Pacific Leaders Choose Sustainable Development
Pacific leaders from 18 nations have rejected a call from the World Bank and New Zealand to free up trade, loosen regulation and shrink their public sectors, according to the Samoa Observer. Instead, a majority of the 60 Pacific delegates, meeting at the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum in Wellington, committed to ‘sustainable development over economic growth, and to sound governance over more severe austerity measures,’ the Samoa Observer writes. New Zealand’s Finance Minister Bill English told the delegates that New Zealand’s and the Pacific’s economic destinies were inextricably linked. ‘There’s no point in us feeling like we’re doing well if the 6 million people in our near part of the Pacific aren’t doing well,’ English was quoted as saying. Tim Bulman, from the World Bank, told the Forum that an ‘enabling environment for business’ was the key to Pacific success. Bulman called for greater exploration of the Pacific Island’s mineral and fisheries resources, more investment in education and health and the removal of foreign investment barriers. But many delegates, the Observer said, raised concerns about the volatility of world markets, the threat to cultural traditions and the need to protect natural resources from exploitation. The Fiji National Council of Women said that trade agreements must protect labour rights and local culture. Others were concerned at the increasing lack of self-sufficiency displayed by many Pacific economies. This had left their economies, and their people, increasingly vulnerable to multinationals and outside economic powers. Some delegates argued that removing tariffs and regulations, would make the Pacific and its peoples poorer. New Zealand’s Finance Minister Bill English argued that the Pacific should choose a balanced path of growth and sustainability. English reminded delegates that New Zealand was committed to the Pacific, and urged the leaders to petition Australia for greater support of their economic plans, the Observer reported.