On his first official visit to Fiji, Nakao also called on Attorney General and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. Discussions focused on ways ADB can further enhance its support for Fiji to meet its development priorities.
Nakao’s programme also included a visit to the ADB-supported Kinoya wastewater treatment plant near Suva and an official address at the University of the South Pacific (USP), where he discussed potential opportunities and policy priorities for Pacific island countries.
The President commended Fiji for achieving 6 consecutive years of strong economic growth. “The government’s efforts to attract private investment, boost infrastructure development, and introduce free primary and secondary education, are enhancing growth and improving the lives of Fijians,” said Nakao.
“Maintaining this strong momentum, however, will require continued prudent economic management and implementation of reforms announced by the government.”
Fiji has been an ADB member since it achieved independence in 1970. ADB’s first loan to the country was extended to Fiji Development Bank, enabling it to provide financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and agricultural producers. From 1970 ADB has extended more than $USD300 million in total assistance to Fiji, financing the country's development priorities in agriculture, transport, energy, water supply, and SME development.
Under a new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) agreed in December 2014, ADB can provide $USD350 million over 5 years from 2014 to 2018, including $USD100 million committed for a road and jetty project in December 2014. This is more than the amount ADB committed in the entire period from 1970 until end of 2014.
“The Kinoya wastewater treatment plant, which I visited today, is an example of how ADB can provide both financing and global expertise to help governments improve services,” Nakao noted. ADB has supported Fiji’s efforts to improve water supply and sewerage for almost 300,000 people in the greater Suva area.
Improving transport links for remote communities, including rehabilitation of over 100 kilometers of roads and 30 bridges, is another key priority for ADB. ADB’s assistance will ensure that Fiji’s infrastructure projects are resilient to climate change and natural disasters.
In his official address at the USP, Nakao highlighted the potential opportunities for Fiji and rest of the Pacific from greater economic integration with fast growing Asian countries.
For instance, investing in skills will help innovative Pacific firms take advantage of Asia’s extraordinary growth and encourage new investment in the region. Stronger integration, Nakao said, should be supported by larger investment from the public and private sector in communications, sea-ports and airports; and reduced regulatory barriers to trade.
Nakao also said “Now more than ever, a strong and coordinated Pacific voice on climate change is vital”. “A regional approach to common challenges can benefit all, and ADB stands ready to support key priorities identified by Pacific leaders.”
At the USP, Nakao expressed ADB’s commitment to expand support for Pacific islands. ADB's assistance to the Pacific more than doubled in the last decade, with more than US$2 billion in loans, grants and technical assistance approved from 2005 to 2014, compared to US$856 million approved from 1995 to 2004. ADB is planning to increase the minimum allocation of its concessional assistance (grant and low interest rate lending) to the smallest member countries, such as Tuvalu and Nauru, from US$0.7 million to US$6 million per year from 2017.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67members–48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totalled US$22.9 billion, including cofinancing of US$D9.2 billion.