TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Our Ocean conference concludes in Palau
The 7th meeting of the Our Ocean conference was held recently in Palau. Delegates from over 80 countries attended, with around 500 people making their way to Koror to convene in person.
The event was co-hosted by President Surangel Whipps Jr and the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change, John Kerry. At the conference’s conclusion they announced that more than 400 pledges and commitments had been made. They total US$16.35 billion. The conference highlighted the link between the health of oceans and combatting climate change.
Coinciding with the first day of the conference was the launch of a new coalition focused on deep sea mining. The Pacific Parliamentarians Alliance on Deep Sea Mining is chaired by Ralph Regenvanu MP, who is leader of the Opposition in Vanuatu. Members come from many Pacific island countries, including Tuvalu, Palau, and Solomon Islands.
Oligarch’s super yacht in Fiji
The knock-on effects of sanctions against Russia’s oligarchs are playing out in Fiji. The super yacht Amadea is currently tied up at Lautoka wharf having recently arrived in Fiji waters. It is believed to be owned by Suleiman Kerimov. Mr Kerimov is a Russian oligarch who has been sanctioned by the USA, and other countries, further to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia last month. Assets such as super yachts have been seized elsewhere in recent weeks.
However, it is not clear what the fate of the Amadea will be. Fijian authorities have confirmed that the captain has been issued with infringement notices regarding alleged irregularities in its entry into Fiji’s jurisdiction. The Director of Public Prosecutions has filed for a restraining order to prevent the Amadea from leaving Fiji waters.
The UK Embassy has confirmed that some of the crew members are British.
China reduces contributions to constituency funds in Solomon Islands
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Solomon Islands has welcomed the ongoing support of the People’s Republic of China for MPs’ constituency development funds.
However, the PAC also heard that the value of the contribution from China had reduced from US$11.1 million last year to US$2.4 million for this year. This is in line with what was expected when Solomon Islands established diplomatic relationships with China at the end of 2019. Beijing agreed to take over the contributions (that had previously been made by Taiwan) to this funding on a temporary basis. The expectation is that support from the PRC to constituencies will transition to being by way of development projects rather than provision of funding to MPs.
The majority of the constituency funding comes from the national budget. The total development budget for this year to be administered by the Ministry of Rural Development is US$29.8 million.
Cook Islands importing workers from Fiji
Even as Pacific island countries begin to reopen to tourists, the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be felt. In addition to ongoing anxiety about potential health impacts, there are also business effects to address.
In Cook Islands, a serious labour shortage is hampering attempts by the tourism sector to get back to pre-pandemic capacity. During the protracted period of closed borders many people employed in the sector left to seek work in New Zealand.
The government estimates that 900 workers are needed for the tourism sector if it is to meet the expected demand. To that end it has opened up the labour market for migrant workers. Business owners in Cook Islands are looking to Fiji to help them fill the gaps in the workforce. Fiji provides an accessible source of relevant skills for tourism operators in Cook Islands.