Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Pacific Scoop

The Pacific Plan and other failures - what can be learned?

The Pacific Plan ... "typical top-down attempt at reform". Image: PIF

Pacific Media Centre

16 January, 2013

ANALYSIS: Roman Grynberg  examines the successes and failures in Pacific economic and political policy and suggests some themes.

1.    Introduction
This article begins first by considering what are the basic facts of economic activity in the Pacific Islands. It is argued that the great lessons that are to be learned from the past experience is that only a limited range of interventions have been successful in terms of generating the type of economic activity that integrates the Pacific islands into the  global economy. The facts of smallness, physical dispersion and isolation are deemed to be largely immutable characteristics of both economic and aid policy in the region and the successes and failures that are outlined below in terms of international interventions can be divided roughly between those that have succeeded because they recognised the economic facts and those that failed because they did not and were driven by agendas of those that had other interests. The political reality of the Pacific where 12 island nations, all very small with the exception of PNG. These nations have been traditionally dominated by the two regional Anglonesian powers i.e. Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) and their foreign and domestic agenda remain central to national and regional policy formation.

It is argued that successes, by the definition that is used here, have been very limited in terms of state interventions and failure has been generally more widespread. The Pacific Islands, as a region, are not unique in this outcome and other developing regions such as Africa and the Caribbean have a similar record.  The successes outlined below are those that have created the minimal economic distance between donor and beneficiary and have simultaneously created a commercial advantage that was of commercially conditional, of sufficient duration and order of magnitude as to ultimately be transformative in nature. By nature of these interventions were large but invariably did not involve a bureaucratic intermediary that stood between donor and beneficiary.  

2.    Background
Inherent economic conditions
The inherent economic conditions of Pacific island states are well known but the consequences of these conditions remains poorly understood. Smallness and the resulting absence of economies of scale, physical dispersion of often tiny pockets of population over wide expanses of ocean,  and remoteness from markets have typified the conditions prevalent in large parts of Polynesia and Micronesia.1 Melanesia with its relatively large population and proximity to Asia and Australia suffers less from these characteristics and it explains its relatively greater concentration of economic activity. While these characteristics are recited as mantra in economic presentations by officials and policy makers alike, their commercial implication and meaning are not well understood.

Each of these immutable physical characteristics is reflected in the commercial costs of starting and operating a business in the Pacific islands.2 In their most extreme manifestations found in the smallest and most isolated of countries like Niue and Tuvalu, commercial activity that is oriented towards exports in effect ceases to exist. Among other countries as well as these two in particular, it can be argued Ricardian comparative advantage is meaningless where the magnitude of the absolute cost disadvantage is too large to be covered by cost adjustment.3  In other words in many of these countries and islands there exist no above zero factor price that will compensate a commercial investor for locating in those countries. Only through subvention i.e. negative economic prices would such commercial activity occur.

  If this is the case then what commercial activity has occurred in the islands? Only where there is a quasi-rent in the price of the product that is exported onto the international market can competitive economic activity occur in such highly disadvantaged island states. Thus Tuvalu could, for a period, export copra but this was only where the EU provided it with both trade preferences and Stabex funding for the state. Three sources of economic rent exist. These are created by nature through abundant natural resources eg fisheries, forestry or minerals or through the state through preferences and tax concessions and subsidies or those that stem from market based niches eg squash exports to Japan in November or Fiji Water, that are largely transitory in nature and generally constitute a poor long term basis for development.

It is the long term forms of economic rent that are the most effective are those created by the state but not captured by intermediaries as will be discussed below. The interventions into the global market in favor of the Pacific islands by the EU and to a lesser degree by the US and Australia and New Zealand through Sparteca and MFA provisions, have over the last generation been the  most effective forms of donor state intervention and have had the longest lasting effects on the economic transformation of the islands.

What they have in common is that the quasi-rents that were created had no intermediary between the beneficiary and the donor.  There was no aid agency with a gaggle of consultants that stood between the beneficiary of the Sugar Protocol and the cane farmer- the benefit of the transfer from the European consumer to the Pacific island producer had profound economic consequences in Fiji but only if the recipient produced a commercially significant product, ie sugar. It will be argued that the rents derived from aid programs require no such commercial activity and are often captured by donor or local intermediaries with often no lasting effects upon productive activity in the islands, aside from local consulting counterparts.

Political circumstances     
The political background is just as significant to understanding the failure of international policy interventions to have a significant impact on development outcomes. Two overarching facts dominate policy making in the region. The first is the smallness of national bureaucracies and their resulting inability to cope with the ever increasing number and complexity of national and international issues that are required of them. The second is that these countries have since independence formed regional bodies to pool resources and to address some of these issues. However, these institutions were born with fundamental birth defects because the PICs agreed to include ANZ in them. This has almost invariably meant that these  regional institutions have been funded by ANZ and have had a final veto on policy measures implemented by the islands regionally.

What if of greater concern is that certainly Canberra and to a lesser degree even Wellington have no vision for the islands beyond being quiet and peaceful neighbors that are too small to be significant markets but small and poor enough to be sources of geo-political instability. It has been the avoidance of the instability that has been the central theme of Canberra’s thinking about the islands and the reason why the instruments of regionalism have so completely lacked vision and foresight. There is no need for bold initiatives that resolve real problems when the only national aid objective of the donors is to maintain ‘peace, order and good government’. 

To suggest, as some do that, that the outcomes observed in the islands are simply a reflection of exogenous economic and political factors not only stretches credulity it also leaves the Pacific island elites portrayed as passive victims of circumstances. Such a characterisation would not only be grossly inaccurate, it would miss the fact that in many cases the Pacific island elites have been willing participants and often beneficiaries in a process that has left them politically emasculated and incapable of policy action that is not explicitly in the interests of Canberra and Wellington. As a counter-point these elites almost invariably lack any regional vision themselves. What regional vision exists among Pacific island elites is increasingly sub-regional in nature, i.e. Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia.

However, this in part stems from the perceived control of peak regional fora by ANZ. More generally their political focus is national or even clan-based. Any genuinely pan-Pacific island vision largely died with an older generation of post-independence leaders who, ironically were the very ones who bowed to ANZ pressure to allow their entry into the Forum which commonly referred to as the ‘original sin’.   

Five of the smallest Pacific island countries remain in free association with either the US or New Zealand. Though some of these countries are attempting to dilute metropolitan control five, are de jure obliged to follow the foreign policy of the former metropolitan power. Tuvalu the only small state that has  recognized sovereignty is too small and fragile to exercise it effectively. Only six countries are sufficiently large to have administrations that can address  a wide range of international issues. These include PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji Samoa and Tonga. Two of these Solomon Islands and Tonga are very highly  dependent upon Australian aid and hence have only the most limited potential for independent regional action. Furthermore Samoa frequently aligns itself with Australia and New Zealand. Therefore pan-Pacific islands regional action that is anything other than a reflection of ANZ policy is highly improbable. As a result of the domination of the paramount regional agency, sub-regional institutions which exclude ANZ are increasingly taking its place as fora for regional discussions.

3.  Successful international interventions in the Pacific
The history of international interventions in the Pacific Island region are littered with actions that have lead to no perceptible long run change in the overall economic outcomes in the country  concerned. For the purposes of the discussion below, the definition of a successful intervention is one that has lead to a protracted change over a period of time. A failure is when an intervention does not result in the continuation of change following the intervention. In the case of some interventions the results have not been what some economists call ‘unsustainable’ in a narrow sense in that they have not resulted in the continuation of the specific activities once the intervention ends. However, what is relevant in gauging success is not the continuation of a specific activity but whether the intervention gives rise to a process. For example the 24 percent margin of preference for canned tuna gave rise to both a capture fishery as well as a canned tuna industry. The cannery sector may not be sustainable i.e. continue once teh preference is gone or has been eroded but it has spawned a capture fishery which, with managed in a sustainable manner,   has resulted in a sustainable industry in a number of PICs.

i)    Temporary movement of seasonal fruit pickers to New Zealand
This intervention in the New Zealand labor market through a selective market opening in favor of some Pacific island workers in the New Zealand fruit and vegetable harvest has already had significant longer term effects in the countries which are selected beneficiaries. It fulfils all the economic conditions for a successful intervention. First, it created an economic rent stemming from the difference in wages between New Zealand harvesters and what could otherwise be earned in similar economic activities in the islands. The second condition is that it has been a direct transfer without intervention resulting in a loss of quasi rents by the beneficiaries. While several New Zealand institutions have been involved this has not been at the expense of the beneficiary ie the worker. It has therefore been a transfer from the preference donor, in this case New Zealand to Pacific island harvesters.

The various analyses undertaken by researchers since the commencement of the program suggest that has already set in train a series of economic effects of long lasting effect in countries like Vanuatu  where relatively large numbers of workers have been involved in the Recognised Seasonal Employers Scheme (RSE) . Under pressure from both the World Bank and neighbors Australia has also implemented a much smaller scheme.

While the adage  that ‘success has many father and failure is always an orphan’ is certainly true in the case of the RSE  program its  origins need to be documented. First,  Pacific islands leader have frequently requested precisely such programs for many years from Australia and New Zealand since the 1980’s.  Their requests had never been successful as Australia argued that, since the abandonment of the White Australia Policy in the 1960’s they had an ‘ethnically blind’ immigration program and where it needed labor it wanted migrants and not a program based on temporary movement.

The economic boom of the mid-2000s along with unfavorable demography in most OECD countries meant that there was a surging demand for young semi-skilled and unskilled workers. Since 2000 the Commonwealth Secretariat had provided important leadership on the issue which resulted in a very important academic work that influenced the thinking of many policy makers and thinkers in the area . Professor Alan Winters, the principle academic author, fortuitously went on to become head of Trade Research at the World Bank where he influenced policy makers in the area.5 It was this that emboldened World Bank staff to push Australia to also open its market which they have done with the greatest reluctance. It was this that was very much at the forefront of thinking of the ways in which countries that are highly disadvantaged could benefit from globalization. The alternative to temporary movement of labor to where the capital was located was the movement of capital through subsidies which was far greater an economic anathema to those mainstream thinking about such issues.

ii)   The Sugar Protocol of the Lome Convention/Cotonou Agreement
Perhaps of even greater significance to the long term development of Fiji was the Sugar Protocol of the Lome Convention which from 1975 onwards provided a substantial and fixed quota to Fiji and the other ACP beneficiaries of the agreement and which allowed them a fixed EU market at prices that were between 2-3 times the world price. This intervention made it profitable to produce cane sugar in remote locations such as Mauritius, Fiji and Guyana and ship it for refining to the UK. This was perhaps the single greatest act of generosity of the EU to its former colonies. This generosity however stemmed not from any natural European bonhomie but the insistence that UK, which was in the process of accession to the Treaty of Rome continue to have access duty free to cane sugar from Commonwealth countries for what were then two sugar refineries  in the UK. Some 4,000 jobs were at stake and an election was planned along with record high prices for sugar on the world market.6

This intervention also provided a quasi-rent to sugar producers and like the RSE scheme created no intermediary who could capture that rent.  It was pure transfer between the European sugar consumer and tax payer to sugar farmers in Fiji and other ACP countries. But it was a transfer conditional on the production and delivery of cane sugar to EU refineries. It therefore created a commercial discipline in the transfer while simultaneously providing a price that enabled the continuation of production and exports from remote locations.

The Sugar Protocol was of course unilaterally abrogated by the EU in 2005 after 40 years. That the arrangement lasted so long when the EU was importing some 2Mt of cane sugar from the ACP while simultaneously exporting up to 6 Mt (2002/3) of beet sugar surpluses made the arrangement  commercially questionable if not irrational. Irrespective of the sustainability of the arrangement there is little doubt that the surpluses that were created in the hands of Fiji cane farmers were, like the rents of the RSE, transformative in nature. They allowed not only the maintenance of a living standard well above what would otherwise have been possible but permitted the funding of an entire generation of students through the university and tertiary system. It was this investment that helped generate a partial transformation of Fiji.

At the high water mark of the free market resurgence in the 1990s Neo-classical economists argued that the Sugar protocol was unsustainable which was of course the case.

However,  the argument was largely irrelevant as it was transformative because it allowed the creation of a surplus for a long enough period that was vital to economic development. The quasi rents of the Sugar protocol were  certainly never as effectively invested in Fiji as was the case in other ACP countries. In Mauritius, where racial politics was more constructively managed, the Sugar Protocol was the basis for the creation of surpluses among that country’s  ‘Sugar Barons’ for the economic transformation from sugar to tourism and garment exports.

iii)    The EU Tuna Preferences
The EU under the terms of the Lomé Convention/Cotonou Agreement/ Interim EPA provides a 24 percent margin of preference for canned tuna products from entering the EU market. The two oldest canneries in the Pacific are located in Solomon Islands and Fiji. Neither the Pafco cannery, originally developed by C. Itoh nor the Soltuna cannery – originally a JV between the government of Solomon Islands and Taiyo, ever proved openly profitable. The canneries both continue to operate but have long been commercially marginal even with the 24% margin of preference. In part this has been in large measure a result of transfer pricing as well as commercial inefficiency of state decisions e.g. locating the Pafco cannery in Levuka to create employment. This significantly raised transhipment costs and decreased profitability.

The canneries in these two Melanesian countries have also spawned the development of similar canneries in Madang in PNG. This intervention by the EU, like the Sugar Protocol and the RES creates a rent that is conditional on production. It has allowed production to occur and created training that has been vital especially in the case of Fiji in the development of a long line fishery. Without the experience first gained by fishers in the pole and line fishery which supplied Pafco, the long line industry which blossomed throughout the last decade would not have been possible.

However, while the tuna preferences, unlike RSE and Sugar Protocol, created a quasi rent based on commercial performance, it involved a measure of intermediation in the form of the state and transnational corporations that appropriated a part of the quasi-rents created by the EU preference regime and thus it was markedly less successful than previous interventions. 7

4. Failed International Interventions in the Pacific
If the economic success discussed above have common characteristics stemming from the way in which they addressed the problems of the Pacific islands, the failures considered below stem in no small part from the nature of the political processes and relations in the region.

i)   The Pacific Plan
In theory and on superficial reading, the Pacific Plan constituted the most serious effort by political leaders in the Pacific to address the fundamental inability of most of the government administrations in the region to deal with a complex range of issues by virtue of their small size. There were numerous objectives but essentially it was a political attempt to pool resources and deal with the absence of economies of scale.8 The Pacific Plan was a rather typical top-down attempt at reform. It was initiated not by an island leader but by the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who remained the driving force behind it throughout 2003/4. A special leaders summit was called and island states sagaciously nodded approval for the Pacific Plan in 2004. Having received endorsement for her ‘Big idea’,  Ms Clark could ‘tick the box’ and move on to bigger things.

The only problem was that neither her officials and certainly not their Australian counterparts took the Pacific Plan seriously. What evolved was a classic bureaucratic response to what was perceived as an imposed, alien and unnecessary process. Australian and New Zealand officials basically took the regional aid programs that they were already implementing and renamed them the Pacific Plan. There was also little or no support from islands as it soon became evident that the Plan was merely window dressing, a renaming of whatever Australia and New Zealand bureaucrats were, in any case, planning to do. Thus the Pacific Plan continues to live in name only but failed because it had no obvious island champions nor any real roots in the islands. Island leaders had long given up on any serious attempt to address the real issues that Prime Minister had correctly noted in her analysis of but done nothing to resolve.

ii)    PICTA and the MSG Trade Agreements
Two agreements that have been developed by the Pacific Islands themselves, the PICTA 9  trade agreement and the Melanesian Spearhead Group Trade Agreement, came to include both goods and  services has thus far been of the most limited success. The reason is that irrespective of its origin these arrangements ie whether they were from one relatively homogeneous group or from the Forum there was no appetite amongst island officials and policy makers for any form of liberalization that involved a direct adjustment cost. Whereas island officials have always been happy to write, sign and even ratify trade agreements implementing them and accepting the real economic costs were quite another matter.

The expansion of PICTA and the MSG agreement into the areas of services and in particular the  movement of natural persons   may create some economic rents that are transferrable and hence the possibility of a win-win is possible. The goods agreement amongst countries with little trade complementarily as is the case of PICTA and MSG involves a zero-sum game in a narrow range of wage good produced in many of the countries. The adjustment costs also seemed particularly high   It was seen at the time by those who supported it as a first step to bring together the island states and break down the barriers between them. The imposition of such a program is rarely likely to meet with success whether it is imposed by a Prime Minister as in the case of the Pacific Plan or designed by officials as in the case of PICTA/MSG. The program is only likely to be accepted where there are clear economic benefits to either consumers or producers.

iii)   The US-FFA Treaty
The treaty is historically one of the most generous agreements that the Pacific had ever received from a donor. It created substantial and transparent economic rents for Pacific island states through the transfers that were available from USAID in its early years. While there seems to be evidence that these eroded over time this treaty was widely seen as exemplary. The treaty was recently renegotiated in an open and transparent manner, has good sustainability and fisheries management provisions and the evidence is that the benefits have accrued to  the peoples of the Pacific islands and will certainly increase over time.

Then why is it then listed as a failure? One would logically expect that over the years that the rate of return derived from the US treaty which was in many years over 20 percent of the value of the catch would be used as a model for other access arrangements and that the Pacific island countries would see that working and negotiating together will give them a better rate of return. Nothing could be further from the truth as islands have continually resisted any  collective approach to the management of negotiations of access to the tuna fisheries. They have resisted anything that resembled minimum terms and conditions of access and always preferred a secret bilateral approach rather than an open transparent and highly socially profitable multilateral agreements.

It may well be the case that other treaties with DWFNs are beneficial to individual PICs and their terms of access may have been influenced by the generous terms of the US- FFA treaty but these arrangements are bilateral and secret -not in the public domain and from what little is known of them do not provide returns to the peoples of the South Pacific anywhere near that of the US-FFA treaty. In many cases the reason why Pacific island officials and policy makers have accepted this is because these bilateral agreements are a source of bribes. 10 Corruption, I would contend and it must remain a contention, has over the many years I have worked in the region been endemic to the fisheries and is the main reason why the social return on DWFN access fees has historically been so low. 

The fact that PIC officials have historically refused to open such bilateral treaties to international inspection and scrutiny only adds credence that these treaties are poor in terms of social return because some policy makers receive private returns. 11 The argument frequently cited by Pacific island officials has been that these bilateral fisheries access agreements are commercial arrangements that cannot be opened for public scrutiny. 12 Such an argument has no merit when it comes to a collective resource such as highly migratory tuna which is rightly owned by all the peoples of the South Pacific.

Thus while there has been a rent transfer in the US-FFA treaty and that has gone directly to the resource owner the fundamental facts on the ground in the Pacific have meant that these rents should be far more significant if the treaty were a success through a demonstration effect but it has not been so. The failure to develop a socially profitable, transparent and sustainable outcome as was the case in other arrangements is because of the corruption of some Pacific island officials and policy makers. The existence of endemic corruption in access agreements is a fact of commercial life in the tuna  fisheries and while the US- FFA Treaty has provided a relative good example of fisheries management and governance it has failed to effect the overall outcomes in the tuna fisheries because of the intermediation of corrupt officials.

5. Conclusion
The post-independence history of the Pacific islands region is littered with failures by the international community to develop interventions in the region that fulfill the basic criteria for success in such  a remote and isolated region . These are that the intervention provide a  quasi-rent that is of long  duration, has a commercial conditionality ie something must be produced and has no state of aid community intervention or other such intermediaries who appropriate that rent. Several examples of success have been cited here along with a number of the larger failures, some of which are economic and others in the nature of political interventions. The successes fulfill the criteria in full such as the RSE Scheme and the Sugar Protocol.  The Tuna preferences partly fulfilled the criteria because they have been appropriated by an intermediary in the form of Asian transnationals or state owned enterprises which appropriate the rents and stand between the resource owner and the donor.

The Pacific Plan, while nominally a worthwhile attempt to address the fundamental economic and administrative burdens facing small under-resourced governments in the South Pacific, was appropriated by regional functionaries who stood between political donor and the potential recipients. Similarly the MSG trade agreement along with Picta have failed thus far to generate rents and failed to stimulate trade in general because trade officials and policy makers have been willing to prepare trade agreements but unwilling to accept that the adjustments costs that follow from such treaties with the most limited of trade complementarities.

Lastly the US-FFA treaty, despite being exemplary in terms of both benefits and management arrangements has not transformed the reality of the fisheries negotiating process because of endemic corruption in the tuna fisheries access negotiations in the region.  

Professor Roman Grynberg is an international development policy analyst and worked in the Pacific for many years. He now lives in Botswana.

1. When Europeans first arrived in the Pacific Islands region in the early 18th century, all Pacific Islanders were referred to as Polynesians. Europeans, ever anxious for more accurate taxonomical divisions,  discovered that some ‘Polynesians’ were black and others lived on very small islands and hence the newer terms Melanesians and Micronesian. This division is perhaps the greatest single politico-linguistic handicap handed down to Pacific islanders and perpetuated over two centuries by their respective elites.

2. Grynberg, R. (2001). A theory of trade and development of small vulnerable states, Journal of Pacific Studies, 25(1), pp.155-172.

3. L. Alan Winters, Pedro M. G. Martins (2004). Small isn't beautiful: the cost disadvantages of small remote economies. Pedro  Martins,  L. Alan  Winters,  June  2005 Paper No' CEPCP186 published as When comparative advantage is not enough: business costs in small remote economies,  World Trade Review, 02/2004; 3(03):347-383.

4. Interview from Islands Business, Seasonal workers provide positive contribution, 4 October 2012:
‘Workers from Vanuatu who undertake fruit picking in Central Otago under a seasonal employment scheme are contributing positively to their homeland and Otago, University of Otago researcher Rochelle-lee Bailey says. Mrs Bailey is undertaking PhD research on the social effects of New Zealand's Recognised Seasonal Employers Scheme (RES), which involves workers from Ambrym, an island in Vanuatu, who work in Central Otago. She was commenting in a talk given as part of an annual "Pacific Voices" postgraduate symposium held by the university at the Otago Museum recently. Under the RES scheme, up to 8000 workers from several Pacific nations, including Vanuatu , undertake seasonal employment in New Zealand, working in the horticulture and viticulture industries. Since the scheme was introduced in 2007, money remitted from ni-Vanuatu (Vanuatu-based) workers had been used in many beneficial ways, she said.The funding had enabled more young people to study at the University of the South Pacific campus in Vanuatu, and had had also been used to develop key infrastructure on Ambrym, including improved water supply. Other positive effects included the development of small businesses on the island, such as shops, and some initiatives involving the tourist industry, she said.’

5. Winters, l. A, et al (2002). Liberalising labour mobility under the GATS, London: Commonwealth Secretariat.

6. Chalmin P, (1990). The making of a sugar giant: Tate & Lyle, 1859-1989. Geneva: Harwood Academic Press, see  pp. 474-5:
‘Let there be no mistake: the Sugar Protocol of the Lomé Convention was first and foremost a Tate & Lyle Protocol. The British firm was the main partner of the ACP countries which could not afford to take too many liberties...Thanks to the support lent by  various British Government s, concerned by the possible consequences of the closure of refineries in zones already affected by unemployment such as London and Liverpool, thanks also to the paradoxical support of militant pro-third world circles, Tate & Lyle managed to maintain an illogical compromise in the face of all odds’

7. Grynberg, R.  (1997). Handicapped infants and delinquent parents: Lomé convention rules of origin and the Solomon Islands Tuna Industry. Maastricht: European Centre for Development Policy Management, Working Paper.

 8. The current author prepared the basic document of the Pacific Plan which was Grynberg, R. (2006), Towards a New Pacific Regionalism. Manila: Asian Development Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat, Manila.

9. Given that few opportunities will ever exist to document the way in which PICTA came into existence, it is worth explaining that it was the product of long discussions between the current author and Pacific island trade officials. It was extremely difficult to introduce such a concept given the strong opposition of Australia and New Zealand to any islands based trade agreement. At the first Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in Cairns in 1997 the Vanuatu Minister of Trade proposed the creation of trade agreement amongst the island countries. This was actively by HE Roy Mickey Joy, currently the ambassador to the European Union and at the time a senior Vanuatu trade official. Only with the greatest of difficulty was the minister’s statement and the objectives recorded  as part of the minutes of the meeting  thereby becomig  part of the work program of the Pacific islands Forum where the current author was  employed as Trade Advisor at the time.
10.  ‘In 1988 I was appointed Economic Adviser to the then incoming Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Rabbie Namaliu. As a mere novice, the first job I was given was to do with something widely viewed as politically unimportant  tuna fisheries negotiations. PNG was then at the centre of an international storm as one of the ministers, who will remain nameless to protect the guilty, had withdrawn PNG from the regional tuna fisheries negotiations with the US over what was to become the US-Forum Fisheries Agency negotiations. It was argued that PNG could best pursue its interests as a sovereign nation without having to come to an agreement with other countries in the region. Nationalism in the Pacific has always been the first, not the last refuge of scoundrels and the fisheries attract the very worst sort. Commercial actions invariably have two reasons—the good one and the real one. In this case, the real one, at least according to the PNG Ministry of Foreign Affairs who was working with me, was that once a multilateral treaty was in place, it would no longer be necessary to pay bribes for access to the decision-makers. Despite the desire for back-handers, the sheer weight of international pressure was applied to PNG by its neighbors and the country agreed to sign the  treaty.’ Source: Islands Business:

11. See Quentin Hanich and Martin Tsamenyi’ (2009). Managing fisheries and corruption in the Pacific Islands region,  Marine Policy , 33(2), pp. 386–392.

12. In Kiribati which has reportedly one of the worst records of corruption in bilateral access agreements, the author asked former President Ieremia Tabai for copies of the bilateral treaties when his term as President had come to an end and he was a backbencher in the Kiribati Parliament. He said that even he could not access to these agreements.



Ecological integration for the Pacific

Thank you Roman Grynberg for this informative account of Pacific Island regional integration. Although my only direct criticism was thinking that the acronym DWFN might have meant Dwarf Widget Fiduciary Networks, what struck me most about your analysis was your conclusion, that despite reasonable attempts at PIC integration, the old problem of "corruption" was emblematic to the problems confronting small island states.

Although I might prefer to put the onus of corruption on those egregious FTAs and BITs-- drafted and imposed by the larger ANZUS economies-- I expect that the drafters of these protocols and agreements must anticipate, if not implicitly condone an entrenched program of corruption when it comes to resource extractive industries like fisheries, mining, or that precursor to big oil, "Big Sugar."

In consideration of this analysis, a discussion that may be worth pursuing is one of "Ecological Integration." A similar concept has already been introduced by the Pacific Caucus, UNPFII at Rio+20 as part of an indigenous-led "Monitoring Authority." The paper that was introduced could include ecological, global south and gender equity advocates potentially playing a regulatory role in investor-state agreements or BITs.

In regard to the Pacific Plan, there is a petition to redraft the plan by adopting stronger regulations and a monitoring agency.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.