Opening Remarks by Deputy Managing Director Bo Li at the Pacific Islands High Level Conference on Charting the Course Towards Shared Prosperity

February 25, 2024

Thank you, Prime Minister Rabuka, for your excellent remarks—an outstanding start of our event.

It is a pleasure to join you all for this year’s IMF Pacific Islands Conference, our first in the region since the COVID-19 pandemic. I am so glad that we can resume our tradition of coming together to discuss the region—its challenges, its opportunities, and its future.

The region’s rich diversity is one of its greatest strengths. But you also face common challenges, including high vulnerability to global shocks.

While the likelihood of a global hard landing in the near term has receded, future commodity price spikes from geopolitical shocks and supply disruptions could hit Pacific Island countries particularly hard.

Think of shipping disruptions in the Red Sea and globally, which pose significant risks to supply chains and inflation for many Pacific Island countries. Then there are growing signs of geoeconomic fragmentation, which tends to hit smaller countries harder and could seriously hamper growth in the region.

And given your geography, you are on the frontlines of the global climate crisis.

Over the next two days, we will share ideas, knowledge, experiences—from within the region and beyond—to help us address these challenges and take advantage of opportunities.

We will begin with the issues we discussed during our Annual Meetings, including migration and climate. As promised in October, we have extended our analytical work on migration and the Blue Economy. We will summarize our findings before the roundtable discussions in the first two sessions planned for today.

We will also address digital money—an issue of growing interest to policymakers in the region. Pacific Island Countries are at varying stages of exploring how to leverage the benefits from digital money—especially its role in reducing costs of financial services, enhancing financial inclusion, and potentially alleviating the reduction in correspondent banking relations (CBRs).

But the decision to adopt forms of digital money is complex and requires careful consideration. That is why we will present our latest work on this topic during our third session today.

Over dinner this evening, we will celebrate an important milestone in our joint history—the 30th anniversary of the IMF’s first-ever regional technical assistance center-PFTAC. As we mark this special occasion, we will look back on what we have achieved and chart our future together.

We will begin tomorrow’s program by addressing climate finance for adaptation in Pacific Island Countries. The needs are enormous but access to climate finance is slim. With development partners, donors, and a wider group of international organizations, we will discuss how we can work together to mobilize more climate finance.

We will then turn to another key concern for the region—the loss in CBRs and de-banking. CBRs are a vital financial lifeline, so we will share views on a range of measures to help address this growing challenge.

As you tackle each of these challenges, the IMF remains your reliable partner. We continue to support our members through our lending, policy advice, and capacity development. But we want to enhance our engagement in the region and hear your views on how to do it, which we will do in our final session.

We hope that our discussions can help us develop a medium-term roadmap that will steer our engagement in the years ahead.

Let me conclude by thanking the people of Fiji for their warm hospitality and would like to thank the Prime Minister for taking time from his very busy schedule. I was able to visit Namoli village yesterday and see firsthand [the extraordinary coastal protection efforts by Fijians, against rising seas level and protecting the mangrove.

Witnessing this reminded me that while we face significant challenges ahead, we can address them if we work together toward a shared vision.

Let’s carry that spirit of collaboration with us as we begin our program.

Thank you.

IMF Communications Department


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