Japan rolls out Pacific aid package
A three-year aid package to Pacific Islands worth 450 million US dollars is being rolled out by Japan.
Japan is rolling out a three-year aid package to Pacific Islands worth 450 million US dollars.
The assistance was first announced in May when Japan hosted Pacific leaders.
Our Marshall Islands correspondent, Giff Johnson, has been in Tokyo and details the scope of the aid to Walter Zweifel.
GIFF JOHNSON: It is in seven major areas, this includes disaster risk reduction, climate environment, people to people exchanges, sustainable development, fisheries and maritime and trade investment and tourism. So it really covers a very broad area. Of interest of course, is that there seems to be a bit more of a focus on trade investment and tourism. And this played out just this past week with the holding of a tourism ministers meeting to try to kick that off and get some discussions going on what could be done to boost tourism. So it is a very wide range and it also follows on from what Japan has been doing over the last several years with its aid program in the Pacific. While these are very broad areas I would say within those areas Japanese aid and Japanese funding and cooperation is pretty well targeted.
WALTER ZWEIFEL: In terms of tourism what is the focus there?
GJ: Well at this point I think the conference that they held here several days ago it was pretty general in nature looking at what Japan might do to promote more tourism in the region. The challenge is that very few islands have direct flights from Japan and in fact some of those direct flights have been cut back in recent years. So say a country like Palau which has numerous direct flights from Japan has seen a steadily increasing volume of Japanese visitors but most islands don't have the direct flights and that really reduces the level.
WZ: Provision of energy of course is always an issue in the Pacific and Japan has come up with the hybrid-islands initiative, can you expand on that?
GJ: This is quite an interesting project what they are calling the hybrid islands and it is aiming to continue to expand alternative renewable energy around the Pacific but at the same time with the understanding that even though some countries would like to go a hundred percent green energy in a few years that actually it really isn't possible if you want to guarantee 24/7, 365 days of the year power. You can't eliminate diesel generation or at least at this point. So the goal of this is to increase renewables to the greatest degree possible while optimising existing traditional style fossil fuel power plants. So that they are using less fuel, less need for them with a greater infusion of wind and solar power but essentially to get the balance right. Its a very practical solution to trying to reduce dependence on fossil fuel but understand that you cant simply eliminate it at this point. The technology isn't there. If you are a hundred percent solar and you have four days of rain you will have no power. So there are just issues with trying to roll out renewables to a higher degree. But that is what the focus of this is, is trying to reduce fossil fuel to the greatest extent possible and maximise the use and so on. So it is a very practical hands on program that also is working with the Pacific power association which is the utility company's regional group in the Pacific.
WZ: Are any countries standing out that are getting a lion's share of this or how is the allocation being coordinated?
GJ: It seems that you know, a number of these projects are regional and so that means, it is pretty equally shared. Of course there are some that maybe are more organised. Might get more but I think the for example one of the aims is to build a new climate change facility in cooperation with the regional environment programme SPREP in Samoa. That would service all the different islands they have got a regional solid waste management program that has already been running for five years. They are going to renew it for another five years and that is again a regional program. So I think there are individual within it where they are funding various types of infrastructure or development assistance. So some of the bigger countries do get a bigger share. Papua New Guinea and so on. But I think for the regional programme people get an equal share or at least an equal opportunity to participate. I might mention there is quite a push on developing the human resources and they have got a project that is called the, it is called ah, its about developing future leaders and they are going to be offering a hundred younger people the opportunity to do masters level study in Japan and then internships in various government agencies. Which looks like it would be a great program a great study learning program for people in the region.
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