PIF highlights Pacific debt

The Pacific Islands Forum general secretary, Henry Puna, has called on Pacific nations to innovate and become smarter, to deal with increasing debt levels.

He said natural disasters and climate-related events will deepen government budget deficits and exacerbate the debt distress across the region.

Mr Puna said this in his opening remarks at the first Pacific Regional Debt conference.

The virtual conference, themed “Addressing debt sustainability in the Pacific in the aftermath of COVID-19”, was set against the backdrop of
recent debt sustainability assessments of the International Monetary Fund.

“We are all in this together, we are to in the same canoe. I hope we can work together and support each other because the ability of our small members to repay their debt obligations is also good for our lenders,” said Mr Puna, according to a PIF statement.

“Innovation for more agile, smarter, adaptative and transformative development is the key to thriving in this new normal induced by COVID-19.”

The United Nations deputy secretary general, Amina Mohammed, emphasised the need to accelerate the operationalisation of the G20’s common framework for debt treatment.

henry puna pacific regional debt
The Pacific Islands Forum general secretary, Henry Puna opening the first Pacific Regional Debt conference. Picture: Twitter

She said the impact of the Ukraine crisis and a prolonged disruption in energy and food markets is having a detrimental impact on the debt situation in Pacific Islands, and the global community should be prepared to adopt emergency measures, including a reinstatement of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative.

In 2021, there was a call by Pacific Islands Forum economic ministers for urgent talks between forum countries, creditors, and development partners, seeking proactive and realistic responses to the unprecedented levels of public debt in the Pacific.

The event was co-convened by the Governments of Fiji and Tuvalu and co-hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

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The hybrid conference was attended by finance ministers from forum member countries, the minister of finance for Indonesia, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, major multi-lateral and bi-lateral development partners, and key partners in development financing such as the Green Climate Fund, the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Company and professor Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned advocate for sustainable development solutions.

Civil society and youth voices were also represented as well as the private sector.

The outcomes of the conference will be tabled to the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce for endorsement, then tabled at the next Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in Vanuatu later this year.

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