Opening remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at 14th FEMM, Niue


Alofi, Niue
27 October 2010




The Honourable Premier of Niue
Vice President of Palau
Honourable Ministers of Forum Member Countries
Dignitaries/Members of the Niue Community
Heads of Delegations
Fellow CROP Heads and Representatives
Distinguished Delegates and Observers
Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me on your behalf to extend our grateful appreciation to the Government and people of Niue for receiving us with such warmth of welcome and friendship. May I thank you Honourable Premier and your Government in particular for the kindness and courtesies and the fine arrangements for this meeting of Forum Economic Ministers. In typical manner, Premier, you have challenged us all with words of wisdom and leadership. Thank you for that.

2. We gather again at a time where the global economic recovery is sluggish, with flow-on implications for the region. While global recovery has been experienced in various parts of the world, experts have called the recovery fragile and uneven between, and among, developed and developing countries. And so we live with a situation of general and enduring fragility worldwide and with expected risks. A key downside risk is the issue of growth without jobs, which is a significant challenge affecting the Pacific.

3. The forecast for an estimated 0.5 percent growth in 2010 is of course good news. Modest, but positive news. But, without job creation accompanying this modest growth in real terms, development objectives such as poverty reduction and the improvement of service delivery to the rural communities, in particular, will remain at risk. Overall, the major economic drivers in all member countries such as export revenue, investment, tourism receipts and remittances have not performed as strongly as hoped-for, and this has further constrained the ability to realise sustainable economic growth and development

4. In previous FEMM meetings, Hon Ministers had considered and agreed on ways to manage Pacific economies through policy responses like promoting and safeguarding macroeconomic stability, strengthening public financial management to protect core services and the most vulnerable and improving competitiveness through the implementation of economic and financial reform. Such policies are entirely sound, with good results amply demonstrated; and it is essential that they continue to be the basis for cooperation and to provide guidance for the region.

5. Cooperation is a fundamental impulse, for our region; indeed, in times of crisis, for the world at large. The world community acted together to prevent a crisis of global seriousness; and international cooperation will be essential, as it will be tested, to protect the recovery. In more ways than one, regional cooperation can do the same. And so it will be for the Pacific, where the coordinated response of national Governments, regional organisations and development partners will remain all too critical in the collective effort to address the development needs of the region. It is important however, that the regional response be tailored to the needs and development priorities of member Governments and to the aspirations and capacities of their communities.

6. It is, therefore, appropriate and of significance that Hon Ministers adopt as the overarching theme for this year’s meeting the ‘Broadening the Economic Base’. Soundness of such a thematic strategy quite apart, there are a range of success stories from around the region on ways in which economic bases have been strengthened, with understanding of how sound policy actions, as well as emerging trends in key sectors have combined to help broaden the economic base, in turn, helping to build more resilient national economies.

7. Fisheries remains a key resource for the majority of the Forum Island Countries. As mandated by the last meeting of Economic Ministers’, you will need to discuss how the region might go about improving the returns from fisheries. The concern to maximise the sustainable economic returns from fisheries is central in the process of identifying strategies for enhancing macroeconomic stability and future growth prospects for our Pacific communities. And more so because it is only right that Pacific countries are able to secure increased economic rents from the ownership of Exclusive Economic Zones that support a fishery that yields annual catches worth an estimated $4 billion. But there is an appalling discrepancy between this vast billion-dollar potential and the meagre return of only US$70 million or so which Pacific countries are able to earn through access fees.

8. The call for increased revenues from the commercialisation of fisheries is consistent with aspirations for strengthening revenue collection in Forum Island Countries towards mitigating the impacts of the global economic crisis, declining aid flows and the challenges of trade liberalisation. Ministers will no doubt wish to consider what options may be available and the measures that they can apply in their own context at the national level.

9. Effective regional responses to address these types of challenges will require clear coordination, at national and regional levels, and amongst the Pacific development partners. This FEMM session will receive an update on the Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Co-ordination in the Pacific, aimed at driving more effective coordination of available development resources to ensure real progress in achieving national development priorities and the international and regional development goals, especially as the region and the world community heads towards the last five years of the Millennium Development Goals.

10. More specifically, within the framework of the Cairns Compact, Hon Ministers will receive an update on the Roadmap which is aimed at progressively strengthening Forum Island Countries public finance management systems, including expenditure management, revenue, and procurement, in order to raise the effectiveness of these mechanisms to enhance the delivery of development services and resources.

11. The Session on Funding for Climate Change will focus attention on a global phenomenon which Forum Leaders have declared the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific; and Leaders have provided clear and important mandates on the matter. In particular they have tasked FEMM Ministers to advise on options to improve access to, and management of, climate change resources. The issue is of magnitude and complexity, with important practical and policy implications for the region, and of necessity would require wide consultations among the various stakeholders; and we would expect that more detailed work would be required to better define feasible options. This meeting should agree on the necessary consultations to be completed in a timely manner and with the aim of presenting concrete options for FEMM to consider and to report to Leaders before the next Forum meeting in September 2011.

12. In 2009, FEMM mandated the examination of ways in which Forum Island Countries can best position themselves to maximise opportunities for growth through remittances. A report on this subject will be presented by New Zealand and Australia examining trends in remittance fees and charges, including how such costs compare in the international context.

13. In the final session, the meeting will consider updates on implementation of previous mandates from FEMM, particularly the progress made with the Regional Regulatory Stepladder.

14. Honourable Ministers, this brief overview speaks not simply of a work programme of substantive content, but also of the leadership and policy role of Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in setting the desired economic and financial standards and directions for the growth and development of the region. By the vision of our Leaders, we need to ensure a region of opportunities and of security and prosperity so that all Pacific peoples are able to lead worthwhile lives. Because of its responsibility in the fulfilment of this vision, FEMM needs to be clear, innovative and strategic in its policy formulation; and coordinated, forward-looking and efficient in its programmes for implementation. We think the constant review and reform of FEMM and its ways of operation would be desirable and would so commend this to Ministers. The FEMM is the natural guardian of the Pacific Plan which exists to strengthen and deepen regional cooperation and integration. You now have in your hands an essential tool in the Cairns Compact to bring new determination and an invigorated commitment to lift the economic and development performance of the region.

15. Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegations, your meeting is being closely followed by many friends and development partners, by the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), representatives of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) and other regional organisations. May I acknowledge, in particular, the presence of the senior CROP Executive, Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice Chancellor of the USP. The University of the South Pacific is leading the region in the development of Information and Communications Technology; and no doubt we should be using a lot more of the ICT opportunities and potential to advance the economic prospects for our region and our communities. May I also recognise the representatives of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), IMF/Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre (PIFTAC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, and thank them for their welcomed partnership and the continuing support of their organisations.

16. Honourable Ministers, there is obviously keen interest on the several substantive matters before you and the important decisions you will take. Your informal discussions at Matavai Resort, and the officials preparatory meeting held yesterday will have set the direction for your proceedings today and I want to wish you well in your deliberations.

Thank you.


zoom out zoom in print this page