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Call For Urgent Action To Build Pacific Economic Resilience

The Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) has called for urgent action to build Pacific resilience and an economically vibrant and prosperous region as the Delta
14 Jul 2021 11:30
Call For Urgent Action To Build Pacific Economic Resilience
Forum Economic Ministers Meeting chair and Tuvalu Minister for Finance Seve Paeniu (top) and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat secretary general Henry Puna(below).

The Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) has called for urgent action to build Pacific resilience and an economically vibrant and prosperous region as the Delta strain of COVID-19 adds to economic challenges.

Minister of Finance for Tuvalu, Seve Paeniu made this call while chairing the official opening of the virtual meeting, yesterday.

His call included a specific appeal to development partners to provide financial support, to raise US$1.5 billion (FJ$2.18bn) to capitalise the Pacific’s proposed new climate fund – the Pacific Resilience Facility.

The urgency for action was supported by Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna who told ministers “The pandemic has severely affected our economies and exacerbated our vulnerabilities”.

Recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis and climate change will be the key issues for the economic ministers two-day meeting Mr Paeniu said.

“Although vaccines are being rolled out across the region, the emergence of more virulent strains of the disease and the surge in community transmission in several member countries continue to create uncertainties that threaten us.

“We need to pursue vaccination of our people to reach the required threshold to attain herd immunity which hopefully can be the impetus of our collective recovery.

Ministers attending the FEMM will hear specific proposals to accelerate regional efforts towards economic recovery.

“I note initiatives …such as the debt-for-resilience swap and a regional debt conference with creditors to discuss debt restructuring and relief as well as a proposal for freight assistance,” Mr Paeniu said

“In the medium to long term, I also note with keen interest the Concept Note on the proposed Blue Pacific Economic Strategy to be developed by the Secretariat in the next two years.

“This looks like an exciting proposal that aligns to the 2050 Strategy for our Blue Pacific Continent.”

Mr Paeniu warned the impact of climate change together with COVID-19 has deepened poverty and inequality within several Forum member states.

 

New Challenges
“Our vulnerability to climate change induced disasters, and the broader human security concerns that arise from these threats has created new challenges.

“Urgent action is needed to build our resilience and achieve an economically vibrant and prosperous region in line with our Leaders’ vision embodied by the 2050 Strategy.

“To address our challenges, we are developing our own solutions, rather than waiting for others to resolve our problems.

“In the process, we invite our development partners and friends to join us in these efforts.

“If these efforts result in stronger, inclusive and resilient economies, then we would have been successful.”

 

A Reminder
Mr Paeniu reminded the ministers that the Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF), endorsed by Forum Leaders, is an excellent example of the region’s resolve.

“The Pacific Resilience Facility will be the only Pacific-controlled Climate Fund.

“It will provide finance to communities – through their national governments for small scale projects such as climate-proof community halls and school buildings and stronger roads, wharves and transport links.

“We call on our Partners for financial support, leading to a Global Pledging Event in October 2021 to raise a target of US$1.5 billion (FJ$2.18bn) to capitalise the facility,” Mr Peaniu said.

Mr Puna emphasised the need to take ‘immediate and urgent actions’ to address the unique circumstances in the Pacific.

“Access to and mobilisation of resources from international development partners continues to be a challenge for the region,” Mr Puna noted.

“But this must not stop us from being proactive, to innovate and develop home grown solutions for the good of our Blue Pacific Continent and its people’” Mr Puna added.

Mr Paeniu said the ministers will also consider disaster risk financing and proposals for regional approaches to strengthening private sector engagement in climate change finance and innovative resilience financing sources.

IMF Deputy Managing Director, Tao Zhang, in his remarks to the ministers, said: “Pacific Islands have been hit hard, and the pandemic has imposed a severe social toll, with rising unemployment and poverty.

“The pace of recoveries will hinge on vaccine supply and distribution, the external environment, and domestic policy support.

“For commodity exporters such as Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, a return to positive growth is plausible this year as the external environment improves.

“For tourism-reliant countries including Fiji, Palau, Samoa, and Vanuatu, the recovery will take longer.

“Our best guess is that the region may not get back to 2019 tourism levels before 2023.”

 

Global Co-operation
He noted that global co-operation was vital to avoid developing economies falling further behind the rest of the world.

“IMF staff recently proposed a US$50 billion (FJ$103bn) plan to end the pandemic by vaccinating at least 40 per cent of people in every country by the end of this year and 60 per cent by mid-2022.

“The most urgent part of the plan is to redirect excess vaccine doses from advanced economies to the developing world.

“About one-third of the plan’s US$35 billion (FJ$72bn) in grant financing has now been secured, but the work must continue to raise the rest.”

 

Private Sector And Civil Society Organisations Meeting
Private sector and civil society organisations will meet the ministers today.

“Undoubtedly, they will raise issues and matters of importance and interest to our people and I encourage us all to have an open dialogue with them,” Mr Paeniu said.

“Let us take the issues discussed on board so that we can address them at both regional and national levels going forward.

“I hope the outcomes of the FEMM 2021 meeting will provide the necessary strategic guidance for regional and national actions to deal with the economic and related challenges we face as one Blue Pacific Continent!”

 

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj



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