12 Feb 2010

Pacific "hooked on" aid crisis conference told

5:36 am on 12 February 2010

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.

Annell Husband reports from Port Vila.

"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. This hit a nerve with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat's general secretary Tuiloma Neroni Slade, who responded that Mr Hughes' comments were provocative and negative and that most aid to the region has to meet strict conditions. But, in line with other conference speakers who have emphasised the importance of microfinance, Mr Hughes went on to say that particular attention should be given to funding very small urban and rural entrepreneurs."

He said commercial banks tend to shy away from microfinance because of a falsely-perceived risk but he advised delegates that if they looked at all the things missing in Pacific countries, they'd find credit also missing.