8 Sep 2017

World Bank optimistic about Pacific growth

9:43 am on 8 September 2017

A new report from the World Bank has found Pacific countries could create half a million jobs and lift average incomes by more than 40 percent within 25 years by targeting several key industries.

Downtown Apia, Samoa

Downtown Apia, Samoa Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The document, 'Pacific Possible', has been launched at the Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa.

The Bank said the document had been three years in the making, and was the culmination of extensive consultations with Pacific Island and Pacific Rim governments, non-governmental organisations, academics and individuals across the region.

It has identified tourism, fisheries, the knowledge economy and labour mobility as key areas offering opportunities.

The report also mentions deep sea mining, yet advises caution.

As of 2016, the top source markets for tourists to the Northern Marianas were South Korea, followed by China, then Japan.

As of 2016, the top source markets for tourists to the Northern Marianas were South Korea, followed by China, then Japan. Photo: RNZI / Mark Rabago

According to the World Bank estimates, more than 100,000 jobs could be created in tourism alone by tapping into China's growing middle class, attracting retirees from countries like Australia and New Zealand.

It also suggests adding more cruise ship tourism and expanding high-end resort markets.

Fisheries are forecast to net an extra $US300 million by 2040 without an increase in catch levels or threats to the sustainability of fish stocks.

This would translate to a lift in incomes in Kiribati and Tuvalu by about 50 percent.

For the plan to work, Indonesia and the Philippines would have to join the Vessel Day Scheme.

Better use of communications technology is believed to have the potential to lead to productivity gains which could be worth $US5 billion to the region and create close to 300,000 additional jobs, particularly in Melanesia.

Thousands of Pacific Islanders come to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, but other visa categories have become harder for Pacific migrants to obtain

Thousands of Pacific Islanders come to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

'Pacific Possible' estimates that improved labour mobility could generate an additional net income of $US13 billion for 240,000 permanent migrants by 2040.

It could lead to an increase in remittances and seasonal workers' income by $US900 million but would require Australia and New Zealand to ease access.

The report warns of risks facing the region, listing the non-communicable disease crisis as well as climate change.

It said natural disasters could have more dire impacts on the Pacific Islands than on any other country in the world.

Commonwealth preparing ocean sustainability charter

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Secretariat is preparing a so-called "Blue Charter" to promote responsible and sustainable use of the oceans.

Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland said the Blue Charter was based on principles in the Charter of the Commonwealth.

She said it had particular relevance for small island states, whose main territorial assets are the oceans and their exclusive economic zones.

The charter is one of several Commonwealth initiatives being endorsed this week at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders summit in Apia.

Ms Scotland said the charter would be actioned through principles agreed upon by governments, toolkits and information sharing hubs.