ADB pushes open skies

A regional approach to encouraging greater priv­a­te sector competition th­rough "open skies" can help increase the number of flights within the region and with key overseas markets, says Asian Development Bank president Takehiko Nakao.

He made the comment during a recent visit to Fiji and cited key priorities Pacific Opportunities: Leveraging Asia's Growth that would strengthen Pacific Island countries' links with Asian countries.

On shipping, Takehiko said, initial experience in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands suggested that subsidising the private sector on a competitive basis to undertake shipping routes to remote communities could be a better approach than through inefficient state-owned enterprises.

“Soft infrastructure will be needed. By this, I mean that institutional and policy constraints, such as high barriers to imports and slow and complex customs procedures, will need to be addressed," he said noting one of the key priorities in the report.

“Regional trade agreements, including those bei­ng negotiated between Pacific Island countries themselves, as well as with Australia and New Zeala­nd, can reduce regulatory costs and encourage growth.

“The Pacific is especially likely to benefit if greater trade in goods is accompanied by greater labour mobility. Australia and New Zealand temporary labour migration programs, for instance, now provide opportunities for thousands of Pacific Islanders each year.”

He said those schemes had been proven to benefit labour sending and labour receiving countries.

Takehiko said ADB was working with governments across the region to undertake reforms to encourage business, attract investment, and streamline “red tape”.