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Samoa rolls out red carpet to the world

Proud moment for donors’ darling

It’s Samoa’s biggest moment on the global stage. The third United Nations Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) Conference that gets under way on September 1 is the largest international event not just the tiny country but the entire Pacific Islands region has ever hosted. More than 3000 delegates from nearly 200 countries will meet for the four-day conference in this picture-perfect tropical paradise to deliberate on the future of low lying developing island states that share similar challenges to their sustainability – from climate change to a spectrum of other vital issues.

Samoa as the venue for SIDS couldn’t have been more appropriate. The country is an excellent example of the multiple challenges that all small island states face in addition to the tyranny of distance that it shares with its Pacific neighbours. More importantly, it is an equally fine instance of how it has worked concertedly to surmount these challenges with enviable success: it has in the past year graduated from the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). It is the first to do so in the Pacific Islands region. For more than a decade and a half, Samoa has often been described as the darling of global aid agencies. It has been stable socially and politically, unlike many of its neighbouring island states, and has done reasonably well in the UN’s human development indices. It has been successful in developing public private partnerships, particularly in the aviation, public works and telecommunication sectors and has managed its economy deftly, despite repeatedly devastated by natural disasters. Though its economy enjoyed sustained growth in the final years of the twentieth century and the early years of the present one, it slowed down considerably owing to the global financial crisis and a series of natural disasters in the past few years. But the Ministry of Finance predicts a modest upswing over the next few years. These impressive achievements have given Samoa the confidence to take up a leadership role in SIDS affairs. “If Samoa is able to utilise resources wisely to graduate out of LDC, then development partners must continue supporting SIDS, especially those that are in the LDC list, and have the confidence that they too will graduate,” says Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. “That is our message to the development partners.”

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