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Forum Secretariat, Suva
2 - 3 December 1997


Mr. Chairman Distinguished Delegates SPOCC Heads Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me welcome you all to the 1997 Budget and Work Programme of the FOC and to the Forum Secretariat. We are pleased also to see many of our SPOCC colleagues. I believe that attending each others meeting is one sure way of enabling us to know about each others activities, and in the process enables us to do our work better in the interest of our members.

2. As in previous years, the FOC December session is always an important meeting for the Secretariat. It follows on from the Forum, and provides the first opportunity for the Secretariat to respond to the outcomes of the Summit. The Budget itself is the best mechanism of translating these decisions into activities that aimed at addressing those areas that are of high priority to our members.

3. But before coming to that let me touch on one or two other important matters. In our paper we have tried to report on our follow-up action as required on a number of issues. One issue that of particular interest to our members is the Summit hosted by Japan. It has been a major success. The Declaration contains a number of issues Japan and the Forum countries can work together on to advance their collective interest. The fact that the Summit has now become a regular event is in itself a major achievement. For the Forum it provides a mechanism at the highest political level for the consideration of issues of regional and international importance to the Forum and Japan.

4. Agenda Item 8 deals with Remuneration Arrangements for the Secretariat staff. In brief it recommends a restoration of the terms and conditions of all staff of the Secretariat to the level agreed to in 1994, which involved very substantial reductions from previous levels. It is based on the result of the review mandated by FOC in recognition of the need to ensure that as an organisation we maintain our competitiveness in getting the staff to maintain our effectiveness in serving our members. Having the right calibre of staff is so fundamental in the achievement of our agreed objectives as an organisation. And I commend the paper accordingly.

5. Coming to the budget itself, it is formulated within the parameters agreed to in Rarotonga. There are a number of changes outlined, but they are all aimed at making it easier to understand and more importantly to ensure that the Budget and Work Programme reflect the aims and policies of our members and the Corporate Plan considered and agreed to in Rarotonga.

6. In total the budget calls for an expenditure of F$11.28m, out of which F$8.35m is to be provided by the donors. Overall there is reduction of $2.8m compared with last year’s figure. In line with the decision in Rarotonga, there will not be any increase in members’ assessed contribution. In total I believe it is a realistic budget and I commend it to the meeting.

7. This is my last FOC meeting. Later in the month I finish my contract after serving in the Secretariat for 6 years. I cannot let this occasion pass without thanking you all for the support and guidance provided that has enabled us to do our work for our members. As I said in Rarotonga I owe a lot to the staff for their support and commitment. Here in the Secretariat a tradition of dedication and commitment is well entrenched contributing to the way the Secretariat has been able to serve its members. As I often said also without staff there is no Secretariat. And I want to take this opportunity again to thank each and everyone of them for their support and hard work.

8. My last comments go to my successor, Mr. Noel Levi. Mr. Levi is here as part of our handing over process. We choose FOC for him to observe because in our view this is the key meeting for the Secretariat. Let me wish him well and I know that you would give him the same level of support and cooperation that you gave me during the last six years.

9. With those comments let me welcome you all once again and it is my pleasure that I now formally open the 1997 FOC Budget Session.

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