Suva – FIJI – It is my honour to assume the chair of this regional meeting and I look forward to our deliberations on our collective outlook and the future direction towards a resilient and sustainable Blue Pacific.
We gather here today following, what I understand, was a week of intense discussions at the 52nd annual Asia Development Bank Meeting in Nadi. Let me take this opportunity on your behalf to congratulate Fiji for not only hosting a most successful event, but also for bringing the meeting to the region for the first time since NZ hosted in 1995. Not to mention being the first Forum Island Country to ever host the meeting. A significant achievement indeed!
Over the next two days we will have the opportunity to strengthen our commitment to our collective priorities and drive the transformative changes required in our region to build the resilience of our islands and our people. We will have the opportunity to dialogue with civil society and private sector and similarly, dialogue with our development partners at the Development Donor Roundtable. I encourage us all to engage constructively in these dialogues as they are demonstration of our commitment, as Economic Ministers, to regional inclusivity.
Honourable Ministers, we meet at a time of much global economic uncertainty. Global economic growth for 2019 is expected to be lower than anticipated. This reflects a deceleration of the global economy at the end of 2018; ongoing US-China trade tensions; and the continued uncertainty surrounding BREXIT.
Any impacts emerging from this global outlook for the Pacific will likely be felt through our major trading partners, though the outlook remains rather positive for them with economic growth expected at 2.4 percent.
The most significant impacts for all our economies will continue to be those associated with climate change and disasters. Our ability to build explicit buffers to shocks and stressors to withstand the impacts of climate change and disasters is our constant challenge, exacerbated even more for those economies which face persistent fiscal and current account deficits.
Inevitably, investment in public infrastructure will be a determinant of growth for all our economies in the immediate term. However, given that climate change and disasters remain the greatest threat to our economies, it is crucial that such infrastructure investment prioritise resilience, including at the community level. To that end, I look forward to the robust panel discussion on resilient infrastructure development by our colleague Ministers at the FEMM Public Seminar this evening.
I am confident that this august body will agree that the certainty of evidence on the current and future impacts of climate change for our region challenges each of us, as Economic Ministers, to rethink standard approaches to sustainable economic development both within our economies and as a regional collective. Indeed, this challenge was also set forth by the current Forum Chair and my President, His Excellency Baron Waqa, at the Forum Leaders meeting last year under the theme ‘A Stronger Pacific: Our Islands, Our People, Our Will’. Most especially, the theme spoke to our efforts, as one regional collective, to determine our pathways to resilient and sustainable development; to take action to address our own vulnerabilities; and to call on all our partners to support us in achieving our nationally and regionally determined goals and aspirations.
Honourable Ministers, the four substantive agenda items before you today seek to do just that – with the aim of moving us Towards a Resilient and Sustainable Pacific. In different ways, each of the policy issues for our consideration focus on mobilising development finance for a sustainable and resilient Blue Pacific. Our Officials have considered thoroughly the various policy options outlined in the policy papers and have put forward a set of recommendations for our discussion and decision, today.
Before I conclude, I do offer one final thought – deepening Pacific regionalism is a long-term initiative that requires political settlements to be reached amongst sovereign states – this takes time. The persistence of differences of opinion within any collective is a norm typical to multilateralism. However, we do not give up but rather persist with open and respectful dialogue and critical analysis of the issues, always with our eye firmly fixed on the goal of a resilient, sustainable and viable Blue Pacific.
I thank you.
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