• The Australasian Aid Conference is on, covering a broad range of topics. Among them, the “Pacific Perspectives on the World” draws on conversations extracted from focus groups and one-on-one interviews with 150 Pacific Islanders, looking at their perception of Australia and the world. Here is a good summary. Many other panels are available on streaming here.
  • A couple of weeks before the conference, Carolyn Hunt had an interesting piece, arguing that aid to the Pacific offers the least value for money. For Hunt, aid doesn’t lift people out of poverty and Australia’s Step-up makes little to no difference in countering the rise of China in the region.
  • Meantime, the Pacific Island Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) has published its latest results. It shows that literacy and numeracy skills of primary students across the Pacific has improved. Maybe aid works, after all?
  • That might be why the United States has pledged more than US $100 million to increase funding to 11 Pacific countries to improve standards of living and adaptation to climate change.
  • In Papua New Guinea, the gas and petroleum drama isn’t settling down. As my colleague Shane McLeod discussed in his PNG links (subscribe here), the CEO of French oil producer Total has urged ExxonMobil and the PNG government to return to the negotiating table for the P’nyang project, saying its Papua LNG development is linked with the proposed Exxon project. PNG Petroleum Minister Kerenga Kua said he’s happy with the government’s decision to walk away from the P’nyang negotiations. In a social media post, Prime Minister James Marape said ExxonMobil and Oil Search should not hold the Papua project “to ransom” and should instead work with the French company Total to deliver the project.
  • Still in PNG, the government formally established the Higher Education Loan Program, also known as HELP. Moses Sakai looks at the program and compares it with the previous Tertiary Education Students Assistance Scheme (TESAS) introduced in 1999 as a loan program administered by the then Office of Higher Education.
  • Finally, it seems that Papua New Guinea’s ambitious plan to bring electricity to millions of people is set to be the first project supported by Australia’s new infrastructure aid bank.
  • France’s supreme court has reinstated compensation claims of French Polynesian nuclear weapons test victims that were thrown out last year on the basis they were made before a modification of the compensation law.
  • The Economist has a looks at the digital side of the Chinese Belt and Road project, and how high-tech companies can spread authoritarian methods.
  • In Micronesia, a Chuuk independence vote was to be last week but citizens now have another year.
  • And Nic Maclellan looks into the consequences of Brexit for the Pacific, arguing France is the likely beneficiary.

The Lowy Institute is part of the  Pacific Research Program