25 Oct 2006

US economic assistance conditional on good governance

4:34 pm on 25 October 2006

The United States is prepared to assist with the economic development of Pacific Island countries but the assistance would be linked to the issue of governance.

An Assistant Secretary of State, Christopher Hill, made the comments at the Forum summit in Fiji and says the U.S. supports the stance by Australia and New Zealand on good governance in the region.

The Australian prime minister, John Howard, has consistently called for efforts to be stepped up in this area, referring to Australian taxpayer's money being spent in Solomon Islands and the need to know it was being used appropriately.

The Papua New Guinea prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, says progress is being made in the area of governance but scarce resources means that Pacific Island countries must meet people's basic needs of jobs, housing and food security.

Mr Hill says basic needs are a priority but good governance is also needed.

"I think what we have to be careful about is people not use the issue of basic needs to divert attention from the issue of governance. So, basic needs needs to be addressed to be sure but to address that in the absence of addressing governance, we're not going to succeed with it."

The communique from the Forum Islands summit says leaders agreed that initiatives on governance should be encouraged and intensified over the next 12 months.