Ten Pacific Island countries which are members of the World Bank have a population of about 3.4 million people, scattered across an area equivalent to 15 percent of the globe’s surface, with a development trajectory that will be shaped by their economic geography.
Read More »
Increasing the reach of local produceThe major thrust of the project has been its large-scale matching grant program, currently benefitting 190 commercial fruit and vegetable and livestock farmers – 5... Show More +0 from the initial pilot stage – to help them invest in the overall management of their farms.Using these funds, Sara Ahhoy from Aleisa village has been able to construct a new nursery and 13 tunnel houses which help protect crops from heavy rain and minimize pests."I have seen a big difference in terms of the quantity of vegetables we are growing now,” she explains. “When we grew them outside, pests were a problem but also not so many vegetables would be harvested. Now, this house of tomatoes has lasted three months already, and we're still harvesting. Before they would last just three or four weeks.”Today Sara is running a successful fruit and vegetable business which supplies hotels as well as Apia's main hospital. She grows a wide range of herbs - relatively new for Samoan farmers - as well as tomatoes, capsicums, salad vegetables, spring onions, and cabbages.Other fruit and vegetable farmers have used the project to invest in new tools and technology; water storage and rock removal are major focus areas on many farms, as well as diversification of what is being grown. Aside from grants, multi-year research programs are experimenting with new varieties of vegetables to see what works best in Samoan soils and climate.Meanwhile commercial livestock farmers have been able to access funds to restore depleted pasture, purchase new animals and construct critical fencing or shelters which were badly damaged by Tropical Cyclone Evan in 2012. All participating farmers are set to benefit from comprehensive business trainings and extension services. Maximizing the potential of the landIt seems that the market is ripe for high quality local food that is distinctly Samoan. With the right support, and with partners such as the Small Business Enterprise Centre and the Development Bank of Samoa, the project aims to ensure farmers can take advantage of such opportunities: to connect them to buyers, enable them to improve the value of their goods, and increase the market for fresh, healthy and ultimately local produce.This would be good for the economy and ultimately good for Samoa, and could set an important precedent for greater self-sufficiency in Pacific island countries. Show Less -
This report is intended to help officials implement agreed strategies to respond to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in ways that are affordable for Pacific Island governments. It provides the latest ... Show More +evidence about the economic and financial implications of responding to the NCD crisis in the region. This roadmap is not a plea for extra resources; rather it is an argument for using existing resources to better effect.Key findings:NCDs account for around 70-75% of all deaths in the Pacific Islands. Many of these NCD-related deaths are premature (before age 60 years) and are preventable. Most of the trends and risk factors point to a worsening of the situation: the top 10 countries with the highest rates of diabetes in the world are in the Pacific Islands; 52.45% of adult males in Tonga are estimated to be obese; in Kiribati, Federated State of Micronesia, Tonga and Samoa adult female obesity is estimated to be 50% or more.NCDs impose large but often preventable financial costs on already overstretched government health budgets. Several NCD-related programs in the Pacific Islands are already unsustainable financially. However, there are proven, affordable, and cost-effective interventions. Some cost-saving interventions can pay for themselves over the longer term.Multiple factors inside and beyond the health sector are driving the rise in NCDs, so a multi-sectoral approach is essential. Health challenges that involve factors beyond the health sector include: availability of water and sanitation, the level and quality of girls’ education, policing of traffic violations, and domestic violence.Given risk factors in the Pacific and available use of cost effective actions (often referred to as ‘best buys’ for the available funding), each country should now finalize its own short country-specific NCD Roadmap that would include these four key strategies common to all countries in the Pacific:Strengthening tobacco control, including raising the excise duty to 70% of the retail price of cigarettes.Reducing consumption of food and drink directly linked to obesity, heart disease and diabetes such as sugar-sweetened drinks, salty and fatty food.Improving the efficiency and impact of the health sector for prevention and early treatment.Strengthening monitoring and evaluation around activities.Effective implementation of the recommendations in this roadmap is the most likely way of 'bending' the cost curve for NCD treatments. The strategies put forward in the Roadmap are achievable and affordable but will take determination and leadership. Show Less -
Many Pacific island countries (PICs) face important upcoming challenges in providing adequate employment opportunities to young, increasingly urban, and often rapidly growing populations. Population g... Show More +rowth and rapid urbanization in small Pacific Island Countries is causing understandable concern in the context of weak economic and employment growth.Realistic expectations are needed regarding the trajectory of development. Due to inherent geographic obstacles, PICs are unlikely to experience export-driven development and associated employment creation on the scale seen in the broader East Asia Pacific region. Employment strategies must include less conventional policy options and focus on areas where PICs have established strengths and advantages.Increasing international labor mobility through the erosion of regulatory barriers and investment in transferable human capital is vital. Employment opportunities in small, dispersed and isolated economies are less extensive than those in larger, more integrated economies. Providing Pacific Islanders expanded access to larger labor markets is therefore vital. This will require both changes in the immigration policies of the nearest large economies and careful investment by small PIC governments to support the transfer of skills between the countries.The positive potential of urbanization can be realized through investment in improved rural services, connective infrastructure, and improved urban administration. Urbanization, if well-managed, can bring important employment benefits. Policies should not be biased toward employment in either urban or rural areas, but rather should seek to ensure acceptable standards of living across all communities and allow individuals to respond as they choose to the inevitable concentration of economic opportunities in urban areas. This will require (1) movement away from policies aimed at preventing urbanization; (2) sufficient public investment in infrastructure links between agricultural areas and urban areas; and (3) improved land administration and increased investment in services in urban areas.Public spending can be leveraged to support new employment opportunities. Public sector employment is likely to continue to provide a substantial share of work in PICs. Policy attention can usefully focus on ensuring that such employment is productive and sustainable rather than on reducing the number of public sector jobs. Private participation can provide incentives for efficient delivery of public services, but needs to be approached carefully and selectively. Broader public sector reforms to ensure efficiency and effectiveness need to continue. Donor agencies and governments can also work to ensure that the domestic economic impact public expenditure is maximized to support creation of local employment opportunities.Careful investment of rents from natural resource industries can often deliver better employment outcomes than attempts to generate employment directly in natural resource industries. Natural resource industries can flourish in PICs despite higher cost structures. But work in natural resource industries is often unsustainable and contributes little to living standards. Judgments about policy interventions to create employment within these industries should consider the quality and sustainability of the work they are likely to create. PICs might often benefit most from converting rents from natural resource industries into improved infrastructure, services, and human capital, rather than seeking to create direct large-scale employment in those industries through implicit or explicit subsidization. Show Less -
Over 20 percent of people in most Pacific Island Countries live in hardship, meaning they are unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs. Within countries, many factors have a bearing on... Show More + hardship, including location, education, work status, and age.People in the Pacific are uniquely vulnerable to economic and natural shocks due to the countries’ unique geography and economic openness. Eight of the 20 countries in the world with the highest annual average losses (as a share of GDP) from natural disasters are Pacific Island countries. Dependence on global commodity markets for a large part of basic needs and incomes leaves households vulnerable to large swings in prices for items like food and fuel. Micro simulation analysis for Kiribati, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea finds that shocks to the prices of imported food and fuel, agricultural commodity exports, and remittances push many people into hardship and deepen the severity of hardship for many others.Non-communicable diseases are increasing vulnerability for Pacific Islanders. They are exceedingly expensive to treat, incur long-term disability costs for many households and, in Tonga, have already eroded life expectancy. Most Pacific Island countries are also still dealing with continued threats from communicable diseases and maternal and child mortality. With limited fiscal resources, trying to manage this “double burden” of disease is a major challenge for governments.Traditional systems are important to the well-being of many Pacific islanders, but they do not eliminate hardship and can only provide partial protection from shocks. Evidence suggests that those in deepest hardship may be the least likely to be part of gift-giving networks. In addition, cultural and social pressures sometimes seem to require greater generosity than many households feel they can truly afford. Traditional systems cannot insure against the many aggregate shocks that are common in the Pacific.Governments and development partners have important roles to play in complementing traditional systems with hardship reduction and risk management efforts. Fiji is the only Pacific Island country with a hardship-targeted cash transfer program. While many other countries provide transfers or subsidies to small groups of people, broader measures to support those in hardship or experiencing shocks are generally not in place due to fiscal and capacity constraints, as well as lack of information. Investments in social programs that take into account these constraints are needed to provide safety nets and relief from hardship.It is important for governments and partners to invest in fielding regular household surveys for all countries. Across the Pacific, representative household surveys are very infrequent. Lack of data leaves policymakers and development partners without timely information that could help make the best use of limited public resources. Funding regular surveys, including the technical capacity to implement and analyze them, should be a priority. Survey methods and the content of surveys could be modified to help increase data quality and lower costs, which would increase the financial feasibility of regular surveys.Public access to data and analysis should be made available to policymakers and partners. When data does exists, significantly different methodologies in measuring poverty as well as limited data sharing makes it difficult to clearly interpret and communicate the results. Consequently, Pacific Islands data gets little use outside of the few groups that have access to it, and Pacific countries are often excluded from external databases and analyses. Increased data accessibility is one of the objectives of the Ten Year Pacific Statistics Strategy, and this accessibility should go beyond summary statistics. Show Less -
The World Bank’s Program Connecting the Pacific IslandsNow, under the first phase of the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program, Nuku’alofa has joined the network of underwater cables that connect... Show More + people between countries and continents to broadband, in this case via the Southern Cross LandingStation in Fiji.Under future phases of the program, other countries are looking to connect to the new trans-Pacific cable network, including Samoa, Palau and Federated States of Micronesia, thereby connecting more people in more countries. Show Less -
Certainty of salaries for government workersFor government workers in Vanuatu, the most frustrating day of the week has traditionally been every second Friday, which is Pay Day for the country’s civil... Show More + servants. With government payment systems often unreliable, the prospect of not getting paid for days – even weeks – has, in the past, been the source of enormous frustration for many.And for thousands of government employees – the teachers, doctors, nurses and officials that live and work in this 83-island nation spread across more than 12,000-square kilometers – that frustration would be compounded by having to make a difficult decision: pay the fee for the journey to the nearest bank (often hours away and on neighboring islands), or wait a few more days to give payments the extra time to be made.“I would need to take a long truck journey to go to the bank,” explained Helen Lingtamat, a secretary at the Malekula office of the Vanuatu Public Solicitor’s Office. “Without a mobile, we had to take transport to go to the bank, just to check our accounts.”When prices of mobile phones came down, Helen bought one and is now an avid user of the National Bank of Vanuatu (NBV)’s recently introduced isiMS system, which provides simple SMS-based account balance updates.“I receive an SMS when my pay is in my account,” says Helen. “I don’t have to buy credit and I don’t have to pay for transport–100 vatu to go down to the bank, and then another 100 vatu to go back to my house.”With the support of the World Bank and other partners, including the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, Vanuatu is one of several countries in the Pacific region that has benefitted from the recent telecommunications revolution, which has helped give over 2 million more people access to mobile phones in a short space of time.This is helping Pacific islanders access services, reach families and do business, in distinctly Pacific ways. Show Less -