Apr 10, 2021 Last Updated 4:12 AM, Apr 8, 2021

Wooing PNG in right earnest

Australia and New Zealand’s relationships with Pacific Islands nations historically seem to have been divided along the two main sub-regions of Melanesia and Polynesia. The possible exception is Fiji, where both the ANZAC nations have had more or less the same level of involvement. Perhaps, it has to do with Fiji’s acknowledged status as the gateway to the region—the doorway to both Melanesia and Polynesia. Geographically, too, Australia is closer to the Melanesian nations of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, while New Zealand’s proximity is to such Polynesian countries as Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands, besides others. These old historical and geographical relationships along sub-regional lines have carried on into the modern era with political, business and people to people relationships having developed along these very lines. Small wonder then, that Auckland is now known as the world’s largest Polynesian city, which also hosts the world’s largest Polynesian festival every year in February. Australia, though, does not have as representative a population of Melanesian people as Auckland does Polynesians. But Australian engagement in business and investment terms in Melanesia greatly outstrips similar engagement of New Zealand in Polynesia.

...to read more buy your personal copy at

http://www.islandsbusiness.com/subscribe/

One of my most cherishable memories at the University of the South Pacific is that of a visit to the journalism students’ newsroom by a small group of quaintly dressed people, some of them wearing heavy furs and thick skintight leather jackets, rugged blankets and heavy boots. And it was a sweaty 36 degrees on a humid Suva summer day! The group, which was visiting the university, joined in the celebrations the students had hosted to welcome me into the journalism programme.

They sang and danced and yodelled for the better part of an hour with great abandon. They even joined the students in a meke—all the time looking perfectly at home in their incongruous garb, while many of us were fanning ourselves with handkerchiefs. We had heard that they were members of an indigenous people scattered across several countries that girdle the Arctic Circle in the farthest northern reaches of the globe, called the Sami people. But that’s about all we knew about them.

It was pre-Wi-fi and smartphone days and it was futile googling, what with the glacially paced half a megabyte internet connection that served the university. The leader of the group, a tall fit man in his forties who spoke English quite eloquently, told us about the Sami people after the singing and dancing, over sandwiches and fruit juices. Many of us have known the Sami as Lapps from Lappland, terms they look upon as pejoratives and never use themselves. Like all indigenous peoples, they are ancient and the extent of their domain predates modern nations. Some 160,000 Sami people are spread across Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia today. They are one of the few recognised indigenous people from Scandinavia.

...to read more buy your personal copy at

http://www.islandsbusiness.com/subscribe/

In his second and final stint at the helm of the world’s most powerful country, President Barack Obama can afford to go for broke. He does not have to deal with any possibility of a re-election and knows this is his opportunity to give his best shot at fixing things that are broken without having to soft pedal on important issues.

The 57th inauguration speech, which he delivered last month, showed the sense of purpose with which he intends to deal with the slew of serious issues that have confronted the United States, particularly in the past four years. There is clearly an undercurrent of urgency in the manner that he referred to one of the most contentious issues of them all—climate change, which received top billing in the speech. Interestingly, the subject received little attention in the run-up to the election.

In last month’s inaugural address, he said: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.” Republican challenger Mitt Romney had trumpeted hard about America’s self sufficiency in fossil fuels and cutting imports and consequently, dependency on the Middle East for the bulk of its energy needs. The powerful appeal of such a possibility sounded far more potent than any talk of developing alternative energy sources, which indeed Obama soft pedalled in the run-up to the election.

...to read more buy your personal copy at

http://www.islandsbusiness.com/subscribe/

Advances in weather prediction technologies, the ubiquity of telecommunications networks, proliferation of mobile devices and a better prepared administration, all played important roles in greatly minimising the risk to human life and limb during last month’s Cyclone Evan in Samoa, Wallis and Futuna and Fiji.

The trail of destruction the cyclone left in its path as it turned out, was the closest the islands came to the mother of all apocalypses pencilled in the ancient Mayan calendar for December 21, 2012. The human toll in cyclones of similar intensity in past years was far higher as was the number of people injured. The time taken to bring back normalcy after the disaster was also far longer than it would be this time around, thanks to governments of affected islands as well as richer nations in the region being in a greater state of readiness in their efforts to restore normality than they used to be in decades past.

This is primarily because natural disaster prediction technologies, warning systems, preparedness regimes and mitigation initiatives have undergone great progress in the past decade or so, particularly after the Asian tsunami that cut a transcontinental swathe of destruction killing some 200,000 people from Southeast Asia to the coasts of the Horn of Africa. Also, the effects of climate change, which are widely believed to progressively intensify the wrath of natural forces with greater frequency over the coming years, has galvanised governments to be better prepared for disaster management. 

...to read more buy your personal copy at

http://www.islandsbusiness.com/subscribe/

Studies about how significant a role the private sector plays in the economies of the Pacific islands and how it affects the lives and living standards of the islanders are hard to come by and no doubt present significant challenges at every level to policy-makers.

The private sector is a much studied and monitored sector in the industrialised world because it often constitutes the engine room of many a western economy. For instance, bulk of the economy in New Zealand is run primarily by hundreds of thousands of small businesses, each run by a handful of employees, many of them being owner employees. Pacific islands leaders formally recognised the important role the private sector can play when they drafted the Pacific Plan in the early part of the last decade, when they accorded it the status of one of the cornerstones of developmental progress.

That has seen the creation of a region-wide private sector organisation like the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), and encouraged the formation of a string of national private sector organisations (NPSOs) around the region. But there is little by way of research or statistical analyses to help paint a picture of what role the sector plays in the lives of the islanders.

To begin with, only a handful of Pacific islands have a private sector of a size that can make any impact on their respective economies. Most others are almost solely dependent on development aid and remittances to meet their budgets. That is perhaps the perception that is at the root of the reasons for the lack of information on the role of the private sector in the islands. Interestingly, there were reports about two New Zealand based studies related to the private sector in the Pacific islands region last month. 

...to read more buy your personal copy at

http://www.islandsbusiness.com/subscribe/

 

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.