Press Statement - Cairns, 4th August 2009 - A regional conference addressing how to tackle the impact of the global economic crisis on countries in the Pacific region has been told that any response to the crisis must be a Pacific tailored one acknowledging the special challenges of the region.

Delivering a Keynote address at the conference held in Brisbane, Australia yesterday, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade urged the conference to rise above the rhetoric and ideological arguments. The conference was organised by the Australian Think Tank, the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

"Our response to this crisis must be a Pacific tailored one acknowledging the challenges the region faces and that national governments, regional organisations and development partners must work collaboratively, in unison and now to implement such responses in a sustainable manner," Mr Slade said.

"This Crisis has and will continue to challenge the very ideals that we have aspired to through Forum processes and frameworks, such as the Pacific Plan and its vision for prosperity and growth. Importantly, such mechanisms offer one way through this crisis having already established avenues for dialogue to consider regional and more importantly collective responses and actions."

"It is not uncommon to hear the Pacific described as unique," said Mr Slade "This is an observation that I suggest has a particular resonance for our discussion here. Understanding what makes the region unique will provide us a framework within which to consider possible responses to tackling the current global economic crisis."

"Our response to this crisis will not be met through one action by one stakeholder. I stress, our response must be collective and embody a suite of actions, policies and initiatives that involve national governments, regional organisations and development partners more generally."

While work continues on assessing the impacts of the current global economic crisis on the Pacific, a range of stresses are already being felt. Some estimates suggest that overall growth in the Region is predicted to drop from 5.1% in 2008 to 3% in 2009. Economic growth in Papua New Guinea, the region's largest country, is forecast to remain at a moderate level with most countries in the region predicted to experience falls in growth levels and at least five countries Fiji, FSM, Samoa, Tonga and Palau, expected to experience negative growth. The fall is largely due to projected declines in remittances and tourism receipts, the latter one of the region's key economic drivers.

"If we were to speculate on continuing points of pressure, based on the evidence and advice we have to date, we could rightly assume that the region will continue to witness an increase in the severity and range of pressures on national coffers, the balance of payments and access to goods and services and their subsequent delivery. More problematically, we can expect that any recovery will be protracted and require significant external assistance. Of greatest concern are food and energy security, both of which remain tenuous," said Mr Slade.

The Forum Secretariat Secretary General proposed both short, medium and long term responses to the global economic crisis on the region
In the short-term, the region must be mindful of general social wellbeing, accentuated political pressures and the importance partnership and reform. The first of these will require a reconsideration of how poverty and general well-being are recognised as current realities in the region.

"Over the medium term, I suggest that we must focus on ensuring better food and energy security, which in many respects, are be the two areas hardest hit by the Crisis in this region," said Mr Slade.

"Finally, our longer-term strategy must focus on building resilience through strengthened capacity, better coordination of action, economic integration and improving standards of governance and leadership," said Secretary General Mr Slade.