Pacific news in brief for June 26

Papua New Guinea – claims

Papua New Guinea Prime minister James Marape has brushed off claims that the country is facing a serious financial crisis.

Various sources have told the Post-Courier newspaper that contractors are owed tens of millions of kina by the government.

The contractors say banks are turning away their checks due to the government’s financial situation.

Other sources, who work within the government, have disclosed account information which reportedly shows a debt of $1.3 billion kina or (over US$330m).

On top of that, government contractors have told the paper there is 100 million kina (around US$28m) in outstanding contracts.

Prime Minister Marape denied the claims and called it misinformation.

He highlighted ongoing efforts by the budget management committee to ensure fiscal discipline.

Solomon Islands – police

Australia’s prime minister says he will consider a request from his Solomon Islands counterpart to help double the size of the Pacific island country’s police force.

Anthony Albanese hosted Jeremiah Manele in Canberra this week for their first meeting since Manele’s election in April.

In a joint statement today, the prime ministers reiterated that Australia is Solomon Islands partner of choice with the largest development and security cooperation programs in the island country.

The leaders asked ministers and officials to work together on Solomon Islands request for Australia to assist in growing and building the capability of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.

This includes Honiara’s ambition to increase the number of personnel in the force from 1500 to 3000 officers.

In July 2023, Manele’s predecessor Manasseh Sogavare signed a security deal with China that drew widespread criticism from the western world.

Fiji – budget

The cost of living, housing inflation and the brain drain are expected to be highlighted in Fiji’s upcoming budget. is reporting more than 70,000 people have left Fiji in the last 18 months.

Most of them are skilled and semi-skilled workers and make up around 15 percent of the total labour force.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Biman Prasad, will deliver the 2024/25 National Budget at 10am on Friday.

Cook Islands – crime

The Cook Islands Prime Minister says he will re-establish the community police to tackle the rising crime rate in Rarotonga.

Mark Brown, who is also the minister for police, made the comments in Parliament when discussing the more than NZ$6 million allocation for police in this year’s budget.

Vaka Puaikura community police was established in 2008 and ceased operation in 2016.

Leader of the Cook Islands United Party told Parliament there had been a string of recent vehicle accidents.

The Prime Minister said he will hold meetings with the MPs from Puaikura and Takitumu to re-start the community police as soon as possible.

American Samoa – application

Two officials from the Pacific Islands Forum are in American Samoa to conduct the next phase of the territory’s pending application for associate membership.

The purpose of the visit is for the Forum to perform an internal assessment of how American Samoa’s governance institutions, programs, and services align with the Pacific Islands Forum vision and mission, particularly the thematic areas of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

On Tuesday, they attended the daily devotional prayer service at the Governor’s Office conference room and were the guests of honour at an ava ceremony.

Guam – airfare

Guam’s Congressional Delegate James Moylan is trying to pass a law aimed at reducing airfare costs.

Airfares between Guam and Saipan can cost up to US$500, and it reaches the thousands when flying to other places in the continental US.

Current federal law doesn’t let foreign airlines fly passengers or cargo between US cities to protect domestic interests from foreign competition.

Only United Airlines offers flights between Guam, the Northern Marianas, and Hawaii, and they are notoriously expensive.

Delegate Moylan’s proposed legislation, first introduced to Congress last week, would let foreign airlines fly from Guam to other US airports, with the goal of making plane tickets cheaper and giving people more travel options.

The Northern Mariana Islands Congressional Delegate is also supporting this measure.

Pacific/Japan – forum

Tokyo is gearing up for the tenth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting.

Japan host’s Pacific Leaders every three years in an effort to strengthen its relationships with the Pacific.

A release from the Japan Foreign Press Centre says Climate change, marine issues, training human resources and maintaining free and open international order will be discussed at the meeting from 16 -18 July.

The meeting will be held ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit which is in Tonga in August.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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