The Pacific Plan makes a significant contribution to helping the region improve strategic goals of economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security.

When officially opening the 12th Forum Economic Ministers' Meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu today, Prime Minister of Vanuatu. Hon. Edward Natapei said with the Pacific Plan the region can "take collective action where we will all benefit from doing so, but at the same time, determine our own national goals and priorities and work towards them."

"What we must be careful of is that our regional forums and planning do not become a substitute for action. I believe a development agenda based around the Pacific Plan priorities is a sensible tool for keeping us focused on outcomes," said Prime Minister Natapei.

"I am also pleased to note that the economic aspects of the Pacific Plan, in particular, have found a 'home' in FEMM.

"There are challenging issues on your agenda like labour mobility, economic regulation, financial sector supervision and regional audit service which require your bold, innovative and strategic wisdom in considering these matters.

"They all require vision - a vision aligned to that laid by the Forum Leaders for the benefit of our region's peoples. I urge you, Economic Ministers to share in this vision and make some difficult, 'beyond the box' decisions today for the common benefit of the region," Mr Natapei said.

He added: "We are only stronger as a region, if we work together, as one region - and the Pacific Plan provides the legitimate basis for this in order to build towards the (Forum) Leaders' vision for our region."

Prime Minister Natapei also spoke on the current global economic crisis.

"For a start, the set of pressures due to high commodity prices and global growth slowdown due to the financial market crisis has immense bearing on the prosperity of the region.

"The theme of FEMM is very relevant, and your sharing of experiences on food and energy security matters will help better understand our policy choices. Our shared persistence in trying to make the best use of the opportunities presented by it, in a way that the benefit of the people of the region, seems to me the only way to go," said Mr Natapei.

The two-day FEMM will end tomorrow with the release of the 2008 FEMM Action Plan.