Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda and World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick yesterday launched a new Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility.

This joint initiative will greatly assist Pacific Island Countries to overcome the significant challenges they face in linking people to vital services and make progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.

The Facility will coordinate donor assistance to develop and maintain critical economic infrastructure in the Pacific Island Countries. The Facility will provide up to $200 million funding over four years.

Improvements to the quality, reliability and availability of infrastructure in both rural and urban areas are crucial for boosting economic growth, creating jobs and providing access to basic services such as health and education.

The Facility will help develop competitive local private sectors to deliver infrastructure maintenance and construction services. This will contribute to both job creation and sustainable economic growth in the Pacific.

The Facility will be developed over time to respond to regional requirements. An initial focus on building long-term partnerships with Pacific countries and other donors will ensure that the Facility is best able to respond effectively to the needs of the region.

Transport infrastructure is expected to be an early priority for assistance. The Facility will assist Pacific Island countries to improve roads, ports and transport systems; support reliable energy and communications infrastructure; and improve their water, sanitation and waste management systems.

An inaugural workshop will be held in October to bring senior officials from Pacific Island Countries together to begin exploring ways in which countries may access the Facility.