Marshall Islands Government welcomes Pacific experts

[Majuro, Marshall Islands] The Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands has called on the Pacific Peer Review team currently in Majuro to deliver frank, insightful and practical advice to improve development coordination on the island nation.

“Tell us like it is, we’ll accept it,” said the Government Chief Secretary, Mr Casten Nemra, when meeting with the Peer Review team this week.

“The work that the group is pursuing is commendable and we will review your recommendations very carefully,” said Mr Nemra. “Try to really look at what development coordination means to a family here in Majuro or in a village in the outer islands – what it means to our people.”

The Peer Review team is in Majuro this week to formulate advice to the Government and development partners on ways of improving the planning, budgeting and delivery of development programmes, consequently improving development outcomes and accelerating the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Marshall Islands.

The team comprises planning, budgeting and development experts from neighbouring Pacific island Governments of the Cook Islands and Vanuatu, and a development partner representative from the United Nations System in Suva, Fiji.

They are Ms Dallas Young, Director of International Affairs of the Cook Islands, Mr Colin Tavi, Head of the Government Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of Vanuatu, and Mr Mosese Qasenivalu, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager from the United Nations system based in Fiji. “It is clear that we need to further analyse our systems and seek ways of best utilizing our resources,” said Mr Nemra. “We need to refocus, and we have strategies in mind that are going to require some serious efforts.”

The Government of the Marshall Islands recently came under new leadership of President Christopher J. Loeak, and a new cabinet, elected in January this year.

“This is an opportune time for a review such as this,” said Chief Secretary Nemra. “We believe that it’s good to know what’s on the ground before we set our policies. Our census has been carried out and projections need to be made accordingly.”

Mr Nemra added that the Government was aware of the challenges, such as the need for enhancement of the private sector and support for fisheries and transport sectors.

“Planning forward is a priority, but at the same time, there are needs to be met today,” he said. “We have a high youth population, and most of them are unemployed. At the same time we continue to bring in foreign labour for work that we believe can be done locally, particularly in areas of construction.”

The Government currently disburses between 15-17million a year towards construction projects according to Mr Nemra.

“It is our policy to employ locals wherever possible in order to stir economic activity on the ground,” he said. “For example, when a construction project gets underway in our outer islands, we employ locals from those islands whenever we can, but there remains a gap in skilled labour that we need to address.”

Vocational training is therefore a priority, according to the Chief Secretary, as well as developing employment opportunities for Marshallese men and women.

The Government remains the largest employer in the Marshall Islands, employing 46 per cent of the salaried work force.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a group of 29 atolls and five single islands in the North Pacific, with an estimated population 68,000 (2011), two thirds of which live in the capital Majuro and Ebeye.

The Marshall Islands s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated at $161.7 million in 2008. GDP is derived mainly from payments made by the United States of America under the terms of the Compact of Free Association.

Direct U.S. aid accounted for 61.3% of the Marshall Islands’ $137.4 million budget in 2010.

Peer Reviews are an initiative under the 2009 Cairns Compact for Strengthening Development Coordination (Forum Compact), which is a commitment by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to support the implementation of Pacific Plan priorities, providing the principles and processes for coordinated delivery.
The Peer Review team is in the capital of Majuro at the invitation of the Government of the Marshall Islands. The Peer Reviewers are supported by a team from the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat.

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For further information please contact the Forum Secretariat’s Communications Officer, Mue Bentley Fisher, via email mueb@forumsec.org.fj, or call the Peer Review team on the ground in Majuro via (692) 4554500.

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