Shipping and climate change in focus for Pacific countries

Negotiations ahead of this week’s meeting of the International Maritime Organization have been tense. Pacific island countries, including Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have been at the forefront of pushing for greater climate ambition. They have argued for a levy of US$100 per tonne of carbon emitted across the sector. The revenue generated would be invested in new, green technology and to assist countries most affected by climate change.

Whilst this approach has been welcomed by many, including the European Union, there has been pushback from others including Russia, China, and Australia. A spokesperson for the Australian government said that their reliance on shipping for trade meant that they would have to tread very carefully on anything that might increase costs. Pacific negotiators have expressed their disappointment with the Australian approach, given its rhetoric of standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with the ‘Pacific family’.

Fiji budget handed down

The coalition government of Fiji has handed down its first full budget since coming into power at the end of last year.

Faced with some very significant structural constraints, including a huge amount of debt, Finance Minister Biman Prasad had a tricky task to achieve some degree of fiscal fixing whilst avoiding causing yet more financial hardship for the population.

The budget entitled “rebuilding our future together” will result in a deficit of FJ$639 million (AU$427 million) which is 4.8% of GDP. Spending priorities have been reoriented in some key areas, notably the health sector. The largest allocation is to education, and this includes writing off FJ$650 million (AU$434 million) of student debt.

Measures to increase revenue include increasing Value Added Tax from 9% to 15% and lifting the excise on tobacco and alcohol by 5%. Increases to corporate taxes are expected to generate around FJ$73.5 million (AU$49.2 million) in revenue.

Other Pacific News:

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia will visit Papua New Guinea this week to meet with Prime Minister James Marape. Ahead of his visit, authorities have clamped down on displays of the West Papuan Morning Star flag.

Australia has appointed Ewen McDonald as its first Special Envoy for the Pacific and Regional Affairs. McDonald will also take up the role of Australian High Commissioner to Fiji. He has previously served as head of the Office of the Pacific in DFAT.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands has called for a review of the security treaty with Australia. This comes further to Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles saying he would like to see Australian military personnel stay in Solomon Islands.

Meetings of senior officials and the Foreign Ministers of the Melanesian Spearhead Group have taken place in Port Vila, Vanuatu. A meeting of the group’s leaders is anticipated at the end of July but no firm dates have been set.

In Samoa, the Supreme Court has overturned the suspension from Parliament of two prominent Opposition members. The court ruled that last year’s suspension of former prime minister Tuilaepa Sai’ele Malielagoi and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi was unconstitutional.


Tess Newton Cain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead for the Griffith Pacific Hub.