A United Nations conference that's attracted more than 200 government ministers and high level delegates from across the Pacific to Vanuatu this week has been told that the region is "hooked" on aid.

The comment, by a former governor of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands chairing a session on economic growth and social policy at the Pacific Conference of the Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis, sparked immediate criticism.

Anthony Hughes, who lives in Solomon Islands, told delegates all Pacific countries make extensive use of foreign aid and that in his view the region's hooked on it.

However, Mr Hughes went on to emphasise the importance of microfinance to the region's people.

"We should give particular attention to the availability of credit to very very small enterprises. Entrepreneurs, in town and in rural areas. Look at all the things that are missing, credit will be missing."

But Tony Hughes says commercial banks tend to shy away from lending to small borrowers because it's messy, costly and is falsely perceived to be risky.