Pacific plea for aid and debt relief

Thursday 13 August 2020 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Economy


Pacific plea for aid and debt relief
Financial secretary Garth Henderson represented the Cook Islands in the two-day meeting.

Islands struggling with Covid impact, say finance ministers.

Cook Islands and other Pacific Forum finance heads have called on international aid partners to provide them debt relief and increased budget support.

The request was made at the virtual Forum Economic Ministers Meeting, finishing yesterday.

Financial secretary Garth Henderson represented the Cook Islands in the two-day meeting. He would not comment on the outcome, saying an official statement on the meeting will be released today.

According to Fiji-based Islands Business, the ministers and officials also asked for more flexibility in financing donor programmes and increased support for social protection systems.

They want international financial institutions to make grants and loans more easily available to Pacific island states struggling with the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis.

Considerable additional investment and resourcing of public health systems will be needed, they say.

They have committed to diversifying their economies and improving competitiveness, with a focus on the digital economy and investments in digital literacy, trade and innovation in the private sector, including through public private partnerships.

The Ministers also called for a regional Covid-19 economic recovery taskforce.

Looking at the longer term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, and drive regional priorities like health, digital connectivity and food security.

It would also engage with development partners on “innovative” financing options.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor told Islands Business the meeting discussed “very strong public financial management systems [to] address the issues of health and climatic impacts and plan our economies.

“I think one of the key issues here is that, to note that over the past several years about US$2 billion has come into the region for resilience finance. That's a lot of money.”

Tuvalu’s Finance Minister Seve Paeniu, who chaired the meeting, said travel bubbles were not a priority for most of the member states.