Hon. Emilia Pires
Governor for Timor-Leste
(on behalf of Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu)
4 May 2012, PICC, Manila, Philippines
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is with great pleasure that I am able to present this intervention on behalf of my fellow Pacific governors, namely Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
I join my fellow governors in congratulating ADB for the excellent organization of this meeting and thanking the Government and people of the Philippines for being such gracious and welcoming hosts.
As some of the smaller developing member countries of the Asian Development Bank and as island nations, we are highly exposed to external shocks. Although we are also resilient to a certain extent, but given the very real impacts of climate change and the greater global financial and economic interconnectivity, we need to further build our resilience. The ADB is our partner in this task and the assistance ADB provides is important to help us manage risks and reach our full potential. Timeliness and flexibility in support is essential.
For the Pacific, climate change mitigation and adaptation is a question of national survival. It is an issue we Pacific DMC Governors have been discussing with the ADB for many years. We have long pressed for additional resources to be directed to the response to climate change. So we are pleased to see progress with the Pilot Program on Climate Resilience (PPCR) and would encourage rolling out this program to more countries in the Pacific.
We welcome ADB’s consideration of sector development programs for climate change. A complex issue like climate change needs to be addressed at the policy and institutional level as well as the project level and with the support offered by technical assistance. We would urge sector development programs for climate change to be fast-tracked.
As climate change mitigation and adaptation is a question of national survival for many of us,it is no wonder therefore that it is an issue on many of the agendas of regional meetings in the Pacific and one that we have put again here today. We urge the Bank to continue to enhance its assistance to our countries which are arguably the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change.
Diversifying our economies
The breadth of current economic activities in many of the Pacific DMCs is limited. Agriculture and fisheries are the common economic drivers, with mining and tourism each being important in some Pacific countries. Private sectors vary widely in terms of size and capacity. Small populations, geographic isolation and limited resources are frequently cited as contributors to our narrowly based economies.
Widening the economic base – thus, becoming more diverse, creating more opportunities, and in doing so becoming more resilient – is a priority of all our Governments. It is a task which has been approached through various means and with varying degrees of success.
We appreciate ADB’s ongoing support to facilitate the policies and programs needed to ensure that our natural endowments are translated into sustained and broad-based economic growth.
However, we note also that we lack an understanding of our comparative advantage as countries in the Pacific, on one hand, and as a region, on the other. We also need to have a balance of supply and demand of skills and job opportunities, inside our own countries and within the Pacific community for us to be able to position ourselves as a regional economy.
Similarly, the PDMCs recognize the importance of agriculture and fisheries development in broadening our economic bases, diversification, food security and above all poverty alleviation. It is the back bone of our economies. It is both a necessary and sufficient condition for successfully achieving our national development objectives.
We therefore call on the ADB to re-focus its strategy for the Pacific region to also place more emphasis on agricultural and fisheries development. We need sufficient credit at concessional interest rates to entice farmers and fishermen to invest more in farming and fisheries. We also need practical assistance in creating markets to ensure farmers can sell their products when harvested.
Human Resource Development
Ladies and Gentlemen,
People are one of the Pacific region’s key resources. In fact, more than half of the region’s population is under the age of 25 years, and children (under the age of 15) make up more than 30% of the population in most Pacific countries. The challenge is to develop this resource and ensure our young population contribute meaningfully to the development of our countries. We need to ensure the large youth population is either studying or productively employed.
Our development partners have long supported the provision of basic education – but there are still improvements to be made in both access to education and the quality of the education received. Our youth and unemployed also need to be made job-ready, we have to produce a qualified, competent work force. ADB support for technical and vocational education and skills development is therefore appreciated, as are the plans to support tertiary education in the Pacific. Financial inclusion is also a key area as the majority of our population do not have access to modern banking services, to achieve sustained inclusive growth.
We look forward to working closely with ADB at the national and regional levels to achieve gains in human resource development.
The Pacific Developing Member Countries (PDMC) Governors agreed to form a Working Committee of Finance Ministers to be chaired by Vanuatu, to examine, among others, the Climate Change related financial facilities that are in operation that the Pacific region could access, to assist with national programs to address the impact of climate change through adaptation and mitigation strategies. The Committee also aims to conduct a study to have a better understanding of the comparative advantage of each of our Pacific countries and how we can position ourselves to make the most of the next decade or two of economic growth in our region.
Vanuatu will be joined by Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Samoa and Timor-Leste in this Working Committee. I take this opportunity to appreciate the promptness of the ADB to support this initiative when they first heard of it 2 days ago.
I believe that with the adoption of new aid architecture as articulated in the New Deal on how to engage in fragile states, launched last year in Busan, South Korea by the g7+ group of 18 fragile states and the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, and to which ADB is also a signatory, the framework is the place for ADB to better engage with us in the Pacific.
Ladies and Gentlemen
To conclude, on behalf of all my Pacific Governor colleagues, I would like to express our gratitude to the President and management of the Asian Development Bank for the on-going support to our countries in the Pacific. As I said earlier, we are among the most exposed economies to external shocks, but there are opportunities to build resilience and a role for the Bank in supporting this. We look forward to continuing to work together in the future.