million) commitment for mitigation and adaptation – a new strategy to drive New Zealand’s investment in climate action in the Pacific and globally.

Mahuta announced the International Climate Finance Strategy, Tuia te Waka a Kiwa, in August last year, which sets out the Government’s approach to deliver a scaled-up climate finance pledge made in 2021.

The Suva summit focussed on strengthening relationships and discussing regional priorities with a U.S delegation attending the meeting for the first time.

Prasad, who is also Fiji’s Finance Minister, warned the Pacific was subject to a new era of geopolitics.

“Why, at a time when we are so vulnerable to this existential threat, must the region be subject to geopolitical contestation? Why is there a growing divide between what our development partners say and what they do?

“They say they are with us on our existential threat, but there is a disconnect between this and the resources that they offer on the table. Why is there a disconnect between what multilateral banks and global funds say and what they do?

“They know all too well that the region’s adaptation to climate change cannot be and must not be financed through loans, soft or hard.”

The meeting also approved the redesigned Pacific resilient facility, which would be formally adopted at November’s leaders meeting in Rarotonga, Forum chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said.

“The Pacific has faced challenges when attempting to access a number of avenues for financing initiatives such as the Green Climate Fund(GCF).

“In the last 18 months, we have redesigned this proposal for a facility for our development partners to put their funds into and to be used for adaptation measures.

“This is one way to enable funds can be freed up quicker to our members to address climate funding and resilience building initiatives which in many cases can be quite small scale and difficult to fund through the formal channels with the green climate fund.

“The going gets tough, and the real work starts now.”

The resilient facility was first proposed more than six years ago to attract donor or development member funding. Australia has invested $3 million (US$1.95 million) while the U.S has donated US$2m to start up the facility.

Prasad said the future of the Blue Pacific depends on integration including the free people-to-people movement as a short-term goal.

“Pacific businesses should be able to shape and expand market opportunities unrestrained – Fijian businesses operating in the North Pacific, Papua New Guinea operating in New Zealand, Samoa expanding opportunities in the Solomon Islands.

“Full integration must mean that, in the speediest possible time, we must have visa-free travel arrangements between all members of the forum family.

“This will be the surest way of expanding employment opportunities for our young, responding to the continuous loss of skills and talents out of our region,” he said

SOURCE: STUFF NZ/PACNEWS