The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved two major new projects for Kiribati aimed at delivering safer transport and services to some of the country’s most remote outer islands, and strengthening the Pacific Island nation’s management of its fisheries.
The US$30 million, six-year Kiribati Outer Islands Transport Infrastructure Investment Project aims to improve the safety and resilience of transport infrastructure serving outer island areas. It will first survey and update maritime charts to improve the safety of navigating inter-island maritime routes, such as those used for access to social and economic services on the main island of South Tarawa.
The transport project will support the construction of more climate- and disaster-resilient infrastructure, including the construction of new jetty and passenger terminals and the rehabilitation of causeways. These works will improve access to markets and government services, including emergency response.
The project is aligned with the Pacific Climate Resilient Transport Program, which includes similar projects in Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu that aim to build resilience to climate change and natural disasters in some of the Pacific’s most critical transport infrastructure, such as roads and ports.
In addition, the US$19.5 million Kiribati Pacific Islands Regional Oceanscape Program (PROP) will support the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development to strengthen its monitoring, control and surveillance of large-scale offshore fisheries, diversify sustainable revenue streams for selected outer island coastal fishing communities, and improve seafood safety measures.
Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically dispersed countries in the world – and is also one of the world’s most fisheries-dependent countries. Its population of 114,000 people is spread across 32 atolls and one raised limestone island scattered throughout 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean. Almost all of the country’s rural population is in the outer islands, and youth unemployment is expected to exceed 50 percent as those looking for work migrate to South Tarawa.
Kiribati is home to the most productive Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the Western Central Pacific Ocean. The country’s long-term revenue generation and food security rely heavily on the sustainability of its fisheries and associated coastal ecosystems. Tuna is worth some US$5 billion on the global market and more than half (US$2.6 billion) comes from Pacific Islands countries. Of the fishing nations in the Pacific, Kiribati has the highest volume of catch, contributing 28.4 percent to the regional total in 2016. And, since the introduction of the Parties of the Nauru Agreement Vessel Day Scheme in 2007, Kiribati has enjoyed a significant increase in revenue from fishing licenses and transshipment fees (US$25.1 million in 2007 to US$121.8 million in 2016).
“The Government of Kiribati is most grateful for the World Bank’s funding approval in support of the two very important projects for Kiribati.,” said Kiribati’s Caretaker Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Vice President, Teuea Toatu. “Fisheries and Infrastructure are at the centre of Kiribati’s socioeconomic development, given our geography as a big ocean state with scattered islands and large stocks of fish. We are very hopeful that with the implementation of these projects, the living standards in our country will be lifted to a higher level.”
“Safe and reliable transport infrastructure on Kiribati’s outer islands is absolutely essential to keeping people safe, for getting people where they need to get to, and for the delivery of quality education, jobs and skills that will develop the country’s human capital in the years ahead,” said Michel Kerf, Country Director for the World Bank in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “And helping Kiribati improve management of its fisheries to the benefit of all i-Kiribati, while ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of the country’s fisheries is critically important to the country’s prosperity.”
Both projects are closely aligned with the Kiribati 20-year Vision (2016-2036), which emphasizes the need for “a better educated, healthier, more prosperous nation with a higher quality of life”, as well as increasing sustainable returns from fisheries to ensure inclusive growth and private sector development.
Unemployment is particularly high for i-Kiribati youth, with 73 percent of women and 62 percent of men aged 15-24 years old lacking any formal employment. With this in mind, the PROP project aims to secure the country’s ocean economy, including through development of a Kiribati ocean resources master plan that will in turn foster development of long-term and meaningful employment options for women and youth.
The Kiribati Outer Islands Transport Infrastructure Investment Project is funded through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is also providing an additional US$12 million to the transport project.
The regional Pacific Islands Regional Oceanscape Program (PROP) is funded through IDA, as well as the Global Environment Facility (GEF). PROP includes similar projects in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, and regional support to the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific, supporting 78 projects totaling US$1.78 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.