29 July 2022–Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna has concluded a two-day visit to Singapore on the invitation of the Government of Singapore and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), accompanied by Director of Programmes and Initiatives, Zarak Khan. The visit highlights the strategic role and importance of Singapore as a Forum Dialogue Partner to the Pacific Islands Forum and as the gateway to Asia.
During the visit, SG Puna was warmly received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Vivian Balakrishnan, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman and the Singapore Ambassador to the Pacific Islands Forum, H.E. Mary Seet-Cheng. The Secretary General stated that “Singapore has much to offer the Pacific region in terms sharing knowledge, ideas and innovation to meet the unique development challenges of the 21st century.”
SG Puna thanked Minister Balakrishnan for the ongoing support provide by Singapore to Forum Members and highlighted “as a fellow Small Island Developing State, Singapore understands the critical issues affecting the Pacific region, including the devastating impacts of climate change as well as the need to have conducive policies and infrastructure investment to support economic growth and development opportunities for a growing and relatively young population in the Pacific.”
Minister Balakrishnan and SG Puna have agreed to explore further opportunities to strengthen business to business and people to people connections between Singapore and the Pacific region. This includes scoping studies for a preferential trade arrangement that would expand and diversify trade and investment opportunities and identify options for the establishment of a Pacific Trade and Invest Office in Singapore in the near future.
Inflationary pressures are severely hampering Pacific economies. In recognition, SG Puna announced “the Forum Secretariat will work with Singapore to provide options to Forum Members to consolidate petroleum purchases at the regional level. This will reduce costs and improve logistics noting Singapore’s role as the region’s main fuel supplier.” Concurrently, both parties acknowledged that while fossil fuels still play a role in meeting energy needs, they emphasised the need to accelerate efforts for a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy across the globe to ensure the world can urgently return to and achieve a 1.5-degree pathway under the Paris Agreement and a net zero carbon future.
The Secretary General also welcomed delegates attending the inaugural UNCDF Pacific Fintech Innovation Challenge involving participants from government, private sector and central banks across the Pacific region. The event designed as a bootcamp matched Fintech firms with Pacific financial institutions to address pressing challenges linked to access to finance, reducing costs for transferring remittances and facilitating seamless electronic payments across the Pacific. The event was convened by the UNCDF in support of the Pacific Regional E-Commerce Strategy and Roadmap approved by Forum Trade Ministers in 2021.
SG Puna thanked Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and ADB for their funding support to the UNCDF under its Pacific Digital Economy Programme. He also emphasised the importance of such events in “realising the vision of Forum Leaders through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific which gives recognition and appreciation for technology and innovation and how we, as a region, can use this to strengthen connectivity across our Blue Pacific region.” —ENDS