(Speech courtesy Pacific Islands Forum)
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY TUILOMA NERONI SLADE, SECRETARY GENERAL, PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT
16th FORUM ECONOMIC MINISTERS’ MEETING
3 July 2012
On behalf of this, the 16th Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, I thank you for your kind words of welcome, for the warmth and courtesies extended to us all, and your address and the direction and guidance it provides this meeting.
May I thank in you in particular, Mr President, for your personal efforts and leadership on issues so critical to the region, especially on the dangers of climate change and the protection of the oceans and its resources, and your effective global advocacy on these.
Rio+20 and beyond
Honourable Leaders and Ministers,
This meeting occurs at a moment of global renewal and re-commitment to the sustainable future for the Planet and for generations to come. At Rio just days ago, World Leaders and high level representatives, including from almost every Forum member country, set out their Common Vision for the Future We Want. They reaffirmed the need to achieve economic stability and sustained economic growth, promotion of social equity and protection of the environment, while enhancing gender equality and women’s empowerment and equal opportunity for all, especially for young people.
World Leaders underscored urgency in their resolve to take action to achieve sustainable development (para. 12, Rio outcomes), as they did to emphasise that adaptation to climate change is an immediate global priority (para. 190).
Of particular importance to Forum member countries, and to this meeting, are the Rio outcomes and reaffirmation of small island developing States as a “special case” for sustainable development; and of climate change as one of the greatest global challenge of our time; and the very significant emphasis given in the Rio text (in 20 separate paragraphs, from 158) to the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and their resources for sustainable development. Significantly, the theme of the Forum Leaders’ meeting in the Cook Islands next month will be “Large Ocean Island States: the Pacific Challenge”
In the coming days, Forum Governments and CROP organisations will need carefully to analyse and determine appropriate ways to deal with and move forward with the global pronouncements and consensus of the Rio conference. Indeed, I know this work has already begun in the region.
World Economy at a Turning Point
But, almost as a reality check, we meet also at a time when the global economy is still recovering from the global financial crisis, and unfortunately at a much slower pace than anyone would like. The ongoing sovereign debt crisis in the Euro-zone economies continues to weigh heavily, and rather negatively on the global recovery.
The world’s emerging economies appear to be on a faster track to recovery than many industrialised, wealthier nations. However, volatile financial markets, contagion effects of the crisis, and short-term spikes in oil and food prices are factors that can easily derail growth prospects for our own Pacific economies. In your daily work, these risks will be uppermost in the minds of Honourable Ministers and officials in this hall.
Regional Economies – Moderating Economic Growth
For the Forum Island Countries as a whole, the trends this year appear to be generally positive. According to the latest IMF and ADB estimates, positive economic growth is expected for all the Forum Island Countries ranging from 0.4% to 7.7% of the Gross Domestic Product.
Generally, these positive projections are based on the performance of mining, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism sectors, including significant infrastructure development in some of the Forum Island Countries. While inflationary expectations remain manageable in most Forum Island Countries this year, the risks I have mentioned, of sudden increases in crude oil and food prices, can threaten this outlook.
These global risks are known factors, as are their compounding effects on the inherent vulnerabilities of small Pacific economies, and they need to be managed.
Keeping our course with FEMM’s earlier calls for careful fiscal consolidation without stifling economic growth, the creation of precautionary fiscal space, the easing of monetary policy (where appropriate), managing contagion effects, leveraging market confidence, and strengthening and reinvigorating structural reforms, all remain sound ways of dealing with the projected global economic risks.
At their Auckland meeting last year, Forum Leaders provided further direction through the Waiheke Declaration on Sustainable Economic Development, recognising that sustainable economic development increases the resilience of communities, including the most vulnerable members. At the global level, the recent Rio+20 conference reaffirmed the need to further mainstream sustainable development at all levels, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognised their inter-linkages, so as to achieve sustainable development in all its dimensions.
Since the inception of your meetings, Forum Economic Ministers have taken vital decisions in shaping the economic policy actions at national and regional level. Your fundamental role as national decision makers and as those directly responsible for the allocation of budgetary resources for development, gives you an especially significant influence in progressing national and regional initiatives.
Sustainable Economic Development and Broadening the Economic Base
The Waiheke Declaration reinforces the recent FEMM agenda of broadening the economic base if we are to grow and develop beyond our continuing lower than potential growth performance.
Forum Economic Minsters as Ministers mandated to foster sustainable regional economic growth must play a decisive role in driving the implementation of the Waiheke Declaration.
Investments in the productive sectors, particularly fisheries, tourism and agriculture, and the infrastructure aspects relating to transport, energy, communications, health and education are crucial. Access to finance for economic growth, efforts to lower the cost of remittances, and initiatives to promote financial inclusion are also an integral part of our efforts to promote business development in the region.
But we need also to look into other specific areas of capacity building to grow the private sector, for example, including through the involvement of women in the economic development of our region. The economic and social costs of women’s non-participation in the economy are, in the conditions and expectations of today’s world, antiquated and unacceptable and we must provide Pacific women with the enabling environment to increase their opportunities to participate productively in the formal labour market and as outstanding entrepreneurs as so many Pacific women have demonstrated and are demonstrating.
Reforming State Owned Enterprises to improve their performance, not only for efficient public resource allocation but also for economic competiveness and sustained economic growth will be a particular focus of this meeting.
Honourable Leaders and Minsters,
I call on you to ensure that the Waiheke Declaration does not become just another declaration. I encourage you to consider how you as the Minsters responsible for economic growth can transform the future of the region: which is, with the ambition of Rio, the Future We Want for our Pacific.
It is of considerable advantage that we have the Pacific Plan, the agreed master strategy for regional sustainable development and integration. The Waiheke Declaration is integral to the Pacific Plan and an important re-statement of the core objectives’ of the Pacific Plan, and FEMM Ministers have received direct mandates from Forum Leaders for their vital role in the monitoring and implementaiton of the Pacific Plan.
Climate Change Resourcing
Forum Leaders – and, again, acknowledging Mr President’s personal role – have reaffirmed that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of our people.
Economic Ministers have been specifically tasked by Forum Leaders to advise on options to improve access to, and management of, climate change resources. Forum Leaders have emphasised the need to secure appropriate governance arrangements, and disbursement modalities and procedures which accommodate the particular constraints of Forum Island Countries in the development of climate financing opportunities. Your deliberations today will include exploration of the optimal mix of climate change financing options in a country specific context.
As I close, let me acknowledge the presence today of many of the partner technical agencies and esteemed colleagues [from the United Nations, World Bank, IMF, ADB and among the CROP agencies] who are working with the Secretariat in the region to support the implementation of FEMM decisions. Their ongoing expert input in the formulation of policy and executing the Forum Economic Ministers’ decisions is vital in the effective delivery of technical assistance programmes at the national, sub-regional and regional levels. I take this opportunity on behalf of FEMM Ministers, and for the Secretariat and myself, to thank them for their much valued and ongoing support. May I extend particular appreciation to the Pacific regional organisations who are here and to my colleagues and fellow Executives of the CROP family.
Honourable Leaders and Ministers, you have a full agenda with important and substantive subjects before you. May I wish you well in your deliberations.