Heads of Delegations
Representatives of the agencies of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is with great honour and privilege that I address this 20th Meeting of the Forum Economic Ministers today, here at our Secretariat Headquarters.
Our meeting today comes at an important juncture – when our respective States are navigating our commitments to global agendas spanning: ambitious development goals through Agenda 2030; disaster risk reduction through the Sendai Framework; and global climate commitments through the Paris Agreement, – to name a few.
As regional stewards of our collective economic development, we as Ministers of Finance and Economy play a crucial advisory role to our Leaders, on pertinent issues relating to economic development both at the national and regional level.
Individually, we face pressing economic and social challenges at the national level. The extent of these issues vary amongst our different economies.
The underlying problems of distance to international markets, smallness of domestic markets, varied efficiencies of our public service, fiscal imbalance and constraints in domestic resources are long term issues that our economies continue to grapple with and have sought to collectively address, in some shape or form, over the past two decades.
Today, these issues are further exacerbated by the serious challenges posed by the impact of climate change on the livelihoods of our economies, our ocean and indeed our people.
However, I can confidently say that our national systems are stronger today, than they were 20 years ago. We have made good progress in the ongoing work to strengthen our public financial management systems and aid coordination. We continue to work towards more coherent whole of government approaches to our national development goals. Recognising our capacity constraints, we continue to advocate for strengthening partnerships to overcome our inherent development challenges and achieve for our people a prosperous future that leaves no one behind.
I agree – there remains room for improvement. However, this does not and should not negate the good progress we have made to date.
With that reflection in mind and turning to our regional development agenda, the challenge for us all is to use this Ministerial Forum to decide on how best we should advance our development goals and priorities?
As Ministers of Finance and Economy, we drive our respective national development agendas. The same should be said for our regional development agenda. For if there is no linkage between our national and regional aspirations, then how are we, as Member States, to take ownership of our regional development goals?
The issue I wish to emphasise here is the critical importance of collective and coherent regional action.
This Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, provides us with the opportunity to consider the common challenges we face and deliberate on a coherent and practical way forward for the improved and sustainable livelihoods of our people.
Agenda 2030 has set for us ambitious but necessary development goals. The Sustainable Development Goals are a reflection of our global commitment to improve the economic and social livelihoods of our people.
In 2014, Samoa was host to the 3rd Small Island Developing State Conference from which we developed and endorsed the SAMOA Pathway. The SAMOA Pathway, as you are all aware, formed the Small Island Developing States input to Agenda 2030 and was the basis for the establishment of 300 partnerships that continue to focus on its effective implementation.
My Government has embraced the SDGs and its ambitious targets. To that end, we have fully integrated the implementation of the SDGs into our national development process to ensure coherence and to mitigate the burden of reporting on our government processes.
On the same note, I am proud to add that Samoa became the first Small Island Developing State to report at the first High Level Political Forum on Agenda 2030 in 2016.
However, I do remain cognisant of the fact that the pursuit of this ambitious development agenda will come at a dear albeit necessary cost. Necessary for the betterment of the lives of our people.
It is essential that we take ownership of our development aspirations. We cannot continue to shy away from collective action that will improve our integration and therefore our advancement as a region.
We need to begin exploring new and innovative financing instruments to support our own development aspirations.
Our region is continually beset by exogenous shocks, including natural disasters, which adversely impact our economies. Yes, our responses to these ever-increasing events are improving but it is critical that we now shift our policy focus from a reaction oriented perspective to proactive and solution-based policies.
Before us today is an ambitious financing agenda that focuses on bold development financing solutions that will enable us, as a region, to take collective ownership of our ambitious and resilience-oriented development agenda.
The issue of financing is not a simple discussion. There are and always will be unforeseen loop holes to navigate. However, the challenge for us today, as Ministers of Finance and economic advisers to our Leaders, is to have a bold discussion on what we can aspire to as a region, and make recommendations for the consideration of our political leadership when they meet in Samoa in September.
I, therefore, look forward to thorough and constructive deliberations today and tomorrow.
With these few remarks, I now invite the Secretary General to deliver her introductory remarks.