REMARKS: PIF Senior Economic Adviser, Denton Rarawa on PRED and 2050 Strategy at ANU USP Pacific Update

Advancing Pacific Regionalism through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and the Pacific Roadmap for Economic Development

By Denton Rarawa, Senior Economic Adviser, Pacific Economics Forum

Japan ICT Centre, USP, 14 June 2023


Professor Stephen Howes

Ms Ingrid Fitzgerald

Staff of USP and ANU,

Excellencies and Distinguished guests,


Ladies and gentlemen,

 Bula vinaka and warm Pacific greetings from the Pacific Islands Forum. It is my pleasure to join you this morning on Day 2 of the 2023 Pacific Update organised by the ANU and USP.  This is an event that we look forward to every year.

The agenda over these three days is timely and significant as a lot of the issues are directly linked to current priorities of Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers and I believe it would be useful for the future to may be discuss with USP and ANU ahead of the Update to see how best we can collaborate on these regional issues and how the outcomes of this event can be escalated and presented to Forum Economic Ministers and even to our Leaders for further consideration and action.

Colleagues, as alluded to by Professor Prasad yesterday, we live in a challenging world where change is an underlying constant. Over the past few years, we have lived through a devastating global health pandemic, endured the impacts of climate change, and we are experiencing geopolitical competition and geostrategic posturing that will accelerate fragmentation and the shift of economic power to the broader Asia Pacific region, in which the Pacific is expected to feature as a strong collective of large ocean states.

In February this year, the World Bank, in its Pacific Economic Update, acknowledged that after nearly three years of economic contraction, Pacific economies anticipate a return to growth this year. However, deteriorating fiscal space, debt vulnerability, and inflation will remain concerns; therefore, Pacific nations will need to consider reforms and policies to boost inclusive growth and sustainable investments, while striking a balance between supporting livelihoods and reducing future debt risks. So, although we may return to growth, we still need to contend with the enduring issues of debt sustainability vis-à-vis investments and ensuring that sustainable growth is achieved at all levels of our communities.

Six of our Pacific economies are facing high risk of debt distress, exacerbated by the triple threat of climate change, COVID-19, and the impact of the Russo-Ukraine conflict on global prices.

Adding to this,

(i)        although labour mobility has resulted in an increase in remittances, an unintended consequence of this has been brain drain with over 54,100 Pacific workers in Australia and New Zealand at the end of December 2022,

(ii)       then we have the shocking fact that nearly 3 of every 4 deaths in the Pacific is the result of non-communicable diseases; and

(iii)      youth unemployment sits on average at 23% across the Pacific, according to the ILO; while,

(iv)      the cost of living as highlighted by Deputy Prime Minister Prasad yesterday, the war in Ukraine is having a disproportionate inflationary impact on the Pacific.

So, although we may return to growth, we will still have to contend with these challenges, some of them enduring. So, what must, or can we do?

Although faced with these challenges, they also present significant opportunities! Our Pacific region is vast. We may be small in land mass, but our combined Exclusive Economic Zones cover nearly 20 percent of the worlds surface. As a collective, we control nearly 10 percent of the votes at the United Nations. We are home to over 60% of the world’s tuna supply. Therefore, we are a region of strategic value and importance. Not only due to the political capital that we hold, but more so, our people, our cultures and traditions, and our natural resources, particularly in our Ocean! The current strategic environment we find ourselves in, re-emphasizes this notion, and it is inherent therefore for us to seize this opportunity to strengthen our regional solidarity to leverage our current strategic context to address our collective challenges.

2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent

Against the need for deeper regionalism, our Pacific Leaders at their meeting in Tuvalu in 2019, acknowledged that…“Securing the future of the Pacific cannot be left to chance, but requires a long-term vision, strategy and commitment”. This collective commitment and unified vision led to the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, the region’s North Star, that, as you may be aware, was endorsed by our Leaders at their meeting in Suva in July, last year.

The 2050 Strategy presents the long-term ambitions for our region and our collective aspirations…for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity, where all our Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives…..” The Strategy sets out our Leaders’ vision for working together to deepen Pacific regionalism and our collective resilience, over the next three decades.

The Strategy has seven thematic areas including, political leadership and regionalism, people-centered development, peace and security, climate change and disasters, ocean and environment, technology and connectivity, and resources and economic development. Each of the thematic areas have a level of ambition that states our Leaders aspirations for that sector.

For the Resource and Economic Development theme, our Leaders aspirations are for: All Pacific Peoples to benefit from a sustainable and resilient model of economic development, including enabling public policy and a vibrant private sector and others, that brings improved socio-economic wellbeing by ensuring access to employment, entrepreneurship, trade, finance and investment in the region.”

Since its endorsement last year, the Secretariat, with Members, CROP agencies, civil society, private sector, MSMEs and relevant partners, have been working on the 2050 Strategy implementation plan for presentation to Leaders when they meet in Cook Islands, later in November this year.

Let me briefly focus on the implementation of the thematic area on Resources and Economic Development of the 2050 Strategy. This implementation plan is referred to as the “Pacific Roadmap for Economic Development” or PRED.

I pleased to note that some of the issues set down for the panel sessions later today and tomorrow such as private sector development, economic resilience, empowerment of indigenous businesses, labour mobility and anti-money laundering are also issues that are included in the PRED,

Pacific Economic Roadmap for Development (PRED)

Realising our economic potential as the Pacific, has been an enduring issue for the region. Prior to COVID-19, and prior to the decision to develop the 2050 Strategy by our Leaders, the Secretariat had commenced on a journey to explore and identify ways and means to sustainably unlock our shared resources and economic capital to re-imagine our economic destiny and overcome our geographical constraints by leveraging our Blue Economy and tapping on our people and their knowledge. With the onset of COVID-19, regional efforts were concentrated on providing policy and technical advisory support to Members to respond and recover from the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Notwithstanding, work continued, and at the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting of 2022, with a clear mandate from Leaders through the endorsement of the 2050 Strategy and the inclusion of a thematic area on Resources and Economic Development, the PRED was endorsed for development and presentation to Economic Ministers at their next meeting, which will be in August, here in Suva.

In endorsing the development of PRED, Economic Ministers emphasised that Pacific regional ownership and commitment is a key underpinning if the roadmap is to succeed. Ministers also underscored the need for accountability and a clear action and results-focused approach to its development and implementation.

Let me briefly turn to the policy underpinnings of PRED.

Firstly, unity in diversity is an important consideration in the design of the PRED. Our remoteness from larger markets and our small size distinguishes us from the other regions. We are diverse in our stages of economic development. We have differences in our land masses and our population as well. However, we are committed as a collective to pursue our economic aspirations as highlighted in the 2050 Strategy.

Second, we realise that to take full advantage of the opportunities before us, a regional approach that will complement national efforts is key. Thus, the PRED focuses on regional approaches to be undertaken to achieve our Leaders level of ambition in relation to economic prosperity and wellbeing, but also at the same time ensure that these regional initiatives and actions synergize with national efforts and make a real difference in people’s lives.

Thirdly, the PRED identifies reforms and provides policy pathways that will increase our collective opportunity for economic success. We know we have the potential to grow faster and the PRED must outline measures to help us realise our full economic potential. The PRED identifies actions that will grow and diversify our economic base, modernise our economies, build economic and financial resilience and harness the full potential of our land and ocean resources.

Finally, of course, we will need the help of our development partners in financing and in supplementing our limited capacity to undertake these reforms and policy actions. The PRED has a funding framework for its implementation.

Colleagues at a very high level, there are three goals of the PRED. These are to:

(i)       Build economic and financial resilience

(ii)     Grow our economies

(iii)    Harness our natural resources sustainably

These goals are then supported by outcomes and regional collective actions that will provide a multiplier effect to the efforts of individual countries to develop their economies.

The PRED also includes relevant indicators for each of the collective actions which will be tracked and monitored. Some of the collective actions are also linked to other thematic areas of the 2050 Strategy, relevant SDGs, and other existing strategic documents.

To guide us in implementing our collective actions, the PRED has developed indicators for each of the actions which will be tracked and monitored. The collective actions are linked to the other thematic areas of the 2050 Strategy’s Vision, the relevant SDGs, and existing strategic documents.

To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, PRED will address the challenges that we face as a region and make a difference to our lives. This is why PRED has been developed by the Pacific for the Pacific. It is our own roadmap. We have taken a member-driven, Pacific centric approach to its development because we believe that this will foster the political will, solidarity and commitment to achieve our shared economic ambitions for the betterment of current and future generations.

We seek your support on this journey. Our Pacific people and our future generations deserve to live in a better Pacific than we found it. This is the ultimate goal of Pacific regionalism, and we believe that the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and PRED are critical pathways to deliver this regional objective.

Thank you tumas and vinaka vakalevu!





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