World Bank Board Approves US$ 62 Million Grant for Safer Air Travel in Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu
Washington, December 13, 2011 --- Today the World Bank Board of Directors approved a US$ 62 million grant to improve aviation in the Pacific region and make air travel safer and more efficient for people travelling to and from the Pacific Islands. Supported by the Government of Australia through the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility (PRIF), the first phase of the Pacific Aviation Investment Program will focus on Kiribati, Tonga and Tuvalu, and will boost trade and tourism across the region.
Safe and efficient air travel is critical to support tourism and to connect Pacific Island countries to each other and larger markets, including Australia, the United States and New Zealand. On average, tourism contributes twenty percent of GDP in Pacific Island economies and a large share of employment. Aviation is also important for humanitarian reasons including rescue operations, getting people to medical treatment, or carrying supplies during emergencies, such as Tuvalu’s recent drought crisis.
In the Pacific Island countries, many airports are in poor condition. Runways have deteriorated, and essential airport infrastructure such as navigation aids and fire safety equipment need to be urgently upgraded. Improvements are needed to ensure air travel in the region meets minimum international safety requirements.
Designed to increase aviation safety and security, the Pacific Aviation Investment Program will focus on key airport infrastructure for international travel such as runways, navigation aids and lighting; aviation sector reform, and improving airport management and operations.
“Pacific Island countries are among the most remote in the world, with populations dispersed across huge distances and vast expanses of ocean. Greater connectivity is therefore key to help link people to jobs, markets, services and even their families,” said Ferid Belhaj, Country Director for the Pacific Islands for the World Bank. “The World Bank is significantly scaling up its engagement in the Pacific Island countries, and supporting better aviation is a critical part of its long-term strategy for growth, poverty reduction and expanding opportunities across the region.”
As well as investments in infrastructure, support will be provided to oversight bodies through training, technical regulations and manuals. The Program will help improve regional integration through shared flight information and harmonizing safety requirements.
The first stage of the Program is being supported by the Government of Australia through PRIF (US$ 3.19 million) and the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. A further US$ 63 million could be available to other eligible countries (Samoa, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands) in future phases.