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Monday, July 23, 2007

Recent 2007 Palau Forum Economic Minister's Meeting recommends push for labour mobility

by Deli Oso, Press Secretary to PM

The recent 2007 Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Palau has recommended that forum leaders push for bilateral arrangements or a regional co-operation on labour mobility with Australia and New Zealand, the Minister for Finance and Treasury, Gordon Darcy Lilo revealed.

Mr Darcy Lilo told a Press Conference on Friday morning last week that labour mobility was one of the issues discussed at this year’s FEMM and the region’s economic ministers had set that down for pursuance by forum leaders at their 2007 annual summit in Tonga in October.

“We recommended to the forum leaders that the two countries in the pacific, Australia and New Zealand should now sign bilateral arrangements or regional co-operations with forum island countries so they can put in place seasonal workers scheme or some permanent long term employment arrangements for all forum member countries.”

The Finance and Treasury Minister said studies had proven the economics of labour mobility in a number of pacific island countries.

“There are countries that have been able to benefit from seasonal labour employment in metropolitan countries like Australia and New Zealand. These countries included Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tonga and they have grown economically strong.”

“If you look at Samoa for instance 50 percent of its growth is basically from remittance. It is a small economy even not big as the Western Province but it is

thriving economically. Samoa has graduated from being one of the least developed countries to a medium scale income economy and this is partly due to a steady flow of remittance from its citizens working abroad under seasonal and permanent employment arrangements,” Mr Darcy Lilo said.

Mr Darcy Lilo said this was good news and the forum economic ministers wanted all forum member countries to enter into seasonal or some permanent long-term employment arrangements with Australia and New Zealand soon to improve their economic base.

He said the current labour mobility focus was on unskilled labour which was excessive in pacific island countries.

Mr Darcy Lilo said Australia had not totally rejected labour mobility arrangements with pacific island countries but wanted those seeking employment under such arrangement to be trained.

He said the forum economic ministers had indicated the region’s readiness to put in place training programmes should a labour mobility deal be struck by the forum leaders.

The Finance and Treasury Minister said a study carried out by the World Bank found that Melanesians who had temporarily worked in New Zealand and Australia under seasonal employment arrangements had performed well.

There are Solomon Islanders working in New Zealand under private seasonal employment arrangements.

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