20 September 2018
The Asian Development Bank has plans for expansion in the region, including the Solomon Islands
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is an Asia regional development organization dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific.
A late evening news bulletin from Radio New Zealand, last night, Thursday, heralded some good news and I would like, if permitted, to share the announced proposals.
Quoting from Radio New Zealand – 20 September 2018.
“Health and education in Pacific island countries is in line for a boost under the Asian Development Bank's plans for expansion in the region.
“The bank, which provides loans, grants and other help to its member countries, has announced plans to set up seven new offices around the region.
“Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati will all have an ADB mission by the end of next year according to the ADB's Paul Curry.
“The ADB is also beefing up its presence in four other Pacific island countries - Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
“Mr Curry, the ADB's Principal Operations Coordination Specialist for the Pacific, said the bank hoped to grow its existing portfolios in the region around transport, energy, water and public financial management.
“A regional vaccination programme is also to be approved this year, he said.
"On the education side we've done a lot of work in the north Pacific on enhancing teacher training and curriculum so I think we'll continue to build on those successes and expand where there's a need."
“The ADB's portfolio of work in the region had grown to around $US700 million according to Mr Curry.
"When we have ADB staff on the ground it just ensures that we're able to work more closely with the government, with other development partners, to understand the country context and the development challenges the country faces and to work with other donors in a coordinated fashion," he said.
“Mr Curry dismissed suggestions the scale-up was to head off other players keen to boost their influence in the increasingly-contested region.
"It's not a reaction to any short-term issue. It's been something that we've been looking at for a long time, at least a year or two under the pilot project and so it's not a reaction to any kind or emerging issue. It's about a long-term commitment that we have to the region."
“It had become much more of a challenge for the ADB to remotely manage the substantial infrastructure projects it had in the region and it made sense to be on the ground, Mr Curry said.
Amid concern the region's vulnerable economies are at high risk of debt distress in the push for development, the ADB representative said the bank was "very sensitive" to the question of debt sustainability over the long-run.
"We only provide grants or concessional loans where it's appropriate."
“Seven countries, including Tonga, are recipients of ADB assistance which is strictly in the form of grants, he said.
The ADB's overall assistance to the Pacific has doubled every five years since 2005, and now stands at $US2.9 billion.
“Total assistance is expected to surpass $US4 billion by 2020.
“The new offices will complement regional offices in Fiji and Australia.”
Copyright @ 2018, Radio New Zealand.
Comments by Du Plessis-Allan are said to have been dangerously ignorant and insulting to Pacific Islanders.
Quoting from Radio New Zealand – 20 September 2018
“Opinion - Here is an open letter to Heather du Plessis-Allan on behalf of New Zealanders who have worked, and those are who are still working in development in the Solomon Islands.
Heather du Plessis-Allan's recent comments on national radio that the Pacific are leeches on New Zealand is dangerously ignorant, insulting to Pacific Islanders working hard for their countries, and undermines New Zealand itself. This open letter is supported by a group of New Zealanders who have worked and those are who are still working in development in the Solomon Islands and condemns Ms du Plessis-Allan's remarks on Newstalk ZB as well as Newstalk ZB's implicit support.
“History has shown that the dehumanisation of a group of people by referring to them as a class of non-human animals liberates aggression and has far-reaching consequences in enabling one group of people to hurt the other group. Well-known examples of this have been shown in the calling of Tutsi people as cockroaches, Bosniaks and Croatians as aliens, and Jews as rats and parasites. Journalism and broadcasting plays a crucial role in all countries as voices and opinions are distributed nation-wide, and so the spread of hatred should have no place in this process. National broadcasters should know better.
“Here in the Solomon Islands, we work alongside many hardworking people. We work across a range of sectors, including governance, justice, climate change, health, education, youth, tourism, infrastructure, and journalism. We work with people from the country leader level down to the staff out on the field. While of course no country is without bad people here and there, they are always outnumbered by the many good people who are dedicated to the development of the country. It would not be surprising to find that Solomon Islanders are vastly dedicated to their own development, equally if not more so, than those in New Zealand. We have no doubt that the Solomon Islands are not unique in the Pacific in this aspect. To paint entire countries and regions as hellholes and leeches is an insult to the good people working hard to make a change.
“Finally, as there are many exemplary New Zealanders who have dedicated many years working across the Pacific Islands to help build capacity and strengthen institutions, it follows that the remarks belittle our efforts. To say that Pacific Islanders are leeching off us is a gross misunderstanding of the situation and undermines the credibility of the work of New Zealanders in the field. Foreign aid exists not simply as a charity, but it is well understood that helping our neighbours helps us in return. In turn, we have more trade partners, better prevention of epidemics, better regional and national security, improved international relations, and of course a better reputation for New Zealand. To say that the Pacific Islands don't matter shows a lack of understanding. The fraction of money that the New Zealand government spends here is well worth the returns we receive.
“We understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We simply hope that the opinions are well-formed, evidence-based, and do not spread hatred due to gross generalisations and misinformation. However, while her comments have certainly not gone unnoticed here in the Solomon Islands, the general reaction from Solomon Islanders indicates an understanding that the unfortunate actions of a few individuals do not represent an entire nation, let alone an entire region. Solomon Islanders continue to hold New Zealand and New Zealanders in high regard and we New Zealanders working here are confident that this remains the case.”
Copyright © 2018, Radio New Zealand
Australia delays controversial agriculture visa
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 20 September 2018
“Australia's government has delayed the announcement of a new agriculture visa, which Pacific leaders feared could have spelled the end of two workers' visas unique for the region.
“Canberra has been signalling it will introduce a new visa to fill labour gaps in agricultural sectors, which would likely be open to people from Asian countries or anyone from anywhere.
“But that's prompted concerns that two already-existing visas, which allow for Pacific Islanders to work in Australia, would be killed by such a scheme.
“Australia's Assistant Minister for the Pacific, Anne Ruston, now says the visa is "still very much in development," and Australia's commitment to labour mobility in the region remains a "number one priority."
“Stephen Howes, from the Australian National University, says any removal of Pacific benefits would likely harm relations.
"You know Australia's developed something called the step-up strategy in the Pacific and at the heart of that strategy is labour mobility. It's meant to be something we can offer the Pacific that China can't. So from a foreign policy perspective this new visa would be disastrous and it would really shred Australia's credibility in the Pacific," Stephen Howes said.”
Copyright @ 2018, Radio New Zealand.
TSI urges gov’t to delay passing controversial law
Quoting the Solomon Star newspaper – 20 September 2018
“TRANSPARENCY Solomon Islands (TSI) yesterday urged the Government to halt taking the Traditional Governance and Customs Facilitation Bill to parliament.
“The bill is currently with the Bills and Legislative Committee, which has started conducting its hearing yesterday.
“TSI’s call came a day after the Civil Society Sector expressed its dismay at the lack of public consultation being done on the bill.
“We call on civil society organization, concerned individuals and senior citizens and young people of this country to demand that this bill be delayed,” TSI said in a statement.
“We do so base on the many clients dilemma, hopelessness, helplessness when they have been deprived of their human rights as a result of decisions made by Chiefs Hearing and the Local Courts which nearly always makes decision in favors of loggers-backed parties,” it added.
“They no longer consider people but money, they no longer interpret custom but money.
“Today it is logging and tomorrow it might be something else.
“The very group that have brought misery, hopelessness and helplessness and poverty to our people are the very people this Bill will empower.”
“The bill, among others, aims to empower chiefs.
“But TSI said the bill will weaken and eventually wears away the leadership systems in rural Solomon Islands, a leadership system that is inclusive and appropriate for the communities, tribes where these are accepted by them according to their tradition and practices.
“When it comes to land, the proposed bill is gender-biased and does not accord women the importance that custom accords them in land matters and also in decision making.
“The result of this bill would thoroughly subject our resources to Central Government control and regulations and call on right thinking Solomon Islanders to raise your concern on this proposed bill.
“Whilst the government is unable to provide resources for the local Courts to deal with these very issues resulting in loggers doing it, how much more for such an ill-conceived structure which again will be in the pocket of unscrupulous investors as is the case now?
“Wake up government and do not lie to the people of Solomon Islands.
“You will be creating another system/structure that will again be in the pocket of loggers, miners, corrupt greedy people.”
“TSI said it understands government frustration when more than 80% of land in this country is customary land and not directly accessible to the government for its development plans.
“It added the Government must delay the bill and return to the people.
“Consultations must be done with women, youth and all and not just the chiefs like in a number of provinces so far.
“People must be allowed to also hear opposing views during this consultation and not just what the drafters want them to hear.”
Copyright @ 2018, Solomon Star news.
More young children surviving in Solomon Islands
QUOTING RADIO NEW ZEALAND – 19 September 2018
“Solomon Islands is included among 10 countries with the most significant improvement in under five mortality rates between 2017 and 2018.
“UNICEF said six Pacific countries showed improvement in their rates over the past year with the others being Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau and Nauru.
“The agency's latest report into global child mortality said the improvements were due to better antenatal care, increased immunisation rates, more government health spending and more coordination among donors.
“UNICEF's Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett said for the positive trend to continue there needed to be an even greater priority on improving access to health services, promotion of breast feeding, good nutrition, and access to clean water as well as basic sanitation.
“The agency estimated around the world 6.3 million children under 15 years of age died in 2017, or 1 every 5 seconds, mostly of preventable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis and malaria.
“For children everywhere, the most risky period is the first month of life with 2.5 million babies dying during this time in 2017.
“The global number of children dying under five has fallen dramatically from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.4 million in 2017.”
Copyright @ 2018, Radio New Zealand.