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By Virisila Buadromo FM96/Navtarang/Viti FM

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (June 20, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji has come to the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) to lobby for the transfer of the Asian Development Bank regional office from Port Vila to Suva - but is aware of the opposition this will face.

It is understood that the Asian Development Bank -- a multilateral development agency -- is keen to relocate the office to Suva. This is because it will be easier for it to work with other regional agencies from there.

However, last year¹s Fiji coup put plans on hold.

Fiji Permanent Secretary for Finance Sila Kotobalavu says he will raise the matter on the last day of the FEMM, which opened today in Rarotonga. The Fiji delegation is comprised of Kotobalavu and senior finance ministry official Paula Uluinaceva.

They are aware of the opposition Fiji may face to the proposal to move the office to Suva, especially following ongoing criticism against Fiji because of the number of regional organizations already located in Suva.

However, Fiji’s position is that many of the institutions and organizations that the Asian Development Bank deals with are located in Suva.



By Laumanu Petelo of Radio and TV Tonga

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (June 21, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers have endorsed a Forum Economic Action Plan 2001 that includes 15 guidelines for good land policies. It follows a two-day meeting in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

The fifth annual Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) considered ways of addressing key challenges facing the region including land issues, intellectual property rights and economic concerns.

The ministers recognized the important role of land in enhancing political and economic stability and noted 15 Potential Guidelines for Good Land Policy.

Their communiqué said these are:

# Landowners

* Indigenous communities, as landowners, should be directly and systematically included in discussions on issues relating to their land.

* Landowners require specific education to ensure they have the capacity to contribute to land policy development and are able to fully participate in the management of their assets.

* Landowners must maintain control of their land and they should receive adequate compensation for use of this land.

# Government

* The government should establish a system of predictable market rules and remove excessive, restrictive or intrusive regulations to create a stable and enabling environment for the market in land to operate.

* The social, cultural and environmental impacts of changes in land policy should be carefully examined and monitored.

* Wide-ranging public consultation can result in the development of stronger and more accepted land policy.

* Government can play an important role in providing the public with clearly presented information on the laws, regulations and process pertaining to land ownership and use, as well as maintaining a record of land ownership and transfer.

* Authorities responsible for making decisions on land issues need to have clearly defined accountabilities and their activities should be supported by adequate and ongoing training.

* Government needs to undertake an ongoing examination of land policy to ensure it continues to meet real needs and also to facilitate the ongoing evolutionary adaptation of the system.

# Judiciary

* The judiciary needs to enjoy the strong confidence of the people for its ability to interpret the law impartially, consistently and uniformly.

* Justice, of uniform quality, needs to be accessible by all members of society, regardless of their financial position or geographic location.

* A multi-tiered system, comprising judicial and non-judicial (formal and informal) elements, needs to be in place to interpret land laws, each with a clearly defined sphere of responsibility.

# Other groups

* Government needs to practice and promote broad-based land policy discussions involving civil society and development partners.

* Government can improve the reach of information on land issues through utilizing civil society and media channels.

* Development partners can provide a source of technical and financial assistance in support of land policy reform but this needs to occur in a considered and coordinated manner.

OTHER ISSUES: The ministers also agreed that an effective system of intellectual property rights is one element which contributes to a confident and secure business environment and can encourage investment. A draft model law was being developed on the protection of traditional knowledge relating to cultural expressions.

Ministers gave continued priority to improving statistics in the region and called on donors and regional organisations to strengthen their cooperation in this area. Ministers also endorsed the further development of a regional capacity to coordinate and enhance technical assistance for major statistical activities and surveys in the region.

Ministers requested the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to undertake a stocktake and report to FEMM 2002 on progress made with the implementation of the Forum's Accountability Principles and the FEMM Action Plan. Ministers also commended for adoption by the Forum the Guiding Principles of Best Practices for Forum Island Country Legislatures.

Ministers reiterated their FEMM 1998 recognition of the important role of tourism in economic development and called for greater priority and financial support in this area.

Ministers received the donor policy statement put forward by Australia and New Zealand on harmonizing donor policies and practices in the Pacific, and future dialogue on the impacts of this.

Principles for Financial Sector Reform were adopted to make financial sectors more conducive to economic development.

The meeting endorsed the Forum Secretariat’s work in support of Forum Island Countries in their discussions with the OECD on their Harmful Tax Competition Initiative, with the objective of reaching an outcome which recognizes the needs of both developing and developed nations. Ministers also encouraged those Forum members who have been identified to enact and implement the legislative changes required to combat money laundering.

Ministers supported a review of commercial laws in Forum Island Countries and its value in the context of work on new regional trade arrangements currently being developed.

The need to tackle poverty, including the poverty of opportunity, was increasingly important as the region adjusted to the challenges and potential benefits of globalization. The role of leaders and policymakers to build on the opportunities arising from globalization, while managing and minimizing the risks, was highlighted.

The Ministers will forward a report on their deliberations to Forum Leaders who meet in Nauru in August.

The following countries were represented at Rarotonga: Australia, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Observers: Asian Development Bank (ADB), Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS), Pacific Financial and Technical Advisory Centre (PFTAC), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the University of the South Pacific (USP).



By Tukaha Mua of Fiji Television

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (June 20, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Vanuatu Finance Minister Joe Carlo has joined those opposing current treatment of the Pacific Islands by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Speaking to reporters, Carlo said: "Individual countries acting as sovereign states have the right to create their own tax laws within their own jurisdictions."

Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Nauru and the Marshall Islands have all come under scrutiny from the OECD in recent times, with all being on a regional tax-haven black list.

After a daylong Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM) workshop, Carlo, a former head of the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation, said his country "wants to keep its revenues from operating as an offshore banking facility."

His comments came as the region's Finance Ministers began their formal session with presentations by Professors John Overton, from Massey University in New Zealand, on Land Issues in the Region, and Kamal Puri, from the University of Queensland, on Intellectual Property Rights.

While the two issues are expected to take up most of the discussions today, tomorrow is also expected to be interesting. A number of countries are out to garner support for a regional stand against recent statements from the OECD, whose members include the world's most powerful economies.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate had earlier spoken of the need for regional "togetherness" on the issue.

Carlo says support from Vanuatu will be strong.

The FEMM meeting is being covered by regional editors attending a workshop on economic reporting.

The workshop is coordinated by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) with the AusAID Pacific Media Initiative, Forum Secretariat and PINA local members Cook Islands Television, Radio Cook Islands and Cook Islands Herald.

It follows up a PINA/AusAID PMI business and economic reporting course for editors held in Suva.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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