Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific


Tough choices dealing with COVID-19 in the Pacific

A Fijian family board their canoe as a sunset lights up the sky behind an island's mountain range in Suva 28 April, 2004 (Photo: Reuters/Gray).

Author: Tess Newton Cain, Griffith Asia Institute

In the Pacific islands region, the COVID-19 story is one of contrasts. There have been few confirmed cases of infection. Many Pacific island countries are COVID-19-free thanks to the swift and decisive actions of governments in closing borders early and keeping them firmly shut. But the danger is not over yet so there is no room for complacency. Significant risk factors are still present in Pacific island countries, including a prevalence of chronic disease and weak healthcare systems despite recent international efforts to provide support by way of funding and equipment.

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COVID-19 exposes cracks in Pacific regionalism

Maxi Mart employee Nena Nena is interviewed by Pacific Daily News reporter Jojo Santo Tomas about the use of nearby hotels, Wyndham Garden Guam, and Days Inn, as 14-day quarantine zones for passengers coming from COVID-19 affected areas, on Ypao Road, 20 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters).

Authors: Anna Powles and Jose Sousa-Santos, Massey University

At the time of writing, there are 63 reported cases of COVID-19 in the Pacific. This includes one in Papua New Guinea, three in Fiji, seven in New Caledonia, 23 in French Polynesia, 29 in Guam and suspected cases in Samoa. The number is relatively low but there is a sense that tragedy is unfolding in slow motion across a region where health sectors are already under-funded and poorly equipped. Read more…

Currents of change in the Pacific dwarfed by rising tides

Officials count ballots in Buka, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, 11 December 2019 (Photo: Reuters/BRC/Jeremy Miller).

Author: Kerryn Baker, ANU

The past year has been a time of considerable change for the Pacific Islands, with new leadership, new partnerships and even the potential for new nations all coming into being. The one constant is the enduring threat of climate change, with 2019 ultimately a disappointing year for Pacific climate activists. Read more…

Changes in Fiji’s politics

Fiji's Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, 23 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri).

Author: Scott MacWilliam, ANU

In Fiji, 2019 was similar to the year that preceded it. But things might be a little different in 2020.

In the run up to the second election since the so-called return to democracy in November 2018, the FijiFirst government led by Prime Minister Voreqe ‘Frank’ Bainimarama campaigned on its past successes. Emphasising supposedly unprecedented economic growth as well as increased support for households, the governing party stressed its role in providing stability through continuity. Read more…

China constrained as much as controlling in the South Pacific

A view of the Rock Islands of Palau. Picture taken 5 August 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Farah Master)

Author: Denghua Zhang, ANU

China’s engagement with the states of the South Pacific Ocean has accelerated in recent years. But while policymakers and academics increasingly talk about China’s growing influence, Beijing actually operates in the region under a number of constraints.

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Keeping up with Pacific politics

Pacific island leaders talk to APEC leaders at the APEC Summit, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 17 November 2018 (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).

Author: Tess Newton Cain, TNC Pacific Consulting

The changed and changing geostrategic environment of the Pacific islands made its presence known on numerous occasions during the year. After decades of neglect, the region was ‘rediscovered’ by strategists in Australia, the United States and elsewhere. Read more…

Getting SEZs right for development in Fiji

Fijian garment workers make clothing for export in a factory in the capital Suva, 26 July 2000 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Neelesh Gounder, University of the South Pacific

SEZs have become common industrial policies with more than 3500 special economic zones (SEZs) in over 130 countries. Though widely seen as a means to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), their end goal is to support industrialisation and contribute to economic growth and development. Read more…

Putting the ‘Pacific’ into Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy

Fiji's Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the end of their joint news conference at Abe's official residence in Tokyo 19 May 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato).

Author: Sandra Tarte, University of the South Pacific

In the face of North Korea’s nuclear program, a resurgent China, an unpredictable US president and the rise of anti-globalisation forces, Japan’s new Indo-Pacific strategy aims to improve connectivity between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and between the African and Asian continents. Tokyo intends for ‘Indo-Pacific’ to supersede ‘Asia Pacific’ as the term that describes its region. Read more…

How fare the democracies of Melanesia?

President of Federated States of Micronesia, Peter Christian departs after speaking at the opening of The Ocean Conference at the United Nations in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, 5 June 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Allegri).

Author: Tess Newton Cain, TNC Pacific Consulting

This year has been another one of significant political events in Melanesia.

The biggest political story of the year was the general election in PNG. While it was anticipated that Peter O’Neill would be returned as prime minister, his party’s loss of more than 30 seats was a significant indication that opposition parties were able to make inroads in some electorates. Read more…

Shining light on the Pacific’s dark networks

The Australian Border force displaying their largest haul of illicit drugs in two years on 15 February, 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed).

Author: Anthea McCarthy-Jones, University of Canberra

Over the past few decades, the operational arrangements of numerous organised crime groups operating in the Pacific have developed into sophisticated networks with shared objectives. The increasingly adaptive nature of these groups means that their illicit activities are no longer bound by discrete, local or traditional geographical locations. The December 2016 seizure by Australian Police and Australian Border Force officers of almost one tonne of cocaine is a recent example of criminal organisations utilising network structures to move vast quantities of illicit drugs across the Pacific. Read more…

Pacific perspectives in 2016

Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations, addresses the UN General Assembly after being elected as General Assembly President for the 71st session at UN headquarters in Manhattan, New York, 13 June 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar).

Authors: Matthew Dornan and Tess Newton Cain, ANU

2016 was a big year for Pacific politics. Vanuatu and Nauru held elections — each in the context of significant concerns about governance. Censorship, deportation of the chief justice and arrests of opposition MPs have led to a serious decline in the credibility of democracy in Nauru in recent years. In Vanuatu, the election this year followed 14 members of parliament having been jailed for corruption in 2015. Read more…

Fiji emerges from 2016 undaunted by disaster

Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama of Fiji addresses the United Nations General Assembly 20 September 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

Author: Sandra Tarte, University of the South Pacific

Climate change and natural disaster featured prominently on Fiji’s economic and political landscape in 2016. In November, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama attracted world-wide media attention with his call for US President-elect Donald Trump to visit Fiji ‘to see the effects of climate change for himself’. Read more…

The Pacific is divided on West Papua

A West Papuan woman dances with her spear during a protest (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Patrick M. Walsh, Observer Research Foundation

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua could be welcomed into the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) as a full member this December, according to its Chairman, Manasseh Sogavare. This would advance its position from observer status, granted in 2014. That decision would mark the most significant recognition of West Papua as a political identity since the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority administration in the 1960s.
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What Rabuka’s return means for Fijian politics

An election poster for Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama can be seen in the rear window of a taxi as a man gestures from the doorway of a local gymnasium in the Fiji capital of Suva. (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Sandra Tarte, University of the South Pacific

In September 2014, Prime Minster Voreqe Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party swept to victory in an election that heralded Fiji’s return to elected government, almost eight years after Bainimarama seized power in a military coup. Read more…

Assessing the damage post-Cyclone TC Winston

Author: Neelesh Gounder, University of the South Pacific

TC Winston struck Fiji on 20 February 2016, causing widespread devastation. Classed as category five, TC Winston is the strongest cyclone to have ever hit Fiji and has impacted close to 350,000 people. This comes just four years after the category four cyclone TC Evan ravaged Fiji, causing damages estimated at around FJ$195 million (US$108 million).

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