Pacific needs sound policies to promote inclusive and sustainable growth amidst economic and environmental threats, Fiji Prime Minister tells United Nations forum

Group photo: participants of High-level Policy Dialogue on the Role of Macroeconomic Policy and Energy Security in supporting Sustainable Development in the Pacific

ESCAP releases report to guide green economy policymaking in Pacific

Pacific island countries need sound policies to protect themselves from external economic shocks and environmental threats, and to promote growth that is inclusive and sustainable, the Prime Minister of Fiji, H.E. Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama told a United Nations forum here today.

The recent global financial, food and fuel crises have made it difficult for Pacific island countries to balance the “three pillars of sustainable development”, the need for which, world leaders stressed during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June.

“I believe that one of the ways in which we can reduce this vulnerability is through sound and well thought-out macroeconomic policies that seek to create a harmony between the economic, social and environmental pillars of development,” the Prime Minster added in his address which was delivered by H.E. Hon Dr. Jiko F. Luveni, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Government of Fiji, to the “High-level Policy Dialogue on the Role of Macroeconomic Policy and Energy Security in supporting Sustainable Development in the Pacific”, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The 8-9 October ESCAP event includes back-to-back meetings to discuss macroeconomic and energy security challenges facing the region as well as ways to speed up progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The deliberations will focus on how macroeconomic policies affect energy security and vice versa.

To help Pacific island countries and development partners respond to these challenges, the Pacific Office of ESCAP today launched its study titled Green Economy in a Blue World: Pacific Perspectives during the policy dialogue.

“We can see the Pacific islands in an ocean of isolation, or we can choose to see them situated in an ocean of opportunity,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Dr. Noeleen Heyzer. “Green economy tools and policies, in the context of a blue world, can address many of the structural issues at the heart of these challenges – helping to inform and advise Pacific nations as the curators of our largest natural global assets – the oceans on which human life itself depends.”

Pacific island countries must not only cope with the increasingly threatened marine environment and rising vulnerability to climate change, but must also translate economic growth into development gains, Dr. Heyzer said. Weak and imbalanced economic performance has created significant development gaps with a fifth of the region’s more than 10 million people living in poverty, according to the report.

Scattered across the world’s largest ocean, covering nearly one-third of the earth’s surface, Pacific island nations are disadvantaged by their isolation which inflates production and transport costs, prevents economies of scale and increases exposure to external conditions.

Limited natural resources – energy, minerals, water and land – in most Pacific island countries have led to high dependence on imports, particularly fossil fuels which accounted for 85 per cent of the total energy supply of Pacific island countries during 1990-2006.

Governments in the Pacific face fiscal challenges from falling revenues, high debt levels, and in turn reduced capacity to finance much needed investments in infrastructure, and economic and social services, says the ESCAP study. These governments need to be better supported in terms of finance and technology.