Ten Pacific Island countries are members of the World Bank:
Federated States of Micronesia
The World Bank’s Pacific Island member countries have a population of about 2.3 million people, spread across hundreds of islands, and scattered over an area equivalent to 15% of the globe’s surface. This is a unique and diverse region. Fiji, the largest among the group, has a population of around 880,000, while Tuvalu, with an estimated population of 9,876 is the World Bank Group’s smallest member. Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically dispersed countries in the world, consisting of 33 islands spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean – an area larger than India. Solomon Islands is geographically splintered with 1,000 small islands and atolls. It has a low population density with half a million people dispersed across 90 inhabited islands, 79% of whom reside in rural areas and 40% below the age of 14. It is the poorest country in the pacific when measured in terms of GNI per capita.
Since independence Pacific Island countries have achieved real progress. Life expectancy has increased, infant mortality rates have declined, and less people are struck with infectious disease. However, economic growth has been well below the global average for developing countries.
These counties share similar challenges as small and remote island economies. Small size, limited natural resources, narrowly based economies, large distances to major markets, and vulnerability to exogenous shocks, can affect growth and have often led to a high degree of economic volatility.
These are also some of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. Based on a World Bank report, of the 20 countries in the world with the highest average annual disaster losses scaled by gross domestic product, eight are Pacific island countries: Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, and the Cook Islands.
Sustained development progress will require long-term cooperation by international partners. More broadly, greater economic integration, more equitable natural resource agreements, more open labor markets and adaptation to climate change will be vital for the long term future of the Pacific Islands.
The World Bank has been scaling up its assistance in the Pacific Islands and is moving from a regional approach to individual country strategies to better acknowledge country-specific challenges and priorities. In recent years, the World Bank has developed specific country strategies for the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Fiji with other Pacific Islands countries to follow.
The World Bank Group’s engagement with these Pacific Island countries reflects the influence of the region’s economic geography on their development trajectories, with unique challenges arising from remoteness.
The Bank is supporting rural development through several projects, including the Rural Development Project in Solomon Islands. The project has helped hundreds of communities develop critical infrastructure, including bridges, schools, health clinics and access to water and electricity.
In the health sector, the Bank is supporting Pacific Island countries to reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases (also known as lifestyle diseases or NCDs) such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. The regional NCD Roadmap has been developed in partnership with governments and key stakeholders in the region.
With most Pacific Island countries comprising of low lying islands, they are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Efforts to help Pacific Island nations promote adaptation to climate change will be essential to ensuring long-term resilience and security. The Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot uses risk pooling to help lower the cost of participating countries’ insurance while other projects in the region support natural disaster preparedness and mitigation.
High population growth and high unemployment has become a serious problem in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands. The World Bank is helping the government to assist the most vulnerable of Honiara's population, particularly youth and women, by providing short-term employment and training through the Rapid Employment Project.
In the energy sector, the Bank is working with the Government of Vanuatu to increase the number of households with access to electricity for things such as lighting and phone charging. In the Federated States of Micronesia the Energy Sector Development Project will support the government to increase the availability and efficiency of energy supply for the country.
In the mining sector, the World Bank is providing technical assistance to the Solomon Islands Government in reviewing policies and regulations. Activities include raising awareness of the importance of women’s role in the negotiation and management of royalties, and supporting Solomon Islands to sign up to the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative.
The Bank is supporting initiatives to improve access to information communication technology (ICT) in countries across the region, through reform programs in Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Solomon Islands. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Program and Pacific Regional Connectivity Program 2 are working to provide improved ICT access across the region – connecting people and businesses to services, markets and information, regionally and beyond.
Pacific Island countries derive significant economic and social benefits from their marine resources. This is a major opportunity for the region: twenty million square kilometers of the South Pacific are home to the largest tuna fishery in the world. So far, the Pacific Regional Oceanscape Program is helping Pacific Island countries including the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu to capture a greater share of the benefits from their fisheries, while supporting conservation.
In disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation, Tonga was the first country to benefit from a payout under the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot after Cyclone Ian in January 2014. Vanuatu received a payout in March 2015 following Cyclone Pam. In Samoa and Tonga, Post-Tsunami Reconstruction Projects have helped communities rebuild their lives after the powerful tsunami in 2009. In Samoa, the project supported communities to relocate to safer areas to ensure their future safety. Upgrading of 30 kilometers of road has helped improve the livelihoods of approximately 5,000 people in tsunami-affected communities.
Telecommunications in many countries across the Pacific has been improved. A new fiber optic cable recently connected Tonga to Fiji and will help increase broadband internet access and affordability. As a result, conservative estimates for usage (percent of Tongans aged 13 and older) have more than quadrupled between March 2011 and December 2014, now with 43% penetration.
Food security is an issue for many Pacific Island countries. The Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project (SACEP) is working to support fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities. Through SACEP, 110 ‘Fiji Fantastic’ sheep have been procured by Samoa to help rejuvenate the sheep industry and support the new national breeding program.
The Solomon Islands Rapid Employment Project is providing short-term employment and training for urban youth and women in the capital of Honiara. By March 2014 the project had generated more than 460,000 days of work and trained more than 9,000 people. The project has exceeded its women and youth targets with those benefiting from the project made up by 58% women and 52% youth. The REP is expected to exceed its labor day targets by the project’s end in 2015.