Addressing inequality and poverty in the Pacific Islands

By Danileen Kristel Parel, Supervising Research Specialist, Philippines Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and Felipe F. Salvosa IIPublications Division Chief, Philippines Institute for Development studies

Participants during the GDN 14th Annual conference

Pacific Asian Participants from the GDN 14th Annual Development Conference, June 2013

Pacific Island countries are facing challenges in addressing low income economic growth with high levels of vulnerabilities resulting from the impact of global economic crises. The three presentations during this session at the 2013 GDN Annual Conference tackle the issues specific to inclusive growth, poverty and inequality in the Pacific Island Countries. Speakers argue that for inclusive growth to be achieved, barriers to the participation of the poor in economic activities should be removed. According to Neelesh Gounder, University of South Pacific, broader macroeconomic growth policies like trade liberalisation need to be considered to promote growth in a broader sense.

Experience from Fiji

Masilina Tuiloa Rotuivaqali, University of South Pacific focus on the importance of social protection in economic growth. He claims that by paying attention to social protection policies, increased productivity and social stability can be achieved. Prior to 2008, social policies that focus on vulnerable groups have not existed. Although some social policies have been implemented in Fiji in 2008, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu still remain to have very limited formal social protection in place. Thus, there is a need for an integrated social policy framework in all three countries, namely Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This framework should be at the grassroots level to include relevant vulnerable groups.

Angle on gender and inequality

Gender-based violence is not only a human rights issue, but an economic issue, as well. Domestic violence serves as an impediment in the participation of women in economic activities. While attempts to measure the cost of domestic violence have been examined by various countries, other factors such as long term costs are usually not being accounted for. Charlotte Taylor, University of South Pacific argues that it is likely that domestic violence will happen again in the future which also have costs that should also be accounted for. Furthermore, domestic violence entails not only direct costs, but has indirect and opportunity costs to the economy, as well.

In conclusion, Pacific Island countries still face the challenge of inclusive growth. Growth should be non-discriminatory and disadvantage-reducing. Thus, policies in promoting growth should not be limited to macroeconomic policies, but should also include social protection policies and gender-based policies. This way, growth will better target even the vulnerable groups.

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5 Responses to Addressing inequality and poverty in the Pacific Islands

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