Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Pacific links: Bainimarama’s back, Australia chided on climate, more

With the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit about to get underway, here are featured stories from across the region.

Frank Bainimarama has returned after boycotting the Pacific Islands Forum for the past 12 years (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty)
Frank Bainimarama has returned after boycotting the Pacific Islands Forum for the past 12 years (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty)

  • The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) starts this week, welcoming back Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama, who had boycotted the Forum for the past 12 years. Many topics are expected to be covered, from West Papua to a rising China. However, it is climate change that is should be at the centre of discussions and Australia is set to be chided. Meanwhile academics from all over the world are supporting a call by Pacific students to take the issue of climate change to the International Court of Justice.
  • To ease his entrance at the PIF, Australia’s Scott Morrison announced a $500 million climate change and oceans funding package for the Pacific region, aiming to help island nations invest in renewable energy and disaster resilience.
  • Still on climate change, a new Pacific Climate Change Centre will open its doors in Samoa in September. It will deliver development programs in adaptation, mitigation, climate services and project development. In the same vein, Australia will open a new institution, the Australia Pacific Security College at the Australian National University. Part of the Morrison government's “Pacific Step Up”, it will deliver strategic security and leadership training to Pacific agencies, which should give Australia an important soft power value.
  • To finish on the climate change issue, according to a new report by the International Finance Corporation, a majority of households in Papua New Guinea are using solar lighting, compared with just two per cent two years ago. A contrast is apparent when reading Wesley Morgan’s piece explaining the “Australia clause” of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which allowed Australian emissions to rise even while the rest of the industrialised world cut theirs.
Aerial view of Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti, 2011. Tuvalu is a remote country of low lying atolls, making it vulnerable to climate change (Photo: Lily-Anne Homasi/DFAT)


  • Last week, PNG asked China to refinance its entire government debt of $11.8 billion, which could be highly beneficial for the government. However, former Australian international development minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said if China really wanted to help, it would consider debt forgiveness instead of a new loan. Another option for PNG to restructure its debt could be to use the International Monetary Fund, but that’s not viable for Port Moresby, according to experts.
  • Indeed, the economic situation in PNG is complicated. Growing shortages of foreign exchange, revenue rates missing targets, and limited borrowing (hence low expenditure) explain the current weak economy. However, things can be improved. ANU’s Stephen Howes has five suggestions to jump start the economy: fix governance, devalue the exchange rate, revamp fiscal policy, encourage investments and prepare for the next boom.
  • Bal Kamal looks at how PNG PM James Marape’s “Take back PNG” slogan aligns with the National Goals and Directive Principles written by the founding fathers of the PNG Constitution, the Constitutional Planning Committee, in their quest to escape the grip of colonialism.
  • The biggest infrastructure project since Vanuatu’s independence, rebuilding roads in the capital Port Villa, financed by Australia through the Asian Development Bank, is now facing difficulties. The biggest one: the contractor claims the whole project was mismanaged and that the government of Vanuatu still owes it money.
  • The US plans to strengthen its bonds with three Micronesian states by renegotiating its military agreements with them, but the talk is dividing opinion about the motives of the administration of President Donald Trump.

Pacific Research Program

You may also be interested in