Pacific Social Development Improving, But Challenges Remain

Lessons from the impact of the global economic crisis a decade ago, plus a sustained period of economic growth, has helped to drive substantial social development gains in the Pacific, according to the latest issue of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Pacific Economic Monitor (PEM) launched today.

“The steady improvements we have seen in social protection, health, and education in the Pacific are impressive,” said ADB Director General for the Pacific Ms. Carmela Locsin. “However, more needs to be done to strengthen support to vulnerable groups, including the unemployed, women, children, and the elderly.”

Economic prospects for the Pacific are positive, with growth expected to tick up to 3.5% in 2019 before moderating to 3.2% in 2020—well above the 1.0% growth in 2018. Reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the wake of last year’s major earthquake, as well as an economic recovery in Timor-Leste, are largely responsible for the improved outlook.

This latest issue of the PEM, the flagship economic publication of ADB’s Pacific Department, highlights country issues and explores policy themes centered on social development in the Pacific.

While social protection in the Pacific is increasing, the PEM says more is needed from Pacific governments to strengthen social protection policies and programs. Higher expenditure must also consider the need to broaden social protection coverage, which can provide more and better support to the poor, women, and the elderly. 

The report’s country briefs include examinations of employment trends in PNG, the silent emergency of poor nutrition in Timor-Leste, and updates on education policies in Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. It also looks at public health, access to water and sanitation services, social security, and financial inclusion.

The PEM addresses how recent global developments in elderly care may provide useful lessons for countries in the Pacific. Another policy brief examines health financing constraints—across the Pacific, but particularly in PNG—and how efficient spending can enhance the quality of service delivery and improve health outcomes.

The Pacific Economic Monitor is a bi-annual review of economic developments and policy issues in ADB’s 14 developing member countries in the Pacific and includes policy briefs on key policy issues and interests. In combination with the Asian Development Outlook series, ADB provides quarterly reports on economic trends and policy developments in the Pacific. The PEM welcomes contributions of policy briefs from external authors and institutions.