Overview

Eleven Pacific Island countries (excluding Papua New Guinea) are members of the World Bank:

  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia, Federated States of
  • Nauru
  • Palau
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

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 and Nauru, with estimated populations around 10,000 each, are the World Bank Group’s smallest members by population. Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically-dispersed countries in the world, consisting of 33 coral atolls 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, 78%of whom reside in rural areas, and is the poorest country in the pacific when measured in terms of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.

Each of these countries share similar challenges as small and remote island economies. They are small in size, with limited natural resources, narrowly-based economies, large distances to major markets, and vulnerability to exogenous shocks – all of which 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. According to a World Bank report, eight Pacific Island countries are among the 20 countries in the world with the highest average annual disaster losses scaled by gross domestic product.

Sustained development progress will require long-term cooperation between international partners and governments. 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.

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2016

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 MicronesiaSolomon IslandsKiribatiMarshall Islands, SamoaTongaTuvalu and Fiji with other Pacific Island 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.

A new research piece called ‘Pacific Possible’ is underway to help provide insights on the challenges faced by Pacific Island countries and to see what is realistically possible by the year 2040. The analytical work will include seven individual papers focusing on various topics: labor mobility; deep-sea mining; fisheries; health and non-communicable diseases; ICT and knowledge management; climate change and disaster management; and tourism.

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 such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The regional Non-Communicable Disease Roadmap has been developed in partnership with governments and key stakeholders in the region.

As most Pacific Island countries are comprised 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 the Pacific Resilience Program and other projects in the region support natural disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Transport, whether via road, air or water, is vital to Pacific Islands as it connects people to markets, schools, hospitals and family, often over vast distances. In Tonga, the World Bank is working with the government through the Tonga Transport Sector Consolidation Project  to improve the reliability and safety of Tonga’s transport network. Through the Pacific Aviation Investment Program, KiribatiTongaTuvalu and Samoa will be supported to make air travel safer and more efficient.

High population growth and high unemployment have become serious problems 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 to review existing policies and regulations. This work includes raising awareness of the importance of the role of women in the negotiation and management of mining royalties, and supporting Solomon Islands to sign up to the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative.

The World Bank is supporting initiatives to improve access to telecommunications and other information communication technologies in countries across the region. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Program is working with the governments of Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia and, most recently, Samoa to provide improved communications technology access – 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: 20 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.

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2016

In Tonga, the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning project has supported communities to organize play-based activities so children are better prepared for school. The project has also trained teachers to help improve learning results of students in the first grades of primary education.

In disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation, the Bank supported the establishment of Vanuatu’s National Warning Centre. The early warnings it provided were instrumental in helping to save many lives when Cyclone Pam struck in March 2015. To help Vanuatu rebuild, the country received benefits under the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot.

The Solomon Islands Rapid Employment Project is providing short-term employment and training for urban youth and women in the capital of Honiara. By December 2015 the project had generated more than 600,000 days of work, paid US$2 million in wages and trained over 11,000 people. The project has exceeded its women and youth targets—project beneficiaries include 59% women and 53% youth.

In February 2016, The Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project officially opened an improved road network on South Tarawa. The road is the only main road in South Tarawa and is used by its entire population of 50,000 people. The project is the largest economic infrastructure investment in the country since World War II.

Activities across the region are supporting Pacific Island countries to respond to climate change. Projects include the Kiribati Adaptation Program which, through repairing leaks and reducing waste, is now saving 120 kiloliters of water per day, while mangrove planting has been completed in five out of seven outer island sites to increase coastal protection and resilience. In Samoa a project is working to enhance the climate resilience of the West Coast Road, which is a key connector for residents.  

Telecommunications in many countries across the Pacific have been significantly improved. A new fiber-optic cable connected Tonga to Fiji in May 2013, leading to faster and more affordable internet access. Now, the wholesale price of internet bandwidth has dropped by more than 80%, and access to mobile phones has gone from 59% in 2010 to 95%at the end of 2014.

Food security is an issue for many Pacific Island countries. The Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project is working to support fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities. Through this project, 110 ‘Fiji Fantastic’ sheep have been procured by Samoa, as well as 46 Droughtmaster cattle and 14 Dorper sheep to help rejuvenate the industry and support the new national breeding program.

Last Updated: Apr 14, 2016