CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: At the moment, we are monitoring the development of Cyclone Donna near Vanuatu. We are doing so very closely. It is now a Category 3 storm. There are variations in the projections as to where it might track, but we do know that it is a very significant storm. We know that there have been some initial reports of flooding and storm surges in the northern islands, and the scale and severity of this will not be known for a few days. At this stage, all indications are that the Vanuatu authorities are managing preparations very well, and of course we stand ready to assist as required in response to any priorities that the Vanuatu Government may identify.
BRUCE HILL: Well, let’s turn to the ADB’s 50th Anniversary, which you have been attending in Japan. You are representing the Treasurer who is Australia’s ADB Governor. He is obviously a little busy at the moment - we have a budget coming up in Australia.
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: He is, Bruce! He is very busy at the moment.
BRUCE HILL: Well, what is the message you are going to be delivering in regards to Australia’s role in the ADB, and its commitment to help finance development projects, particularly in our region, the Pacific?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, Australia holds a position of influence in the ADB. We are a founding member. We are the third largest donor to the Asian Development Fund since its inception. We are the fifth largest shareholder and we lead the constituency office. We do have quite an influence. The Asian Development Bank, as you have indicated in your opening comments, has been the finance of so many projects. And indeed if you just look back, not just in the Pacific, but in its contribution to development results just in the last sort of three years or so - 34, 000 kilometres of road, power generation capacities, households, almost 700, 000 households connected to electricity, 5.7 million people benefitting from improved availability of financial services, and that is two out of five women, almost 2.5 million teachers trained to provide better education. These are just some snapshots of some of the global figures, but when you start looking at the Pacific, in the last year, we have seen a record almost $600 million approved by the ADB for 23 new loan and grant projects. They have approved 30 million for 31 various different -
BRUCE HILL: Any chance of getting the ADB to perhaps increase its ability to fund projects in the Pacific Islands, where it can have a huge effect?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, it will have a huge effect and of course there has been a merger between the ADB's Asian Development Fund and its ordinary capital resources. This has significantly increased its ability to provide loans and grants, and this will double to around $20 billion. And of course ADB assistance to lower income countries will rise by around 70 per cent - especially important for crisis lending or disaster financing. Of course, in the Pacific, this will increase this capacity by an enormous amount. This is also in addition to 21 new positions that will be funded by the ADB to support Pacific projects. We have been a very strong advocate for Scale-Up in the Pacific, and our advocacy has included pushing the bank to a much more tangible, high quality engagement, less fly-in fly-out oversight and much more greater emphasis on the ground. In the end, when you have got the bankers on the ground being part of and supervising operations, it is much more effective, not just in terms of keeping projects on time and on budget, but also lending capacity-building support. And Bruce, I have seen some absolutely fantastic projects, just to name a few: in Port Vela, the urban development project; in Tonga, the outer island renewable energy project; I was on the island of Ha’apai and saw what the ADB in conjunction with other finances including Australia is doing; in Nuku’alofa, urban development project to do with water; now we are looking at the Port of Nauru, so these are just some projects which are very important for the region, very important in terms of -
BRUCE HILLS: Those are very, very important projects of course, but Australia’s ability to keep funding those is always under review - we have a budget coming up. I have to ask the question - I know you can’t let the cat out of the bag - but are there any implications for Australia’s aid spending in the Pacific, in the upcoming budget?
CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, Australia remains committed to its support in the Pacific, and of course all will be revealed on Tuesday evening. But, can I just say in the context of the ADB, this will ensure that there will be significant amount of resources and financial capacity available in the Pacific, which is very important. When you look at overseas development assistance, Bruce, put it into context. It is not just the overseas development assistance that countries like Australia give, but at the moment we are starting to see not just the ADB stepping up in the Pacific, but we are also seeing increased presence by the World Bank, you have got the Green Climate Fund which is providing support to various countries. So what this means is that we can push for a greater focus, not just on infrastructure, but we can support the ambitious agenda of entities, like the Asian Development Bank, to increase its activities in social sectors such as climate finance, such as well-designed policy based lending. Basically what that does is ensure that policy changes are effected within the governments in the Pacific.
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555