The last 18 months have been, perhaps, one of the toughest periods for the Pacific region, for countries, and most especially, the people of the Pacific.
The Pacific has had to contend with a global pandemic that has shut down major sectors of island economies and plummeted countries into unprecedented levels of debt and growing inequality.
Speaking during the Forum Economic Officials Meeting 2021, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Henry Puna urge Senior Officials of Pacific Island countries to work collectively.
“Excellencies, Senior Officials, it is no secret that we are facing a debt crisis. One that has been exacerbated by the pandemic and its devastating impacts on our economies. Indeed, across the region, we have seen substantive increases in debt levels as Governments have fought to combat the economic and health fall-out of the pandemic,” said Puna.
“I urge you all to use this meeting to find a workable way forward, and furthermore, to collectively discuss how best we can work together to ignite much-needed reforms to the international debt architecture,” he added.
The IMF predicted a negative economic outlook for the region in 2021. GDP forecasts across our Pacific economies reflect a decline while public debt continues to increase.
Pacific businesses, big and small, have all felt the impacts of COVID-19. Indeed, for some, tourism— has come to a standstill.
The fisheries industry, particularly the tuna longline fishery, is on life support. Manufacturing sectors have contracted across the region. While on the climate front, immediate and urgent adaptation and mitigation actions and strategies are needed to address the special and unique circumstances in the region.
Access to and mobilisation of financial resources from international development partners continues to be a challenge.
Puna reminded all “the Pacific Resilience Facility continues to be a stellar example of what we can achieve together if only we put our minds to it and collectively inspire solutions that address our unique circumstances.”
In closing, Secretary-General offered some words of encouragement.
“We the Pacific people, are resilient people. We have faced many challenges in our history, and we have always fought back and won back. I believe that now is no exception. We will fight back, together, and we will win back, together.”