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PM covers a broad spectrum of issues relevant to all sections of Australia's diverse community.
Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Workshop a Success
Third Regional Training Session Brings Together Pacific Education Experts PORT VILA, July 14, 2017 – More than 80 Pacific Islanders working in early childhood education and readiness came together this week in Port Vila, Vanuatu, to discuss best practice, and share experiences and responses to address the challenges commonly experienced in implementing, monitoring, and evaluating education programs and policies in the Pacific. The workshop was supported by the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning (PEARL) Program. Representatives from Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Fiji were welcomed by the Vanuatu Minister of Education, Hon. Jean-Pierre Nirua, who spoke about the importance of early childhood readiness and the workshop’s contributions to it. “I wish to take this rare opportunity to commend and extend a profound gratitude with special acknowledgement to the World Bank for the strong interest and visible actions that the Bank has taken to support education; in particular the Global Partnership for Education for the financing of this workshop that is aimed at raising the level of consciousness and the importance on the need to raise and sustain competency levels in literacy for our children at young age for first internally or locally, before they venture out into the region and beyond to face the withstand sporadic challenges,” said Minister Nirua. The program included visits to local preschools and primary schools. Vanuatu has recently implemented a multi-lingual policy, which has seen a shift to using the common language spoken by children (i.e. a vernacular-language medium of instruction) for years 1-3, before introducing a second or third language. Multi-lingual teaching is a common challenge for many Pacific Island countries, so exploring different options for educating in multi-lingual environments was seen as a particularly welcome part of the workshop for many participants. “This workshop was a great opportunity to hear from others in the region, and for all participants to see first-hand early childhood care in Vanuatu,” said Roy Obed, workshop participant and Director of Education and Services at the Vanuatu Ministry of Education and Training. “We were able to learn about new initiatives taking place and I’m excited to take some of these ideas home with me.” The workshop also included sessions on community-based play activities and awareness raising about the importance of reading with children from an early age. Each country’s participants also worked through their own program objectives and outlined a plan for moving forward and introducing initiatives such as sounding out words, policy changes and promoting an increased focus on learning during a child’s first years of life. “Birth to 5 are some of the most important years of a child’s life. What happens then can influence a child’s physical, mental and cognitive development, and later on their learning outcomes, career prospects and life-span,” said Binh Vu, Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank. “PEARL works across the Pacific to share knowledge and support countries implement school readiness and early grade reading that works best in each country’s context.”    The PEARL program works with Pacific Island countries to improve child readiness and learning, as well as teacher training for the early years of school. In Tonga, the program is supporting communities to organize play-based activities so children are better prepared for school, while helping teachers improve the learning outcomes of their students in the first grades of primary education. Recently, an awareness campaign aimed at encouraging parents to spend 10 minutes each day reading with their very young children was rolled out across Tonga, which included a TV series and a song, Tu'o taha 'i he 'aho (Once a day). Radio talkback programs have had enthusiastic participation from parents and teachers, and nearly 80% of parents in the main islands of Tonga have engaged with the campaign. PEARL is funded by the Global Partnership for Education and implemented by the World Bank. PEARL has two key goals: to support children to develop key skills that will be useful at school, and to help more children learn to read and write well in their first years of primary school, which has knock-on effects throughout their education.
Stronger Public and Private Sectors for Kiribati
World Bank Executive Board approves third operation WASHINGTON, September 13, 2016 - The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved US$2 million for Kiribati’s Third Economic Reform Development Policy Operation, which will build on the Pacific Island nation’s significant progress in improved public financial management and inclusive, private sector-led growth. The third such operation since 2013 will help strengthen public financial management through greater transparency in managing fisheries revenue, improved governance of the country’s Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund (RERF), and better reporting and monitoring of public debt and liabilities. It will also help create an environment for inclusive and private sector-led growth by supporting reforms to reduce the costs, improve the quality and expand the coverage of essential public services including electricity, water, sewage, and telecommunications. “The Government of Kiribati is committed to building fiscal resilience and promoting private sector growth to create more jobs,” said Minister for Finance and Economic Development Hon Teuea Toatu. “The continued policy reforms we are undertaking with the support of the World Bank will help improve delivery of essential public services like electricity, water and sanitation, and more resilient public finances.” The Third Economic Support Development Policy Operation directly supports the government’s Economic Reform Plan, which has already delivered greater transparency around public debt and management of the RERF, as well as competition in the domestic mobile telecommunications market and measures to ensure the continued reform of the Public Utilities Board to achieve quality delivery of essential services.  “This is the third in a series of programmatic budget support operations we are supporting, as the Government of Kiribati continues to improve fiscal sustainability and create conditions for more inclusive and private sector-led growth,” said Robert Utz, the World Bank Acting Country Director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “We look forward to continuing to work with the government to improve the lives of all i-Kiribati.” The Third Economic Support Development Policy Operation is funded through a US$2 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. This support builds on gains achieved by previous development policy operations in 2013 and 2014. Visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/worldbankBe updated via Twitter: www.twitter.com/wb_asiapacificFor our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/worldbank
Kiribati’s Over-Reliance on Fuel to End With World Bank Project
More than 50,000 people set to benefit from solar energy Tarawa Kiribati, September 23, 2016 – Large-scale solar panels installed at four government owned facilities were officially unveiled today as part of a new World Bank project designed to reduce Kiribati’s dependence on imported fuel. The Kiribati Grid Connected Solar PV Project, funded through the World Bank by the Australian Government and the Global Environment Facility, which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from diesel fuel used for electricity, saw the unveiling today of 548kW of  solar installations by representatives from the Government of Kiribati, Government of Australia, and Kiribati’s Public Utilities Board (PUB). “For too long, Kiribati – as one of the most remote countries in the world – has been dependent on imported fuel. This is not only a massive burden on our finances, but has a negative impact on the environment around us,” said The Hon. Korabi Nenem, Vice President and Minister for Kiribati Ministry of Public Works and Utilities. “As a nation profoundly affected by the impacts of climate change due to the world’s over-reliance on fossil fuels, it is important for us to practice what we preach.” “These solar panels take advantage of our plentiful supply of sun, and will provide a more reliable and sustainable source of energy for the future of our nation.” Kiribati’s small size and remoteness makes it highly dependent on imports, and extremely vulnerable to any changes in global fuel prices. About half of all imported fuel in 2012 was used for electricity generation on the South Tarawa grid, servicing around 52,000 people. It is estimated the energy generated through these new solar panels will reduce diesel fuel use by 230,000 liters per year, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 765 tons per year, and save the Government of Kiribati US$290,000. The 548kWp (kilowatt peak capacity) solar panels were fitted onto four buildings in South Tarawa – the Kiribati Institute of Technology, Betio Sports Complex, Tungaru Hospital and King George V Secondary School – with the latter two sites also requiring roofs to be replaced through the project in order for the panels to be secured. Energy generated from the solar panels will be fed directly into the South Tarawa grid system. “Shifting to solar energy in Kiribati is an important step for the government and people of Kiribati. These solar panels are contributing to electricity used by schools, hospitals and public buildings throughout South Tarawa; critical infrastructure that the Australian Government is proud to support,” said His Excellency Bruce Cowled, Australian High Commissioner for Kiribati. “We’re proud to support the Government of Kiribati with this important project; one that will reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and reduce expenditure on fuel,” said Kamleshwar Khelawan, Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank. “It’s an important milestone in our support to helping the Pacific Islands region shift to a sustainable, more cost-effective, fossil fuel-free future by building local capacity in the procurement, operations and maintenance of renewable energy systems.” Ending in 2018, the Kiribati Grid Connected Solar PV Project is coordinated by the World Bank and funded through a US$1 million grant from the Global Environment Fund (GEF) and a US$2.92 million grant from the Government of Australia, through the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility (PRIF). 
Five-Year Plan Highlights Opportunities and Risks for Nine Pacific Island Nations
World Bank Group outlines plan to take advantage of significant increase in financial support WASHINGTON D.C., February 28, 2017 – With an expected tripling of available funds to the Pacific Islands from the World Bank, a new partnership framework between the World Bank Group and nine Pacific Island countries focuses on how to work together to achieve transformative change in the coming five years, especially in key sectors such as climate change and disaster risk management, information and communication technology, aviation, fisheries, transport, and tourism. Discussed today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors following extensive collaboration between the World Bank Group and Pacific governments, the Regional Partnership Framework provides a roadmap for Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (FSM), Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, and highlights both regional opportunities and country-specific action plans for the five years ahead. “This framework, the product of wide-ranging consultations with a range of stakeholders, brings together extensive knowledge and experience from across the Pacific to guide how the World Bank and Pacific governments can best work together over the next five years to have the most positive impact for the people of these nine extraordinary countries,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “The framework has been developed to allow each country to take advantage of regional opportunities, while being flexible enough to tailor activities that best suit each country’s own unique needs.” The majority of countries included in the framework are likely to have access to a tripling, and in some cases a quadrupling, of available financing through the World Bank in the coming years, as funds allocated to the Pacific through the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) will increase to US$900 million during the IDA18 replenishment period, which runs from July 2017 to June 2020, compared with US$360 million for the previous three years. Given this significant increase and the World Bank Group’s planned staff increases in key Pacific Island countries, the framework comes at a crucial time, providing a clear guide for Pacific governments and the World Bank Group to ensure more investment in four priority areas: 1.     Maximizing economic opportunities, principally through fisheries, agriculture and tourism. 2.     Enhancing access to employment opportunities, particularly through labour mobility and tackling youth unemployment. Addressing gender-based violence will also form an important element of the engagement. 3.     Protecting sources of income and livelihoods by strengthening preparedness and resilience to natural disasters and climate change, as well as addressing non-communicable diseases. 4.     Strengthening the enablers of growth through improved macroeconomic management, increased access to basic services and addressing knowledge gaps. Tom Jacobs, Country Manager for the Pacific at the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private-sector lending arm, said despite the challenges, the private sector must play an increased role in supporting Pacific Island economies. “Through our advisory and investment activities, IFC will continue working actively to facilitate private sector engagement, mitigate the impact of commercial bank ‘de-risking’ and help clients take full advantage of opportunities to grow and create jobs,” said Jacobs. “We look forward to working with regional governments, private sector clients, colleagues at the World Bank and our development partners, including the Australian and New Zealand governments, to address the key challenges and maximize opportunities for the private sector under this new partnership framework.” Building on an already strong engagement with countries in the region, the framework is largely informed by lessons from implementing programs throughout the Pacific in the past decade, together with the 25-year future-focused Pacific Possible report and Systematic Country Diagnostic, the analysis of the key constraints and opportunities facing Pacific Island countries. The full Regional Partnership Framework for the PIC9 is available online here. For more information, please visit: www.worldbank.org/pacificislandsFacebook: www.facebook.com/worldbankpacificTwitter: www.twitter.com/wb_asiapacificYouTube: www.youtube.com/worldbank
Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink: Adapting to life in climate change-hit Kiribati
March 21, 2017 - Tabonibara, Kiribati –Straddling the equator in the middle of the Central Pacific Ocean, Kiribati is made up of 33 coral atolls spread across 3.5 million km² (1.3 square miles) of ocean. Most of the islands are less than two kilometers wide and have an average height of 1.8 meters (6 feet) above sea level, making the country one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change and sea level rise. King tides can wash over entire islands, causing flooding for days and contaminating drinking water supplies for weeks and even months. Prolonged droughts, particularly during La Nina, can cause extreme water shortage, affecting agriculture and peoples’ general wellbeing. With the entire population and the majority of the infrastructure located on the coast, damage and coastal erosion from high tides, storm surges and strong winds is increasingly an issue. Ruteta, a mother of three living in Tabonibara village, North Tarawa, knows all too well the problems that contaminated well water can bring. “A few years ago our well water got really smelly. We worried about our children, because they had diarrhea after drinking the water we boiled from the affected well,” said Ruteta. North Tarawa, while still part of the main island of Kiribati, is only accessible by boat and remains largely subsistence-based, with residents gathering most of their food and water from their surroundings. Until recently, communities used ground water from wells for all their cooking, drinking and farming needs. While usually satisfactory after boiling, ground water can become contaminated by seawater during floods and king tides, making people – especially children – sick. Prolonged periods of drought, usually during La Nina years, often meant heavy rationing of water, impacting general wellbeing and agriculture. Infant mortality in Kiribati is the highest in the Pacific Islands, at 43 deaths per thousand live births and infantile diarrhea contributes to this high number. Through the Kiribati Adaptation Program, which is now in its third phase, rainwater harvesting systems have now been installed in Ruteta’s community, as well as in five other communities nearby. “Now that we have rainwater tanks our children have fallen ill much less so that makes us very happy. There’s a big difference in the quality of rainwater compared to well-water,” said Ruteta
Pacific Regional Connectivity Program Phase 4: Kiribati Connectivity Project
IDA Grant: US$20.0 million equivalent Project ID: P159632 Project Description: The objective of the project is to reduce the cost and increase the availability of Internet services in Kiribati.
Remote Pacific Regions set for Broadband Internet Under new World Bank Projects
$36m grants approved to bring broadband to Kiribati and Federated States of Micronesia   WASHINGTON D.C., May 31, 2017 –The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$36 million in grants to help provide reliable fiber optic broadband internet to approximately 80,000 people in Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The grants, including US$20 million for Kiribati and US$16.26 million for FSM, will finance the installation of a submarine cable system connecting Tarawa (Kiribati) to Nauru, and Kosrae state (FSM) to Pohnpei state (FSM), which is connected to global networks. The Asian Development Bank is preparing finance to support Nauru’s participation in the cable system. “We have already seen the benefits high-speed, reliable and affordable internet can bring to countries across the Pacific, and we look forward to working with Kiribati and Micronesia to bring faster and cheaper connectivity to the North Pacific,” said Michel Kerf, World Bank Country Director for Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “These connections will play a crucial role in linking families, creating economic and employment opportunities, reducing transaction costs, providing remote education and healthcare, and boosting national and international coordination.” The projects are part of the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program, which aims to bring more reliable and affordable internet to the majority of countries in the Pacific Islands. Kiribati and Micronesia are two of the world’s most remote island nations, covering six million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean, making access to information, services and economic opportunities a massive challenge. In Kiribati, the internet capacity will be sold by the wholesaler on an open access basis to ensure equal access for all fixed and mobile networks operated by local retailers in Tarawa and nearby islands, accounting for more than two-thirds of the country’s population. A complementary project, supported by the World Bank, Australia and New Zealand will also help deliver mobile broadband services to more distant outer islands. “High-speed internet will connect Kiribati to the rest of the world, bringing new opportunities into our homes and offices and promoting overall economic integration. This is crucial for our development,” said Dr Teatao Tira, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication, Transport & Tourism, government of Kiribati. “The government has already taken important steps to reduce the cost and improve the quality of services and this cable will take those achievements to the next level.” In the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), both Yap and Chuuk states are already part of the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program through the Palau-FSM Connectivity phase. The underwater cable systems for Yap and Chuuk states are set for installation late 2017 and are expected to be ready for service by early 2018. With this additional funding, all four states in Micronesia will have access to broadband internet. This accomplishment will complete a key objective of the FSM Government’s National Development Strategy, which aims to connect all four states to fiber optic cable systems to ensure equality of access. “Just a few short years ago, no one would have believed such a project was possible. Through vision, persistence and with the mutual support of our regional and donor partnerships we are now on the verge of achieving our dream of connecting our small island state communities to the world,” said Vice President Yosiwo P. George of the national government of the Federates States of Micronesia (FSM). “This project will provide all four states with access to good quality and affordable internet connections. We look forward to being able to overcome some of the challenges our remoteness creates.” In addition to laying the fiber optic cable, the grants will fund technical assistance provided to relevant government ministries and help develop the regulatory framework needed to promote competition and keep costs as low as possible for consumers. The US$36.26 million grants are provided through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for countries most in need. 
Building Roads with Resilience in Kiribati and Samoa
Building weather-resilient roads is a topic of increasing concern everywhere, most especially in places like the Pacific Islands, which are isolated, spread out, small in population and particularly threatened by climate change.  Many important roads lie next to the sea, barely above sea level, and are without drainage. They’re often badly maintained and governments don’t have the resources for repairs or rebuilding. To best protect roads from the ravages of extreme weather, the World Bank supports adaptation and resilience, which is building a road, or bridge, to be somewhat resistant to climate change. In Samoa, a World Bank project aims to build resilience into the restoration of vital roads and bridges damaged by extreme weather. The project came in response to Tropical Cyclone Evan, which wreaked havoc on Samoa. The government estimated damages from the cyclone at about US $210 million, equivalent to about 30 percent of the total value of goods and services produced in the country in 2011.  “As the task team saw with its own eyes, a severe rainstorm (not even a cyclone) can make roads or bridges impassable,” says Sean Michaels, an infrastructure expert at the World Bank who is co-managing the resilience project. “On the island of Savaii a key bridge was impassable for eight hours, providing residents with limited connectivity to the nearby hospital and schools. That bridge is one of the funding targets under the project.” On Kiribati, engineers are incorporating climate resilience into rebuilding the country’s main South Tarawa road. The 33 kilometre road stretches from the Betio business district in the west to the airport at Bonriki in the east, with eight kilometres of feeder roads, tidal barriers and speed humps thrown in to make the roads safer. One of the first steps in rebuilding the South Tarawa network was to identify the beaches, near the road, that are most eroded. In some cases, the erosion is only a few meters from the road itself. Road designers are also planning for heavier rainfall and a rising sea level, and working on seawalls to protect the road from the sea. “Tarawa is one of the most densely populated spots on the map-- 58,000 people living on a very thin stretch of land,” says Franz Dress-Gross, the World Bank’s country director for Kiribati. “There were a lot of coastal defences that had to be strengthened to make sure that the road would be safe from erosion effects from the sea. The type of pavement that was used is particularly resilient to heavy rainfall and, as you know, with climate change we expect stronger peak rain events as well as prolonged drought.” Both the Kiribati and the Samoa projects are funded by IDA, an arm of the World Bank that works with the world’s poorest countries. But all around the world, countries are making huge investments in transport infrastructure—those investments are estimated at $1.4 trillion to $2.1 trillion a year. And since bridges, roads, and rail lines can last for decades, the issue of building for climate change becomes imperative now.  That’s why over one-fourth of the Bank’s transport portfolio supports climate mitigation and adaptation. With support from the World Bank, engineers around the world are tracking, studying, and planning to build infrastructure that can withstand weather ranging from El Nino to raging sandstorms to massive high tides. To do that, engineers first assess the weaknesses in a few main road sections. They evaluate the risk posed by climate change and the economic consequences of damage to the road sections.Then they make recommendations as to how to improve the roads’ resilience. Suggestions range from using re-siting roads, using different building materials, raising road levels and planting vegetation in order to stabilize slopes. In Samoa, the government is using outreach and meetings to get communities thinking about road resilience. Engineers are using high-resolution aerial photography to map the most vulnerable roads. After Cyclone Ian hit Tonga hard, the country is working on analysis of storm tides, waves and sea level rise. In Kiribati, the push is to raise seaside roads to so-called “no regret” levels. In Samoa, the goal is “no-regret” level roads combined with a move to relocate roads and people away from the coast. In all three nations, experts acknowledge that good roads are vital for economic development, but they face a lack of resources. The approach has to be multi-pronged, says Sean Michaels. “There’s no silver bullet to enhancing road resilience,” Michaels says. Governments need to use tools ranging from risk-based planning, to uniquely designed infrastructure, to making sure laws and regulations can support adaptation, to, ultimately, supporting post-disaster recovery. And, Michaels says, it is important to make sure stakeholders—especially ones with limited funds—stay committed. Financial incentives, like grants, can certainly help, but it is equally important that supervisors keep a close and careful eye on progress, to make sure workers stay on course to meet their resilience goals.
East Asia Pacific Economic Update, April 2017: Sustaining Resilience
Key findings The outlook for developing East Asia is expected to remain broadly positive in the next three years, with growth driven by robust domestic demand and a gradual recovery in the global economy and commodity prices.China’s economy will grow 6.5 percent in 2017 and 6.3 percent in 2018, compared with 6.7 percent in 2016, as the government rebalances toward consumption and services.In the rest of the region, including the large economies in Southeast Asia, growth is expected to pick up slightly to 5 percent in 2017 and 5.1 percent in 2018, up from 4.9 percent in 2016.  As a whole, the economies of developing East Asia and Pacific are projected to expand at 6.2 percent in 2017 and 6.1 percent in 2018.Poverty in the region is likely to continue to fall, driven by sustained growth and rising labor incomes.The global environment and domestic vulnerabilities still pose risks to the region’s prospects. These include: faster-than-expected interest rate hikes in the U.S.; protectionist sentiments in some advanced economies; and rapid credit expansion and high levels of debt in several East Asian countries.To address these risks, the report recommends that policy makers continue to focus on prudent macroeconomic management and ensuring sustainable fiscal balances in the medium term.Growth in the region will continue to be driven by strong domestic demand, including public, and increasingly private, investment. This trend will also be supported by gradually rising demand for exports, as emerging markets and developing economies recover.The slow pace of recovery in commodity prices will benefit commodity exporters in the region, but won’t unduly hurt the economies of commodity importers in East Asia.In China, growth will continue to moderate, reflecting the impact of the government’s measures to reduce excess capacity and credit expansion. As a result, the report expects activity in the real estate sector to slow down.In the short term, policy makers should prioritize measures that counteract global risks threatening the availability and cost of external finance, as well as export growth.Across the region’s large economies, increasing fiscal revenues can help governments finance programs that boost growth and foster inclusion while reducing risks to fiscal sustainability.Some smaller commodity-exporting economies will need to take steps to increase their fiscal solvency.In China, the government can sustain its efforts to reduce corporate debt and restructure state-owned enterprises, tighten the regulation of shadow banking and address rising household mortgage debt. Reforms to reduce excess industrial capacity could be complemented with improved social transfers and labor policies. With credit growth remaining high across much of the region, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Lao PDR, the report suggests an emphasis on strengthening regulation and enhancing supervision.The longer-term challenge for the region lies in sustaining rapid growth while ensuring greater inclusion. Governments can address these challenges by increasing productivity and investment, which have slowed recently in several economies, as well as by improving the quality of public spending. In the face of rising protectionism outside the region, East Asia can seize opportunities to advance regional integration, including by deepening ongoing initiatives, lowering barriers to labor mobility and expanding cross-border flows of goods and services within the ASEAN Economic Community.Policy makers can put future economic prospects on a more sustainable path if they take steps to reduce pollution caused by farming, a rising threat amid the intensification of agriculture in the region.
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