11 May 2019, Suva Fiji, FEMM Government Press Release bg Renate Rivers. The Forum Economic Ministers meeting (FEMM) which concluded in Suva yesterday responded positively to the private sectors two main requests – a Pacific Business Travel Card and a seat at the table for climate financing negotiations.
In their action plan issued after the meeting ministers committed to enhanced engagement with the private sector in the climate and related infrastructure financing discussions and decision making at the national and regional levels and to strengthen households and MSMEs’ resilience across the region, in relation to, access to finance, capacity development, and affordable and appropriate insurance products (including, micro-insurance).
Adaptation and resilience measures have been central to climate financing discussions at FEMM 2019, with the Pacific Resiliency Facility – a proposed regional funding mechanism spearheaded by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat – dominating much of the agenda, with high expectations for the Facility to fill the gap where climate financing has historically fallen short for small-scale enterprises.
Regional representatives of the Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) met with key Pacific Economic Ministers on the final day of FEMM.
Stephen Lyon of PIPSO told journalists there are good reasons why negotiations for climate financing should include the private sector.
“Our economies are extremely vulnerable to climatic events just as our societies are. And the quicker that businesses get back to business after an event, either by being not as damaged or being able to access insurance and remediation work more quickly, means that our economies get back to action quicker; people get their jobs back; people get paid; and the country develops and rolls on.”
Echoing sentiments shared earlier by Economic Ministers in a public seminar, Lyon reiterated the need for access to affordable insurance options in the face of increasing instances of storms and adverse climatic events.
“Companies tend not to underwrite the most severe events in any reasonable way.
“We’ve asked the Forum to look at the mechanisms possible for governments to assist the private sector in accessing reasonable affordable insurance for the coverage we need to be able to recover from events that could affect our economies.”
In her remarks to the closing media conference Forum Secretariat Secretary General Meg Taylor expanded on the PIPSO proposition for a Pacific travel card, allowing ease of entry throughout the region for Pacific businesspeople.
“There are people that wish to travel from one country to another but because of the transit points, you need visas and that can take some time. It makes doing business difficult working across the region and it’s a barrier that can be resolved.
”The FEMM did not specifically endorse a travel card but in its action plan it recognised “easy and quick intra-Forum travel, could generate for both national and regional trade and investment flows”.
Dame Meg explained other moves to ease travel.
“Vanuatu and Australia have already begun negotiations on a bilateral type of travel arrangement. Anecdotally, New Zealand has been supportive and I think the commitment that Australia has made in Vanuatu will spread to a Pacific commitment if we take the statement made by their representative.”
FEMM Chair and Nauru’s Minister for Development, David Adeang, said there was discussion around a Pacific-Australia Pass but there were no firm commitments from Australia due to uncertainty as they await the outcome of their federal elections later this month.
On climate funding possibilities, PIPSO were open to accessible mechanisms that would allow for private sector involvement.
“There isn’t a lot of funding available for the private sector. We don’t generally look for funding as such, we look for access to finance and equity. Most funding agencies won’t work to for-profit organisations. In that sense, we struggle a little bit and that’s why we do want to be involved in the Green Climate Fund because GCF specifically has the mechanism for private sector. But generally, there isn’t a lot of money out there for private sector development. There’s bits and pieces but it’s not extensive.”
There appears to be movement for inclusion of the private sector in climate finance considerations, with the Forum Economic Ministers tasking the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to continue engaging the private sector in further development of the Pacific Resilience Facility.
“Ultimately the regional dialogues and decisions we make have got to be continued at the national level,” said Samoa’s Minister for Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti.
“Climate financing and concessional funding from bilateral and development partners, and also work with the banking system and see it assist with the private sector to invest in new technology, commercial farming and provide support for our people, small farmers and businesses in the community.”
Another notable outcome of the day’s discussions was the endorsement and launch of the Pacific Regional Tender Portal, an instrument that will allow for tenders by governments and inter-governmental organisations to be shared online for all to know what is available throughout the Pacific.