The Forum Economic Ministers Meeting concluded their 26th meeting in Suva on Friday where they discussed various challenges and opportunities including concerns about correspondent banking relationships, climate finance strategies, disaster risk financing, the Pacific Resilience Facility, as well as labour mobility schemes.
During the discussions with leaders, concerns were raised on correspondent banking relationships in the Pacific region, as some banks are de-risking their involvement in certain countries.
Cook Islands and PIFs Chair Prime Minister Mark Brown said given the importance of Correspondent banking relationships which are crucial for financial structures and enabling international transfers, trade, and remittances, they have welcomed Australia and New Zealand’s input to addressing some of these concerns.
“The FEMM have tasked the Secretariat here to work with the World Bank to prioritise recommendations and progress the implementation of regional recommendations with the support of relevant development, but also in consultation with members through to the next economic ministers meeting,” Brown said.
FEMM Chair said that the climate finance was also a focus, with the need for increased climate action and a coordinated approach to accessing climate funds.
He said a regional climate finance roadmap is being developed to pool different financing sources for climate initiatives – For disaster risk financing, a Pacific Regional disaster risk financing roadmap and guidelines were approved.
Brown said member countries are encouraged to develop national strategies with the help of a technical working group.
A notable achievement was the approval of the redesigned Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF).
Brown said this was first proposed six years ago, the PRF aimed to attract funding for Pacific adaptation measures.
“Pacific countries have, for a number of years, have voiced their concerns and the difficulty in accessing climate finance. So what we have done over the last few years, in particular the last year 18 months, is redesigned this proposal for a Pacific resilience facility that will be targeted to development partners to put their funds into and used for Pacific adaptation measures, specifically for Pacific countries.”
“We see this as one way to enable funds to be freed up quicker to our members in the Pacific countries to address climate and resilience initiatives, which in many cases can be quite small scale and thereby make it difficult to fund when we do go through formal channels… Green Climate Fund. So we’re very pleased that our membership has approved the implementation of the redesign of the Pacific Resilience Fund.”
This facility will go for formal approval at the leaders’ meeting in November in the Cook Islands.
Labour mobility’s economic implications were also discussed, acknowledging the benefits of earning income and remittances through labour mobility schemes, as well as concerns including worker welfare, exploitation, and the impact on domestic labour forces.
The ministers reaffirmed the importance of including comprehensive social and economic prospecting assessments of the cost benefits and social impacts of the regional labour schemes in the development of the regional labour strategies, with suggestions from Fiji for visa-free travel between countries to promote economic growth and opportunities.