U.S funding sparks Pacific rift

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The US$60 million economic assistance promised by the United States for Pacific countries is proving to be a headache, with Fisheries Minister Kalaveti Ravu revealing that discussions surrounding the allocation of these funds have caused a rift among member countries.

Speaking during the Special Fisheries Forum Council (FFC) Ministerial meeting at the Pearl Resort Wednesday, Ravu said some members of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) seemed to have developed a “prodigal son effect”.

Last year, U.S Vice President Kamala Harris announced to the Pacific Forum leaders that the US would triple their funding of economic development and ocean resilience for the Pacific islands.

She said the funds would help strengthen climate resilience, be invested in marine planning and conservation, and combat illegal, unreported, and regulated fishing and enhanced maritime security.

“While much can be said of how much we value our ability to co-operate and compromise, I must say that the outcomes of discussions held in recent meetings have raised serious concerns on our ability to think about the implication of our actions on other members,” Ravu said.

“While I acknowledge the solidarity that saw an increase in the U.S Treaty amount of US$60m, the increase in amount has also somewhat caused a prodigal son effect for some of us. “An effect that has seen a rift within our membership, and where we lay claim towards what we feel, is rightfully ours.”

He said the inability of FFA members to reach a consensus could affect regional solidarity.

“The threat of moving towards this is that it affects our position of solidarity and, like the prodigal son, the outcomes of such actions can harm our existence and our ability to compromise. “It is therefore on us today to make that unique decision of leaving no one behind and no one worse off.

“What used to be an easy fix for us five years ago, has become somewhat difficult and this has been evident in the past 12 months,” Ravu said.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS