14 Dec 2011

World Bank launches multi million dollar Pacific aviation project

4:09 pm on 14 December 2011

The World Bank launched its largest regional aviation project in the Pacific, this week.

The organisation has approved a 62-million-US-dollar grant to improve international air travel for the people of Tuvalu, Tonga and Kiribati.

Piers Merrick, of the World Bank's Pacific Department, says the Pacific Aviation Investment Programme aims to assist small countries like Tuvalu reduce their isolation and strengthen their economies.

"Aviation's a critical link if you are sea-locked and you're as isolated as Tuvalu, then, really aviation is your principal connection to the outside world - for all Tuvaluans for a host of reasons. One step is going to be to strengthen and repair the runway but also really to bring it up to international safety standards."

Mr Merrick says when New Zealand provided emergency aid to drought-afflicted Tuvalu last month, the Hercules wrecked part of the runway which hadn't been well-maintained.