World Bank leads charge for reform

Plans attempt to lift lifestyle

Imagine a region where mobile phones and internet access are as common as public buses. Also for a moment picture a region where words like obesity, poverty, illiteracy and gender inequality do not get a mention in government annual budget platforms or development plans. Then think of social issues like urban sprawl, domestic violence and inadequate jobs becoming a thing of the past.

Even brain drain from the South Pacific shores to greener pastures abroad may not be a concern for island bureaucrats or the populations at large because lucrative opportunities will be generated at home. If all these sound too illusionary, think again, asserts Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank executive leading the charge for leading donor countries and multinational agencies in lifting lifestyle standards in the South Pacific.

“We want to bring about a structural change in the South Pacific, not just for a few years but long term, for decades to come,” the World Bank Vice President of East Asia and Pacific Region told Islands Business. With 30 per cent of its assistance directed in grants and about 70 per cent in credit with generous 40-year, zero interest loans, the World Bank has already made significant inroads in dealing with pressing issues in 12 countries.

In Canberra to sign off a new contribution of A$20 million (US$17.453m) from Australia for the World Bank’s Pacific Facility Four last month, van Trostenburg said he wanted to focus on accelerating growth and reducing poverty in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji, Palau and new-comers, the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia.

Arm to the vulnerable Complementing Australia’s injection of aid in the region, the World Bank hopes to “achieve our shared priorities of economic growth, women’s economic empowerment, sustainable oceans and fisheries, disaster risk reduction and healthy populations in the Pacific” in an initial span of four years to July 2018.

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