Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications at the public seminar at USP's Laucala Campus.
The 2017 Forum Economic Minister’s Meeting (FEMM) concluded with a public seminar on ‘Income Inequality in the Pacific’ at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala campus in Suva on 6 April, 2017. The seminar was jointly organised by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and USP.
In welcoming panelists and the audience which comprised delegates of the FEMM, representatives from government and civil society, entrepreneurs, USP staff and students and members of the public, Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP said it was a real privilege to host such an important seminar which is of great interest to everyone in the Pacific.
Panellists included Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications, Fiji; Ms Marjorie Andrew, Deputy Director, Institute of National Affairs (INA), Papua New Guinea; Mr Michel Kerf, Country Director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea & Pacific Islands, World Bank Group; and Ms Emele Duituturaga, Executive Director, Pacific Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO).
Professor Chandra said inequality is the key inhibitor of sustainable economic development and sustainable development in general.
“It stops all societies from achieving full potential and if we can deal with that properly and plan our development in a way that both avoids exacerbating those inequalities and takes measures to reduce them, then our societies will be better off,” he remarked.
According to Professor Chandra, the 2016 UNDP Human Development Report, recently launched in Suva, indicates that 22 per cent of the world’s human development is lost because of inequality.
“At the 2016 World Economic Forum, Oxfam report noted that globally 62 individuals own as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people. So clearly it is not just a problem for us in the Pacific,” he stated.
Part of the audience at the public seminar jointly organised by USP and PIFS.
Professor Chandra said across the Pacific, approximately one in four households have per capita expenditure/income below what would be considered as their national basic-needs poverty line as their national basic-needs poverty line.
Governments in our Pacific region have been working on these issues for some time and in recent times, there is evidence of Governments being quite proactively involved in that,” he said.
“Clearly the issue of inequality is complex and requires action on a wide range of areas because the interest is not just to reduce inequality but to ensure that we promote greater national cohesion, a greater sense of national identity and belonging and that we better harness the inherent energies and capabilities of all members of society,” he noted.
Panellists gave their views on:
• Lessons from the recent global financial crisis in building resilient policies for addressing income inequality and alleviating poverty for the Pacific Island Countries and Territories;
• Contingency policies that can be developed to minimise the impact on low-income earners including marginalised and vulnerable groups;
• The role of women’s economic empowerment in addressing income inequality;
• How development partners can effectively support national efforts in reducing income inequality;
• Aspects of donor intervention that can be improved to address income inequality; and
• Measures that can be put in place to ensure that social protection is a priority.
The seminar was well attended by more than 200 people which also included students.
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