Just the other day, I received in my inbox a draft copy of the 2012 Review of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. It’s a fairly lengthy 79 page, 2.29MB document which I have not thoroughly read just yet. But just skimming through some highlights from it were:
- that the PIFS is heavily influenced by Australia, New Zeland and the European Union,
- that the PIFS is unresponsive to Pacific Leaders,
- that the PIFS lacks the mandate and regional consensus around key areas, including trade,
- that the PIFS management is weak,
- that the PIFS is incapable of delivering in key areas,
- that the Pacific Plan should be made ‘aspirational’,
- that the PIFS has an under-developed and aging operating structure, and
- that the PIFS staff are underpaid.
I’m not saying that the PIFS is a waste of time because it has achieved many successes along the way, but quite simply the geo-political and economic currents of the world have changed. The world we lived in 30 years ago or even as recently as 5 years ago has completely changed and so the custodian of the Pacific Plan has to under go a major shake up for its Pacific Islander member states to naviagate this new, exciting yet precarious future.
The one key area I see for achieveing this by our leaders in our respective countries is to start taking ownership of the PIFS more seriously. Especially and more than ever PNG has to take the lead in this because we repesent one of the larger economies among the PIFS members. So to do this we simply have to put more of our own money into the PIFS.
Currently, as per this draft review, the PIFS annual budget of $26,980,008.00 (Fiji Dollars) is split up into the following:
- Regular Budget: $4,923,567
- Core Budget: $13,134,222
- Extra Budget: $8,922,219
The regular budget is financed largely by member states so, among others and as an example, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu each pay $79,966 per annum. Papua New Guinea pays $221,192, and Australia and New Zealand each pay $1,498,230. Now for all the billion dollar issues that face our region, is that all we are committed at throwing to the PIFS to resouce the execution of our Pacific Plan?
In terms of generating an ownership of the PIFS by member states, the core budget is funded entirely by Australia ($10,546,738) and New Zealand ($2,587,484). Isn’t there something wrong with that? When will PNG wake up and pay its way in this region? PNG leaders love to talk about Australia in our eternal love/hate reltionship, but PNG has to start putting its money where its mouth is.
And lastly the extra budget, which is funded (among others) again by Australia ($1,180,000) and New Zealand ($1,637,143) but also with a group of other friends such as the People’s Republic of China ($531,000), the Commonwealth Secretariat ($175,000), the European Union ($4,048,309) and Japan ($446,870).
In short we can’t expect much from our region if we don’t contribute meaningfully to the PIFS. The PIFS has brought together the important things that make us Pacific Islanders over the last 40 years. It has taken us a while to get used to each other as we are all different, yet our commonalities are strong and it is these common ties that have kept us together. The Pacific is the last frontier and we have watched the rest of the world build and destroy themslevs then build themslves again. So we are in the best position now to learn from the worlds mistakes, but we won’t own the future if we don’t own the issues at hand today.