Fiji's Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama stressed on Tuesday that 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.
Bainimarama made the remarks in his address for the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section event underway in Fiji's western tourist town of Nadi, which was delivered by Dr. Jiko Luveni, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation.
The UN forum 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 (MDG), according to a statement from ESCAP.
Bainimarama was quoted as saying that 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."
To help Pacific island countries and development partners respond to the challenges, the Pacific Office of ESCAP launched its study titled Green Economy in a Blue World: Pacific Perspectives during the policy dialogue, according to Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary.
"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 Heyzer, adding "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."
The UN official held that 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.
According to the ESCAP study, 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.
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 percent of the total energy supply of Pacific island countries during 1990- 2006.
Governments in the Pacific, which 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, need to be better supported in terms of finance and technology.