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Economic growth in Pacific stalled - Mr. A Downer

May 9 2007 at 5:05 PM
PI 

Economic growth in Pacific stalled

At the release of the budget and overseas aid figures, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said aid to the South Pacific should reflect that times have changed.


Pacnews
Wed, 9 May 2007

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CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA ---- Australian foreign minister says economic growth in much of the Pacific has stalled.

Mr Downer said change in aid emphasis was reflected in regional aid flows - with more Australia assistance going to East Asia than to Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific. The total figure for PNG and the South Pacific is $722million (US$638 million).

At the release of the budget and overseas aid figures, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said aid to the South Pacific should reflect that times have changed.

Mr Downer told Radio Australia security and stability have emerged as significant concerns in the region, especially in Melanesia.

“We are looking at ways of re-engineering our aid in the South Pacific because there's no doubt that some of the formulas of the past weren't as good and as successful as we had hoped,” Mr Downer said.

“Mind you, imaging what would have happened to the South Pacific if we hadn't been putting aid into the region, so our aid has at least helped keep the region together, and keep bread on people's tables.”

Mr Downer said corruption was a significant governance issue, pointing to PNG's ranking at number 130, of 163 countries judged on a global corruption index.

HIV-AIDS is described as a “generalised epidemic” in PNG, affecting two percent of Papua New Guineans.

Mr Downer said that without an effective response, HIV-AIDS would affect about 10 percent of PNG's people by 2025.

He said birth rates compound the problems of the Pacific, putting extra strains on education and health.

For example, Mr Downer said recent population growth rates in PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have been 2.5 percent a year or higher. More than 40 percent of the population of Solomon Islands is under 15 years of age.

The aid programme said few countries in the South Pacific have generated economic growth to get ahead of population growth.

 
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