Fiji has made history, says Bainimarama

Fiji has seen history made “two times over” as the first Pacific Island to host the Asian Development Bank (A.D.B.) Annual Meeting this year, said Fiji's Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.

Speaking at the official opening for the Board of Governors meeting on Friday, Bainimarama sang his nation’s praises, especially the last 10 years of development that has made this largest ever international gathering possible.

Tourism, transport and roads, internet connectivity, Nadi International Airport and the flights it sees have all come a long way just a decade, and Fiji intends to go even further, Mr. Bainimarama said.

A massive project beginning later this year to upgrade facilities on Denarau Island will see Fiji able to host up to 4,500 people, putting them in the running to host World  Bank Group and International Monetary Fund meetings.

“Historically, when it came to big international conferences, we Pacific Islands countries have always been guests in another’s home because we were seen to lack the capacity to host such gatherings ourselves,” he said.

“But the A.D.B’s show of confidence in our country by bringing this annual meeting to our country marks the end of an era of missed opportunities for the Pacific.

“Today it isn’t upon us, the nations of the Pacific, to go out to the world. Instead, the world has come to us,” the Prime Minister said, and was met with enthusiastic applause.

But as well as congratulating the development of his nation, and duly thanking the A.D.B. for its role in it, Mr. Bainimarama had words of caution on the threat of climate change too.

He said while the bank’s “foray” into private sector financing, particularly with renewable energy is commendable, but not necessarily enough.

“Emerging challenges facing small states will take an even broader, smarter and more nuanced approach to address,” the Prime Minister said.

“The World Bank for example has recently granted Fiji access to concessional finance, or I.D.A. funds on the basis not on the size of our economy but on the vulnerability to worsening climate impacts.

“We hope that A.D.B. will follow suit with its (Asian Development Fund) A.D.F. facility.”

President Takehiko Nakao, in his remarks, said the bank intends to develop a “detailed proposal” for the next replenishment of the A.D.F. for 2021-2024.

The Fund, unlike other A.D.B. financing, provides grants to lower-income developing member countries (D.M.C’s). While still a D.M.C., Fiji’s strong economy often means it receives less grants from A.D.B.

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