ADB 2019: Support for Action Plan for Healthy Oceans, Sustainable Blue Economies

The Pacific Island countries strongly support the planned announcement of an Asian De­velopment Bank (ADB) Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies at the Annual Meetings. This was
02 May 2019 17:26
ADB 2019: Support for Action Plan for Healthy Oceans, Sustainable Blue Economies
Cartoon by Paul Dorin

The Pacific Island countries strongly support the planned announcement of an Asian De­velopment Bank (ADB) Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies at the Annual Meetings.

This was stressed by the Marshall Is­lands Minister for Finance and Gover­nor Brenson Wase while speaking on behalf of the Pacific Developing Mem­ber Countries (DMCs) during a meeting with Asian Development Bank (ADB) president Takehiko Nakao on the margins of the 52nd ADB Board of Governors Annual meet­ing in Nadi yesterday.

Mr Wase said they welcome ADB’s intention globally to commit $5 billion in new financing over five years to:

(i) promote blue economy oppor­tunities,

(ii) reduce marine pollution,

(iii) protect and restore key ma­rine eco-systems; and

(iv) for greening ports and marine infrastructure.

“The Pacific islands are custodi­ans of the world’s largest ocean and are making major efforts to reduce pollution through actions such as banning plastic bags, strengthen­ing recycling programmes, estab­lishing marine protected areas, and requiring more sustainable use and better returns from our tuna fishery, the world’s last great tuna resource. The Pacific calls on all countries globally to reduce ma­rine pollution, help us sustainably manage our marine resources, and improve ocean health.

“Small island states need help from the global community to strengthen our resilience to grow­ing climate and disaster risks. While we can all see first hand here in Fiji the natural beauty of the Pa­cific, small island states are also the most vulnerable in the world to nat­ural disasters and climate change.

“We are already seeing the effects of more frequent and severe weath­er events and conditions are likely to worsen. Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in 2015 and Cyclone Winston in Fiji in 2016 were the two strongest cy­clones on record in the southern hemisphere. The drought in Mar­shall Islands in 2016 was the worst ever experienced.

“For communities in atoll coun­tries like Kiribati, Maldives, Mar­shall Islands, and Tuvalu – with a maximum height of 2-3 meters – sea level rise as a result of climate change is a direct threat to our very survival. And for all small island countries, the impact of climate change on our oceans and fisheries will affect our way of life.

“We acknowledge ADB’s commit­ment in Strategy 2030 to increase new climate financing to $80 billion between 2019 and 2030. Consist­ent with this, we appreciate ADB’s commitment to at least double climate change financing for the Pacific to US$500 million between 2017 and 2020, as part of the institu­tions growing engagement with the region.”

Innovative ADB instruments, such as the contingent disaster financ­ing mechanisms now in place for Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu, allowed ADB to respond to Tonga within four days of Cyclone Gita in 2018.

“We look forward to this facil­ity being extended to other Pacific countries in 2019.

“ADB has been a leader in mobilis­ing over $130 million in financing for five Pacific countries from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) since 2015.

“As well as helping Fiji access the first GCF grant for the Pacific, ADB has helped more Pacific countries mobilise more GCF resources than any other partner. We hope that ADB can become an even more significant partner – including by helping the 5 Pacific countries that have not yet been able to access GCF resources to do so.

“Pacific DMCs recognise the im­portant role of blended finance globally and would encourage ADB to consider appropriate blended finance options for the small and vulnerable Pacific economies. The can assist Pacific countries in ef­fectively mobilising and managing resources for their long-term devel­opment and debt sustainability.

“In addition to our extreme vul­nerability to disasters and climate change, Pacific island small states face significant structural con­straints to development as a result of our small size, distance from markets, and high cost of service delivery for dispersed populations.”

He said despite these and other challenges, development in the Pa­cific continues.

“Our people are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives compared to when each coun­try joined ADB.”

External support from partners such as ADB, he said remains critical.

“ADB estimates that infrastruc­ture needs alone across the Pacific small island states are likely to ex­ceed $3 billion per year.

“At over nine per cent of GDP, this is the highest for any region. In ad­dition, delivering critical social ser­vices such as health and education will carry significant additional costs. These needs cannot be met from domestic resources alone,” Mr Wase said.

DMCs recognise and thank ADB for its growing engagement with the Pacific:

  • We appreciate Strategy 2030’s focus on client differentiation and recognition of the specific needs of small island developing states.

ADB’s portfolio of Pacific invest­ments continues to grow. From the first $2.4 million loan to Samoa in 1969 for Faleolo airport, ADB’s Pa­cific portfolio now stands at a re­cord $2.8 billion. We hope that ADB will be able to maintain momentum and increase the portfolio to $4 bil­lion by the end of 2020.

  • The increase in ADF base al­locations to $13 million per annum for 2019 and 2020, as agreed by ADB shareholders in late 2018, has espe­cially helped smaller and more vul­nerable Pacific countries.
  • To pre-emptively address debt distress for highly vulnerable SIDS, ADB now provides 100 per cent grants for 7 countries and 50 per cent grants for a further two.
  • To strengthen co-ordination, ADB agreed in 2018 to expand its staff presence to 14 Pacific coun­tries by 2020. This will critical to ensure dialogue and coordination with governments and stakehold­ers.

Working closely together, Pacific countries and ADB have achieved real results:

  • ICT cables to Palau Samoa, and Tonga have reduced internet costs by almost two thirds,
  • ADB has worked with Pacific countries to expand water supply for over 400,000 people.
  • ADB has been the largest source of financing for renewable energy in the Pacific, financing 62 MW of new generation in the re­gion – about seven per cent of to­tal installed capacity – in the past decade and connecting over 10,000 households to power.

Two important emerging issues of the region, highlighted by Mr Wase are:

  1. The Pacific member countries wish to strongly express their con­cerns on the EU’s unilateral and non-transparent black-listing of a number of Pacific countries. This undermines development aspira­tions of vulnerable and small Pa­cific DMCs. This rating also derails our sovereign effort to meet inter­national requirements set by the Organisation for Economic Co-oper­ation and Development (OECD); and
  2. We encourage the ADB to con­tinue to work collaboratively with Pacific DMCs and development partners amicably resolve issuses of de-risking and withdrawal of correspondence banking relation­ships.
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