02 May 2018, 4:30-5:30 pm
ADB Gymnasium, ADB Headquarters
Honourable Finance Ministers & Governors of the Pacific Development Member Countries
The Director-General of the Independent Evaluation Department
On behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, I would like to thank the ADB for inviting the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to share perspectives as a regional organisation, on the challenges faced by the Private Sector in the Pacific.
May I first commend and congratulate the ADB’s Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) for taking on a crucial, critical challenge to contribute to Private Sector Development in Forum Island Countries. Developing an enabling environment and engaging private sector in a diverse environment – where economies of scale are limited both in terms of volume and value, where spatial isolation and distance compounds transportation costs, and where financial markets are relatively underdeveloped, and land tenure systems are relatively complex – it is not an easy feat for any institution.
Commendations as well to ADB’s Independent Evaluation Department (IED) for the candid report which highlights the core areas of improvement needed – to better serve our Forum Island Countries. The report shows the strong and independent system of checks and balances within the ADB to ensure that its engagement, its products, and its support in the Pacific region are tailored to the needs of its members for maximum impact and improving the lives and wellbeing of people in the Pacific.
I would like to focus my intervention on two things:
Let me start by adding to the narrative on the key contextualised issues outlined in the evaluation report. Some of the issues outlined in the report, in our view, are about sequencing, sustainability and country ownership of the reforms. We must recognise that each of our Members face unique challenges in supporting their private sector development.
Therefore, the region needs to develop a comprehensive multi-year, regional Private Sector Development Strategy. And In doing so, consideration needs to be given to harmonisation of certain business practices focused towards reducing the costs and improving the ease of doing business in the Pacific Islands and connecting them to regional and international value chains.
We need to ensure that the key challenges related to infrastructure development that cover utilities, transport, and communications are addressed adequately and promptly. Consequently, it is imperative that the PSDI should be a part of all ADBs programmes and projects in the region, to provide coherence and consistent support to the implementation of private sector
Moving to the frontier issues, we are of the view and belief that empowerment of women in the Pacific is both a noble and necessary initiative. Notwithstanding the importance of this initiative, empowerment in the region needs to be multi-faceted. The inclusion and empowerment of our youth and organised community faith-based groups is also an important part of the private sector development equation in our region.
Last week, at the Private Sector Dialogue with Forum Economic Ministers in Koror Palau, the Private Sector in the region expressed the urgent need to account for climate-induced vulnerability and fragility. This was a critical part of their Dialogue with the Economic and Finance Ministers. Building resilience of the Private Sector to catastrophic events and climate change adaptation is crucial for their long-term survivability and viability. As a consequence, significant emphasis should be placed on introducing measures for building preparedness of the private sector so that they are able to consider and manage these imminent risks.
My final comment is to suggest that the PSDI consider playing a more prominent role in the regional Private Sector Dialogue, to ensure the programmes and products are well informed, to respond to the short and long-term needs of the region, and to build greater national and regional ownership.