Oct 19, 2018 Last Updated 6:03 AM, Oct 9, 2018

By the first quarter of 2015, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) hopes the construction of its new base in Fiji would have started. Green light for this has been granted by the host government, and in keeping with the host of regional organisation arrangements, Fiji will fund the entire project. Cost of the Pacific Village is estimated at US$27.71 million. “Currently our offices in Suva are spread out in 7 different locations,” said Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General of the SPC “Through the Pacific Village, we will all come to one central place, which was something we had been wanting all along.”

The Pacific Village will be built at Nabua, where bulk of SPC’s work in Fiji is located. Artist impressions of the Village show a series of office buildings with a distinct Pacific architecture. Staff at SPC Nabua will have to be relocated to other offices to allow for the demolition of the current buildings, some of which were built for Allied troops in World War II. Additional land will have to be sought from a local secondary school that is neighbour to the SPC Nabua office. 

Also for the new year, Dr Tukuitonga hopes to continue the changes he has started in the workings of the Commission. One of these is moving away from short-term project-funding to longer term programme financing. Australia has already signed into these programme funding, said Dr Tukuitonga and New Zealand and the European Union might do so too in 2015. The SPC is also exploring new funding, including those in the Arab peninsula.

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Coca Cola Amatil reported a 15 per cent decline in profits this year to A$182 million (US$158m)but the figure could have been worse if its outlets in Fiji and Papua New Guinea had not performed exceptionally. Its operations in Australia and New Zealand were challenging “across all channels” in the financial year just past, the CCA group managing director Alison Watkins told media in Melbourne last month.

“The decline was exacerbated by reduced promotional activity to the channel, a decline in sales headcount and reduction in call frequency during 2013-14, which resulted in below required service standards,” she noted. Of the multinational’s PNG operations, Coca Cola noticed “strong growth in volumes and earnings” in all sectors of trading during the year.

While neighbouring Indonesia was plagued by falling currency and a chronic competitive market, PNG managed to power away to high growth with a recent upsurge in investments in the resources sector in 2014. PNG delivered a volume growth of 22.2 per cent during the year. Earnings in Fiji for the country’s rum production and sales of imported Australian soft drink sector increased by 12 per cent during the same period while New Zealand experienced a poor, weather-affected start to the year and as such faced a downturn in trading.

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Fine Food Australia is the region’s biggest annual food and beverage trade show. Featuring hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors and buyers from around the world, potentially millions of dollars worth of deals are discussed and finalised at the show. The 30-year-old show is possibly the best platform for Pacific Island food and beverage manufacturers to display their wares. Collectively, the Pacific Islands have been a comparatively recent entrant. Over the past four years, a number of food and beverage manufacturers from island nations as well as companies that import island produce and package them in Australia and New Zealand have participated at the show under a collective Pacific Island banner.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s trade arm, Pacific Islands Trade & Invest, has been facilitating the participation of island food and beverage exporters mainly by sponsoring a large-sized stand at the venue, collectively used by up to eight exporters displaying their products. Promotional and logistic assistance is also provided to the participants. This was the fourth year that the trade arm helped coordinate and host island participants. At last month’s show at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, exporters from Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Niue participated.

A continuous stream of potential buyers, new business contacts and interested parties thronged the Pacific Islands stand that hosted eight companies at the show that ran between September 15 and 19. Pacific Island exhibitors at the Pacific Islands booth ranged from coffee and cocoa growers, chocolatiers, honey producers and coconut product makers to manufacturers of packaged foods, bottled water, beverages and even alcoholic drinks.

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The National Petroleum Company of Papua New Guinea (NPCP), the third largest shareholder of the world class Papua New Guinea Liquefied Natural Gas project (PNG LNG) is estimated to be valued at US$8 billion to US$9 billion if it is listed on an international stock exchange on pricing basis. NPCP, which holds the State’s share in the PNG LNG project, owns 16.6% behind Oil Search which holds 29% and the operator, ExxonMobil which holds 33.3%.

The project is expected to produce more than 210 million metric tonnes of gas over its estimated 30 years of operation. NPCP chairman Frank Kramer said that the net worth of the company depends on how they value the entity.

Kramer said the important thing is that it represents true value for its seven million plus Papua New Guinean shareholders. He said NPCP has huge potential to grow if it is managed properly and it gets appropriate support as custodian of the project. NPCP managing director Wapu Sonk said US$50million worth of gas has been sent to Asian markets in seven shipments so far, five in June and two in July. “By the end of the year we are expecting about 60 shipments to overseas markets,” he said. The marketing destinations are Japan, China and Taiwan.

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Setting up a regional development bank gained the support of the Association of Development Financing Institutions of the Pacific meeting in Nuku’alofa last month. Tonga’s Acting Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu floated the idea when he opened the regional conference. He noted the establishment of the Asian Development Bank, a Caribbean Development Bank and an African Development Bank and the most recent announcement of another development bank by the BRICS group of countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“I urge all of you, the bank practitioners and institutions to move the development bank from being recognised as a national aspiration to a regional ambition by seriously considering the setting-up of a Pacific Development Bank,” Vaipulu told delegates. He also moved for this regional bank to be set up in Tonga, saying that the government would fully support it.

He suggested the proposed Pacific Development Bank would provide an alternative for financial institutions sometimes accused of attaching stringent and unfair conditions to their developmental loan facilities. General Manager and CEO of Tonga’s Development Bank, Leta Havea Kami told Islands Business magazine that such an institution would be a “conduit for funding to come to small island states.” Although the regional development bank has been discussed in previous meetings over the years, Kami said that since the challenge has been made at a government level, it has become more specific.

“It’s now about how to actually get about setting it up. We can do the ground work but it’s for ministers to do the lobbying.” This was the 29th Annual General Meeting for ADFIP. Acting PM Vaipulu noted that the countries in the region were small and served small markets, but the impact it makes are significant.

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Guide to the 49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting – Nauru 2018

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