Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 20:22 | SYDNEY
People | experts Jenny Hayward-Jones
Nonresident Fellow, Pacific Islands Program
Lowy Institute
Areas of ExpertisePacific Islands politics; Pacific Islands economic and social development; governance; statebuilding

Drama in Fiji affects the whole region

Dramatic events in Fiji over the Easter weekend have set the country on a dangerous new course to economic ruin, posing a very real threat to regional economic stability. A Court of Appeal decision on 9 April ruled the December 2006 coup illegal and directed Fiji’s President to appoint a new

The GFC hits Fiji public service

Fiji’s economic woes are fast becoming a much bigger story than its political impasse. The Fiji Times has reported a decision by Fiji’s Public Service Commission to make a 50% cut to the operating budgets of all government ministries. The Public Service Commission on 1 April clarified

Progress in Fiji?

Offering a hint of optimism in a depressed Fiji, the interim Government hosted a meeting of political party leaders on 13 March. Interim Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama’s address to the meeting was notable for its recognition that the global recession made it more important for Fiji to

Fiji: The long road down

March 2009 was once promised as the month that the interim Government of Fiji would hold elections and restore democracy to the country. There is still no election date in sight in Fiji and the interim Government’s own reform agenda is looking shaky.  I spent the week of 16 February in

Beating the financial crisis, Melanesia-style

The Pacific Islands region appears to be remote from the catastrophe that began on Wall Street. The popular image of happy locals living on their own fertile land on diets of fresh fish, meat, fruit and vegetables and without any need for bank accounts, mortgages or cars is not an inaccurate way

Fiji: The really big stick

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister was given an unequivocal and strong message by Pacific Islands Forum leaders at their 27 January meeting in Port Moresby. Commodore Bainimarama must nominate, by 1 May 2009, a date for elections to be held by the end of the year or Fiji will be suspended from the

Another step backwards by Fiji

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama announced on Tuesday that he would not attend the special meeting of Pacific Island Forum leaders in Papua New Guinea on 27 January because his priority was to oversee relief efforts following devastating floods in Fiji. He has requested the

Fiji: An opportunity and an obligation

I argued a couple of days ago that the flooding disaster in Fiji provided an opportunity to engineer a diplomatic thaw between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand. As the damage bill increases and more adverse weather conditions are forecast for the coming week, that opportunity is looking more like

Engineering political stability

In an opinion piece in the Solomon Star News, Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of The Myer Foundation Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute, puts forward suggestions for Solomon Islands' political stability and governance from the conference held in Honiara in late September 2008. Solomon Star

Fiji floods: A political test and a diplomatic opportunity

The recent devastating flooding in Fiji has challenged the military-led interim Government. Commodore Bainimarama declared a state of emergency and promised his Government was doing all it could to help those affected.  The interim Government's response will be important in garnering

Fiji: The limits of sanctions

The vexed question of what to do about Fiji is likely to be a high priority for policy makers in Canberra, Wellington, and Pacific Island capitals when they return from a brief Christmas break. Pacific Islands Forum leaders are due to meet in Port Moresby on 27 January to discuss their next move

Things I have changed my mind about this year

1. The isolation of Pacific Islands: Poor communication links have long been a significant obstacle to the development of business and economic growth in Pacific Island countries. I was sceptical of the capacity of cash-strapped communities to take up new technology and did not believe

Fiji impasse continues

The Pacific Islands Forum’s Ministerial Contact Group was back in Suva this week to assess Fiji’s progress towards returning to democracy by March 2009. Unsurprisingly, interim Government leader Commodore Bainimarama told the group (foreign ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New

PNG budget goes for growth despite financial crisis

The Papua New Guinea Government handed down a PGK7.6 billion (approx.US$3 billion) budget for 2009 yesterday. The Government’s revenue expectations were downgraded to reflect the effects of the global financial crisis on PNG – a decline in mineral revenues courtesy of lower global prices and

Engineering political stability in Solomon Islands

The Lowy Institute and the Solomon Islands Working Committee on Political Party Integrity Reform held a conference in Honiara on 24 and 25 September 2008 to explore the potential for reforms to engineer greater political stability in Solomon Islands. The conference sought to identify mechanisms to

Challenges in Honiara

I spent last week in Solomon Islands hosting a conference with Prime Minister Sikua’s office on the potential for legislative and other reform to engineer greater political stability. Coincidentally, two by-elections were held the day before the conference. The seat of East Honiara was

Pacific off target despite support

In an opinion piece in The Canberra Times, Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of The Myer Foundation Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute, argues for bold initiatives in the delivery of Australian aid to the Pacific region. Canberra Times, 25 September 2008, p. 19

Beyond good governance

Australian aid has not been effective in helping the Pacific Islands region make significant progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals

Answers: Niue and the seasonal workers' scheme

John Hannoush asks a very good question. With a resident population about a quarter the size of most suburbs in Auckland, why has tiny Niue not been incorporated into New Zealand? Although the issue has been discussed, it is clear from Niue’s determination (against all expectations) to host

Fiji and the art of the boycott

The era of boycotts in the Olympics may be over but the Pacific Islands Forum is not yet immune from them. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manessah Sogavare boycotted the Leaders Summit in Tonga last year. Fiji interim leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s boycott of today’s Pacific Islands

Niue shines...and exports hit NZ$264,000

When I referred to the tiny Pacific island nation of Niue in a previous blog post, our esteemed editor told me he had never heard of the place. Located 2,400 kms northeast of New Zealand, Niue is a coral atoll with a land area of 260 sq km and a population of just 1,625 (according to the June 2006

Labour mobility: Making the neighbours feel at home

The Australian Government has finally announced a three-year pilot seasonal worker scheme for up to 2,500 workers from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga and Kiribati to work in Australia’s horticulture industry for up to seven months. After convening a very constructive conference on seasonal

Influencing the Commodore

In her first visit to the Pacific Islands region last weekend, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated demands that Fiji’s interim government hold elections by March 2009.  While it is tempting to believe that the entreaties of the US Secretary of State have some influence on

Australia and Fiji both clouding the atmosphere

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is in Fiji for the Pacific Islands Forum Ministers’ Ministerial Contact Group’s talks with the Fiji interim government. Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has to convince the Contact Group of Fiji’s readiness to hold elections by the

Fiji: A carrot offered, a stick readied

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s decision to agree to the Fiji interim government’s appointment of an acting High Commissioner in Canberra and Consul-General in Sydney was welcomed yesterday by the Fiji Times but not yet by Commodore Bainimarama. Smith’s press release made it

Solomon Islands: No confidence

The spate of new policy announcements by Australia’s ALP Government would suggest it is feeling the weight of expectation usually placed on new governments to bring about quick change. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua, who has been in power for roughly the same amount of time as Kevin

Revisiting seasonal labour for Pacific Islanders

Labour mobility presents complex policy considerations and implications for Australia, but for Pacific Islanders with few opportunities to earn cash income at home, and for Australian growers needing labour to get their produce to market, the arguments for it seem relatively obvious. A

Diplomacy: Melanesian style

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders’ summit kicks off today in Port Vila, Vanuatu where the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu will meet for two days. New Caledonia’s pro-independence FLNKS leaders also attend MSG meetings but represent their party rather

Inexplicable new low in Fiji-Australia relations

Fiji’s refusal to provide additional security or allow Australian Federal Police to provide protection to the Australian High Commission in Suva in the face of two credible death threats to Australian High Commissioner James Batley is yet another extreme step backwards by the Fiji interim

Governance in PNG: The case of the missing funds

A disturbing chain of events in Papua New Guinea has led me to wonder about the state of good governance there and whether the best remedy is better functioning institutions or just better leaders. We heard a couple of weeks ago  that up to one billion kina (about A$400 million) had gone

What media freedom, Commodore?

The deportation from Fiji today of Fiji Times publisher Evan Hannah is a very disturbing sign of interim leader Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama’s lack of commitment to democracy. Interim Defence and Immigration Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau reportedly said the deportation order was linked

PNG aid priorities

Further to my earlier post on the recent Australia-PNG talks, while Australia was celebrating the Kokoda deal, PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal was more interested in highlighting his government’s interest in seeing improvements to the way Australian aid is spent in PNG. The PNG Government wants

Australia-PNG: A first-class relationship

Australian and PNG Ministers met yesterday in Madang in the first bilateral ministerial meeting since 2005. The 60-member Australian delegation, including six ministers and 3 parliamentary secretaries, sent a strong signal that the relationship with PNG had not only improved but was now '

2020 Summit: Economic integration with the Pacific

It was extremely pleasing to see a title like Closer Economic and Political Integration with the Pacific appear in the Australia 2020 Summit report. This represents a sharp and most welcome break with an Australian tendency to cast the Pacific Islands as weak and failing states that pose

New friends for the Pacific Islands

Australia has become used to competition for influence in the Pacific Islands region. New Zealand, France, Japan, the US, the EU, China and Taiwan all have diplomatic, economic or aid interests in the region. The newest recruit – Turkey – is demonstrating its interest by hosting a three-day

More Pacific partnerships...with China?

In his speech to the Brookings Institution on 31 March, Prime Minister Rudd suggested  China should be encouraged to work with other donors to develop appropriate OECD-consistent norms for development assistance delivery. He added that, as getting assistance to Pacific Island nations on a stable

Some good news on Pacific labour mobility

During a comprehensive speech on Australia’s relations with the Pacific at the launch of the Myer Foundation Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, addressed the contentious issue of labour mobility. He announced that

Reviewing the effectiveness of aid

I often wonder why aid spending is not the subject of greater public interest in Australia. Expenditure on politicians’ overseas travel and renovations of Ambassadorial residences abroad attract more media scrutiny than much more significant government spending (just under $3 billion in 2006-07

Email of the day II: Repeating our Pacific mistakes?

In response to my post of last week questioning whether the new Government's Pacific initiatives were really so different from previous failed policies, Robert Cogger writes (my response follows): The difference is that there may now be a possibility of AusAID working with the

Pacific Islands: ASPI gets it right

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s report of an Independent Task Force’s recommendations for improving Australia’s relationship with the Pacific Islands is essential reading for policy makers. The report’s strategy and recommendations are practical and sensible. In brief, the

Melanesia: The curse of Prime Ministers past

John Howard is not the only former Primer Minister making trouble for his successor in the last fortnight. The former prime ministers and now opposition leaders of PNG and Solomon Islands, Sir Mekere Morauta and Manasseh Sogavare, have criticised the failure of aid to advance their countries. 

The Prime Minister in Paradise

After all the flag waving, billboards, Broncos jerseys and babies named Kevin Rudd, can the Prime Minister live up to the expectations he created during his travels to PNG and Solomon Islands last week? The abundance of media releases, speeches, and joint press conferences from the visit on the

PNG has a 'new chum' called Kevin

The Australian Prime Minister may not believe Australian polls about his style credentials, but his stars appear to be on the rise in PNG ahead of his 6 March visit. Hopes are high in Port Moresby for a transformation of bilateral relations, with the PNG Post Courier referring to Kevin Rudd as

Embracing climate change in the Pacific

Donors and investors alike have long been sceptical of the economic potential of rural enterprise in the Pacific Islands. Weaknesses in infrastructure, energy and water supplies, transport, maintenance, marketing capacity and frequent land disputes have not inspired sufficient confidence to

Capitalism and aid

Tim Wilson’s argument that the best way to promote development is the spread of capitalism is a sound one and supported by most of the Pacific. A thriving free market economy creates employment, raises family incomes and creates demand for better services and better governance, thus reducing

Our Kiwi friends

The high priority attached to the development challenges in the South Pacific in Prime Minister Rudd’s 27 February meeting with his New Zealand counterpart Helen Clark is encouraging. Australia-New Zealand cooperation in the Pacific is hardly new, but the focus on development assistance

Principal leadership or regional cooperation?

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has praised Australia’s 'principal leadership' in the region, especially in Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.  The AUSMIN 2008 Joint Communiqué, however has a softer reference to the 'important role' of the Pacific Islands Forum

Putting the 'R' back in RAMSI

It’s not often tiny Niue makes comments to the media in a field usually occupied by Australians. Courtesy of its role as host of the Pacific Islands Forum meeting this year, Niue is part of the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Standing Committee on the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon

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