Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Mr Takehiko Nakao and Prime Minister of Fiji Mr Voreqe Bainimarama met today to discuss ways ADB will expand and strengthen its partnership with Fiji. Mr Nakao also held discussions with Attorney-General, and Minister for Economy, Civil Service, and Communications, and ADB Governor Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji and ADB Alternate Governor Mr Ariff Ali.
During the visit, his second to Fiji as ADB President, Mr Nakao visited facilities in Denarau and Natadola which will be the sites of ADB's 52nd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors on 1–5 May 2019. Fiji will be the first Pacific developing member country to host ADB's Annual Meeting. The meeting is the largest gathering of the bank and a unique opportunity for ADB Governors, government officials, the private sector, and development partners and experts to discuss critical issues and challenges facing Asia and the Pacific. The theme of the 2019 Annual Meeting is "Prosperity Through Unity."
"I am impressed by the beautiful venues and high-quality facilities selected for the Annual Meeting," said Mr Nakao. "ADB's Annual Meeting is an excellent opportunity to highlight the strength of the Fijian economy and progress across the wider Pacific region. In the meeting, we will discuss, among others, the development of sustainable tourism and management of ocean health which is important issues not only for Fiji and other Pacific countries but also for many Asian countries."
Mr Nakao commended Fiji's impressive economic growth and prudent fiscal management. Fiji has achieved steady growth since 2010—longer than any period since it gained independence in 1970. Average annual growth during 2010–2018 is estimated at 3.1%.
"The government has exercised prudent macroeconomic management in recent years. This has attracted new investments and created an environment in which businesses can grow and generate more jobs," said Mr Nakao. "ADB will continue working closely with Fiji to support the country's efforts to achieve sustained, inclusive, private sector-led growth that brings benefits to the entire population."
"With our economy charting record growth and with an educated, talented, and ambitious workforce at our disposal, there is ample room to strengthen our longstanding partnership with ADB. Our priorities for that partnership are clear; we're going to attract more investment, we're going to further boost our climate resilience, we're going to continue to build confidence in our economy by increasing engagement with the private sector, we're going to continue developing a world-class civil service, and we're going to develop even greater networks of infrastructure for the benefit of Fijians everywhere, all through the lens of accountability, transparency, and good governance," said Mr. Bainimarama. "Our hosting of the upcoming ADB 52nd Annual Meeting is a proud recognition—among many—of our capacity to host major international events, and we look forward to showcasing Fiji's development achievements at the meeting in Denarau this May."
ADB has committed $593 million of assistance to Fiji since it joined the bank in 1970. Since 2014, ADB has helped the government mobilize large financing packages for investments, including concessional funds from development partners such as the Green Climate Fund. Ongoing ADB projects include the $100 million Transport Infrastructure Investment Sector Project, the $42 million Fiji Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Management Investment Program, the $15 million Sustained Private Sector-Led Growth Reform Program, and the $50 million Emergency Assistance for Recovery from Tropical Cyclone Winston.
The Sustained Private Sector-Led Growth Reform Program is helping the government rebalance the economy from its present focus on public investment towards greater private investment and private sector participation. The program supports improvements in public financial management; the policy, legal, and institutional framework for state-owned enterprises and public-private partnerships; and the business and investment climate.
The government and ADB are now preparing a new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) to guide joint efforts in 2019–2023. The CPS will support the government's National Development Plan and is expected to prioritize actions to promote private sector investment and growth, broaden access to quality social services and economic opportunities, and build resilience and reduce economic volatility, including through investments in climate change and disaster-resilient infrastructure assets.
ADB expects to invest approximately $280 million in Fiji in 2019–2020. Major planned projects include a loan to expand sewerage infrastructure in Suva and policy-based loans to improve the business environment and public sector management. ADB has already started preparation of a Nadi River flood protection project, which is expected to be co-financed with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA. The project will protect Nadi and surrounding areas—a vital hub for logistics and tourism in the region—from frequent flooding. ADB will also continue to mobilize co-financing from development partners, such as the European Investment Bank and the World Bank.
ADB is building its presence in 11 Pacific island countries to increase the impact of its growing program of assistance. The expansion will involve the conversion of four extended missions—Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu—into country offices, and the establishment of seven new country offices in the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu. ADB currently has resident missions in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, a Pacific liaison and coordination office in Sydney, and a Pacific subregional office in Fiji.
Across the Pacific region, ADB is significantly scaling up financing to help developing member countries achieve sustainable economic and social development, while strengthening climate and disaster resilience. The volume of active ADB projects in the Pacific has doubled every 5 years since 2005 and exceeded $3 billion as of the end of 2018. The volume of active ADB projects in the Pacific is expected to surpass $4 billion by 2020.