Statement by the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
World MSME Day -27 June 2022
Theme: Resilience and Rebuilding: MSMEs for Sustainable Development
Globally June 27th is a day to acknowledge and recognise the role of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in our economies. This is particularly so in the Pacific, given that a key feature of many of our island economies is the predominance of micro and small to medium businesses, as well as those undertaking entrepreneurial activities in the informal sector.
The theme of this year’s MSME Day is “Resilience and Rebuilding: MSMEs for Sustainable Development” which is timely and relevant given the key role MSME play in Forum Markets. MSMEs, as employers and providers of goods and services, contribute to community development. They are particularly important now as our private sector emerges from two years of COVID.
It is also important to acknowledge the gendered nature of economic opportunity and deliver better support to women. Women in business, whether they are major exporters or selling off a roadside table, are a dominant aspect of the MSME industry. We know that when women have access to credit and the resources to help their business and creative spark grow, there is a ripple effect of benefits across the communities they are in. The Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration (PLGED) review report is a clear indication of this with more than fifty per cent of respondents indicating economic empowerment as an extremely relevant PLGED priority area.
A recent survey by Pacific Trade Invest on the impact of COVID-19 on Pacific businesses has revealed that the top three challenges facing businesses as a result of COVID-19 are increasing costs of products/raw materials, poor cashflow and not knowing how long the crisis will last. The existing challenges faced by the MSME sector signify how the pandemic has further exacerbated these challenges.
We must acknowledge the efforts of those involved in ensuring that proper recovery and safeguards are in place to ensure these MSMEs continue with their businesses. We call for greater coordination amongst key stakeholders, and economic growth that is inclusive and equitable. It is only through collective action that we can achieve these objectives of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the Pacific Aid-for-Trade Strategy.
The causes and consequences of trade inequality are complex but interrelated. Effective responses must be customised to the Pacific’s unique and specific economic, geo-political, environmental, and technological contexts. Pacific countries face many challenges in terms of trade, such as geographical isolation and smallness in size – leading to a lack of economies of scale. We are better positioned to respond to most of our Pacific needs by having open ‘talanoa’ (dialogue) and a more profound commitment to working with development partners.
At this juncture, I would also like to mention growing interest by MSMEs in the kava industry’s potential. The Regional Kava Development Strategy aims at supporting and propelling the livelihoods of our people. Key to this is people-centered development which is one of the key themes of our 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
Additionally, I would like to acknowledge the support by PIFS’ technical assistance programs, such as the Pacific Quality Infrastructure (PQI) Initiative funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework, the European Union, Australia, Germany, and Japan towards strengthening access to and use of standards and reliable testing laboratories in the region. As well as the European Union-funded “Strengthening Pacific Intra-Regional and International Trade” (SPIRIT) project under its Pacific Regional Integration Support Programme which is aimed at the implementation of regional Aid-for-Trade initiatives.
Undoubtedly, such support will lead to better market access for our exporters, and increased intra-regional and international trade, directly impacting the economic and social development of the Pacific.
As we continue to see the opening of international borders by many Pacific countries, there is no doubt that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are absolutely crucial in fast-tracking our economic recovery.
Once again – Happy World MSME Day.