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Remarks by Greg Urwin, FEMM Workshops 2006

OPENING REMARKS BY GREG URWIN

SECRETARY GENERAL, PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT 

FEMM WORKSHOPS ON ECONOMIC REFORMS, ECONOMIC REGULATION AND COMMERCIAL LEGAL REGULATORY REFORM

Monday 04 December 2006

Shangri-La Fijian Resort, Sigatoka



The Honourable Ratu Jone Kubuabola, Minister for Finance and National Planning

Distinguished delegates

Resource persons

Ladies and Gentlemen



May I take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to our delegates from the region as well as our resource persons. I realise that the current political climate in Fiji is not ideal but I have no doubt that you will have a pleasant stay here at the Shangri-La Fijian Resort. Please take time to enjoy your beautiful surroundings and the hospitality that Fiji is renowned for.



FEMM



Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you are all aware that it has been a decade since the first meeting of the Forum Economic Ministers was held in Cairns, Australia. The Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in Honiara this year was the tenth such meeting and considered, amongst other key issues, a regional stocktake of sorts, in terms of the economic growth performance of Forum Island Countries over the past decade and important lessons learnt from this experience.



One of the main conclusions I drew from this assessment, and one that to my mind was almost readily apparent, was the need to also take stock of, and indeed consolidate, the many commitments relating to economic management taken by FEMM. As you would expect, there have been a number of such commitments, in effect policy guidelines for enhanced economic governance and management, made over the last ten years and, yet, it seems apparent that little progress has been made at the national level to implement these commitments.



FEMM Biennial Stocktakes



This might be conjecture on my part until one considers the conclusions of previous FEMM Biennial Stocktakes and this year’s assessment especially, which covers most of the issues under consideration at these workshops. There has been some progress in certain areas – the financial sector guidelines in particular – and little progress in others – for example the public enterprise principles. The reasons for these performances vary, from lack of human resources and technical capacity to poor political commitment; yet it is clear that significant progress needs to take place in order to improve the management of our economies and, in doing so, ensure the sustained levels of economic growth that will improve the livelihoods of our people.



Ladies and gentlemen, what is also clear is that we cannot undertake these challenges alone and, more crucially, that we each must extend a helping hand towards one another in recognition of this important fact. These workshops, I believe, is a practical extension of this cooperation hence the Secretariat’s role in organising them.



FEMM Workshops



The first FEMM Workshop, on ‘improving the implementation and impact analysis of FEMM commitments on economic reforms’, is based on key decisions to assist countries improve the implementation of these commitments on economic reforms as well as strengthen their capacities to analyse the impact of these reforms. The latter objective in particular is, I am sure we can all agree, one that deserves much more attention than what is currently being provided. Economic reforms become, by virtue of the changes they represent, very personal and emotional issues – they affect people’s livelihoods after all.



I challenge you all to ensure that the guidelines you develop to improve national level capacities in reform impacts, both pre-and post-implementation, reflects fairly and sufficiently the human face of the reform equation so as to ensure that future reform efforts are undertaken at a pace that, whilst not immobile, does not ignore this concern.



The second FEMM Workshop, on ‘economic regulation policy’, builds on the decision at this year’s FEMM on further examining regional approaches to economic regulation. The workshop will focus, firstly, on regulatory issues in the region and examine, in particular, common constraints to effective economic regulation at the national level. The workshop will also focus on regional approaches to economic regulation and, most importantly, how these approaches could be developed further to complement national efforts.



Ladies and gentlemen, I recognise that the latter issue in particular is one that needs to be carefully managed. Economic Ministers, in sharing similar sentiments, directed the Secretariat to undertake further research and consultation with members. They also directed that this work should scope the type of support that could be provided at the regional level, in order to complement existing national priorities and policies. Furthermore, that a closer examination of the option of an integrated regional advisory service to provide regulatory support in areas of Foreign Investment, Competition, Access and Price Regulation, and Consumer Protection and Fair Trading, should be included. I trust you will keep these mandates in mind as you go about your deliberations on Wednesday and Thursday in particular.



The third and final workshop, on ‘commercial legal regulatory reform in the Pacific’, will present the outcomes of the first phase of an Asian Development Bank Regional Technical Assistance project on improving the legal environment for investors in our region. The Secretariat partnered with the ADB to scope out this project based on complimentary FEMM mandates and the Bank’s own work on identifying laws and regulations that promote and support business activity.



Ladies and gentlemen, I must say that I am encouraged by the Secretariat’s collaboration with the Bank, particularly so in areas where we share similar interests. This bodes well not only for future engagements with the Bank but moreso for significant improvements in communication, coordination and collaboration between us. This, in turn and I am sure we can all agree, bodes well for you.



Concluding Remarks



Ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt that there is an intense week ahead of you and I know you must all be keen to begin that journey. I thank you for bearing with me and I wish you all a successful week of deliberations.



I now take great pleasure in inviting the Honourable Minister for Finance and National Planning, Ratu Jone Kubuabola, to deliver his keynote address.



Thank you. 



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NB: This speech was tabled at the Workshops on Economic Reforms, but was unable to be delivered in person by the Secretary General.

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