Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy speaking at the official opening of the 2015 Pacific Update Conference at the USP today.Photo: SUPPLIED.
More than 100 regional policy makers, academics, development practitioners and representatives from international organisations converged in Suva today to present and discuss the latest economic and social developments in the Pacific region.
Their presence at the two-day 2015 Pacific Update Conference at the University of the South Pacific (USP) provides an opportunity for the participants to analyse the development trends in the region, question its relevance and advise policy makers on the way forward.
While opening the conference, Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Hon. Dr Mahendra Reddy said participants at the conference will discuss ways to advance the values of the Pacific communities.
Minister Reddy said the Pacific Update Conference had greatly assisted Fiji and other Pacific Island Countries (PICs) “to walk and work in tandem with the rest of the world”.
“Our people share a common heritage – the quest for better economic status that will enable us to become fully independent nations. We are also bound together by common traditions and our rich cultural heritage,” Minister Reddy said.
Highlighting, this year’s conference theme “Pacific development in a changing global economy”, Minister Reddy said achieving economic growth with balanced development, is a challenge.
“Most of the PICs are today changing from being primarily agricultural to service dominated economies without necessarily passing through a prominent phase of industrialization. This could weaken the resilience building aspect of the PICs.
“Globally, while this trend has been evident for developing countries, another trend noted along with this is that the expanding services sector has also contributed to a growing share of world trade in services which is not that prominently evident for PICs which again demonstrates a weak element of growing domestic economy,” Minister Reddy said.
He added that the PICs needed to determine how they can raise income from the limited number of existing factors of production such as land, labour and natural resources.
“Policy makers in the region should also be mindful of how strategies are implemented so as not to further widen the gap between urban and interior population thus creating impetus for urban drift,” Minister Reddy said.
Minister Reddy said PICs must embrace globalisation and strengthen their ability to create opportunities from their smallness.
“To date, very little has been done as a Pacific bloc to address Pacific problem. Fiji has taken a lead role in this and I do hope member countries understand the genuine desire of Fiji to raise living standards of the bloc. Fiji will not waiver away from its commitment towards this endeavour,” he stressed.
The 2015 Pacific Update Conference, which will end tomorrow, covers a number of issues affecting the lives of people within the Pacific region and have implications for the global economy.