2011 FEMM: SG's Introductory Remarks


Apia, Samoa
20 July 2011

Lau Afioga Tuilaepa Sailele Malialegaoi
Premier of Niue
Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand
Vice President of Palau
Honourable Ministers of Forum Member Countries
Heads of Delegations
Members of the Diplomatic Corp
Fellow CROP Heads and Representatives
Distinguished Observers and Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me on your behalf to extend our most grateful appreciation to the Government and people of Samoa for the welcome and the courtesies extended to us all, and the excellent arrangements for this meeting of Forum Economic Ministers. Hon Prime Minister, thank you for your words of welcome and encouragement. In typical manner, you have challenged us all with insights of wisdom and leadership.

Global and regional economic situation
2. Honourable Ministers, you meet at a time when the global economy continues to recover, though the recovery is not evenly balanced, perhaps even unbalanced. While many advanced economies are experiencing moderate gains, unemployment remains stubbornly high in most of these countries. Overall, with improved global conditions, real challenges including inflationary risks, are likely to remain. A key risk is that of growth without jobs, not an unlikely scenario for Pacific countries.

3. Economic growth in Forum Islands Countries is expected to be low for most in 2011, though stronger growth is anticipated in Vanuatu (at 4.2%) and in resource endowed countries like Papua New Guinea (8.5%), Solomon Island (7.5%) and Nauru (4%). The more positive global outlook is expected to boost regional tourist arrivals and remittance flows and assist with broad based recovery in other Forum island countries. Nonetheless, a number of downside risks still linger, including high global oil and food prices and the impact of natural disasters.

FEMM at 15
4. With this the 15th year in FEMM’s existence, you meet also at a time when it is appropriate, I think, to ask whether FEMM is performing, as it ought to be. Economic Ministers have a key role in shaping the drivers within the domestic economy through well designed and targeted fiscal policy. As you have heard from the Reverend this morning, there is a biblical dimension in your work, for you are the managers, indeed, the architects of viable economies, the national budget your most powerful tool not only for the efficient allocation of scarce resources, but also for mapping out actions for economic, financial and public sector reforms. And Leaders look to you for advice on actions to support national economic development strategies through improving regional and sub-regional cooperation.

Broadening the economic base
5. In previous FEMM meetings, Ministers considered and agreed on ways to manage Pacific economies through policy responses such as safeguarding macroeconomic stability, pursuing reforms to create an enabling environment for private sector development and strengthening areas of comparative advantage such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries sectors. Persevering with implementation of such policies is essential, in part because they provide the basis for guidance and cooperation for Pacific countries. It is appropriate in that respect that Broadening the Economic Base is the overarching theme for this year’s meeting, one so crucial to enhancing economic prospects for the region.

6. The FEMM meeting last year agreed to a set of actions essential to expanding the economic base, and there are a range of success stories from around the region to share among Hon Ministers. In the first substantive session of your discussions today, Ministers will hear from a number of member countries about their experiences and the lessons to be gained from key reform measures undertaken.

Development coordination
7. Economic Ministers have given clear recognition of the importance of more effective coordination of available development resources to ensure real progress in achieving national development priorities. For the second session Ministers will receive an update report on the implementation of the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination established by Forum Leaders in Cairns in 2009, with a focus on the role of FEMM. There will also be a country presentation on their experience of the Compact.

8. I believe that Economic Ministers have a natural and critical oversight role over the Compact and its application; and it follows that the Compact needs to remain an important feature of your agenda.

Climate change financing
9. The impacts of climate change, already serious and extensively documented, are matters of reality throughout the region, and Forum Leaders have given mandate for strategic action to address the complications related to access to and management of current and proposed global funding on climate change impacts. This is the subject for your consideration in session three. An Options Paper which addresses the essential issues has been prepared bearing in mind the guidance from the 2010 FEMM meeting, focussing in particular on optional choices at the national level in the first instance, and where appropriate on regional and international options.

Access to finance in general
10. The fourth substantive session will deal with the need to promote ways in which Forum island countries can improve access to finance. Hon Ministers will receive updates on issues including remittance fees and charges and financial literary, interest rates and financing of small and medium enterprises. There will be a presentation on G20 developments, including how Pacific interests have been taken into account during many of its deliberations, and the emerging importance of the G20 development agenda including on issues such as financial access.

11. Fisheries is a vast and vital Pacific resource, the full and fair potential of which must be secured for the benefit of Pacific countries and their communities. This, too, is a matter under mandate from Forum Leaders and for the advice of Economic Ministers. As determined by FEMM last year, a joint dialogue with regional Fisheries Ministers is scheduled for Thursday to share experiences on how the region might realise improved economic returns from fisheries.

12. Honourable Ministers and Heads of Delegations, your meeting is being closely followed by many development partner countries, and international organisations, by the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), by 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 University of the South Pacific (USP), the representatives of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre (PFTAC), the United Nations and the World Bank. Let me thank them all for their welcomed partnership and the continuing support of their organisations. 

Forum 40th Anniversary
13. As I close, I should like to draw Ministers’ attention to the 40th Anniversary of the Pacific Islands Forum this year. At this milestone juncture, four decades on, it is appropriate that we take time to reflect on the history and journey of the Forum and its creations.

14. The Honourable Prime Minister of Samoa will be sharing his own insight into these matters when he delivers his keynote address as part of the Pacific Islands Forum 40th Anniversary Leaders’ Lecture series: with a focus on the Pacific Plan. The lecture will be held in this hall on Thursday following the conclusion of your meeting, and I sincerely hope that all of you will be able to participate.

15. 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 Sinalei Resort, and the Officials Preparatory Meeting also held yesterday will have set the direction for your proceedings today and I wish you well in your deliberations.

Thank you.

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