ADB Development Outlook See 5% Growth In Pacific This Year

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Increases coming from resource extraction, infrastructure investment

By Jemima Garrett

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 2, 2014) – A new report says Pacific economies will grow by up to five per cent this year, driven by an increase in infrastructure expenditure.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) released its annual Asian Development Outlook report on Tuesday which predicts economic growth across the region will reach 5.4 per cent, up from 4.8 per cent in 2013.

However, the report warns more effort is needed to reduce the divide between rich and poor.

ADB Principal Pacific economist, Emma Veve, says while much of the increase will come from resource-rich Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste, there is good news for the smaller South Pacific countries as well.

"A lot of [growth] is infrastructure expenditure, both government funds and also donor funds, but some of the countries have also received windfall revenue gains from their fisheries resources, and the special case of Nauru with the funds they are earning from the refugee processing centre.

"We are expecting a slight increase in growth across the rest of the smaller Pacific countries up to about 4.8 per cent, growing to 4.9 per cent next year in 2015."

Boost expected for Fiji

With Fiji setting its election date for September, Ms Veve said the country's economic buoyancy is likely to continue.

"We are seeing very positive signs in Fiji's growth currently," Ms Veve said.

"Last year they reported 3.6 per cent growth and we saw a vast increase in private sector investment in Fiji last year.

"While it might not keep continuing growing at that very high rate, looking forward, we expect good solid private sector investment into the country and as donor expenditures pick up in the post election period, we think that will hold up growth to quite reasonable levels."

Ms Veve said growth in Solomon Islands is expected to pick up slightly this year but their economy is suffering from declines in gold mining, forestry and agriculture.

She said island nations in the north Pacific are not doing so well because their infrastructure expenditure is continuing at a slower rate.

"We are seeing some recovery of tourism in Palau, but really I think the north Pacific, the FSM (Federated States of Micronesia), performance remains fairly low and the performance across the whole of the north Pacific, we are expecting just under 2 per cent growth this year.

Ms Veve said governments in the Pacific need to target their expenditure to ensure that people most at need have access to basic services, including education, water and health services.

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