Governor Ariff Ali, Reserve Bank of Fiji and AFI Board Chair

3 June 2024

PIRI Meetings – Opening Remarks by Governor Ariff Ali, Reserve Bank of Fiji

Bula vinaka, and a very good morning.

I am honoured to warmly welcome you all to this very important event and provide some remarks on this opening of the 2024 Pacific Island Regional Initiative (PIRI) annual meeting.

I would wish to extend a special welcome to all those who have flown in from the different countries represented in the PIRI forum, and a very special Bula Vinaka to Deputy Governor Derek Rolle of the Central Bank of the Bahamas, and Deputy Governor Ahmed Imad of the Maldives Monetary Authority, for accepting our invitation to be part of this forum.

Please also allow me at this juncture, to congratulate our two recently appointed PIRI Governors, in Governor Elizabeth Genia, appointed as the first female Governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, and Governor August Letlet, who has taken up the leadership role at the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu.  I also take this opportunity to congratulate Governor Maiava Atalina Emma Ainuu-Enari on her reappointment at the helm of Central Bank of Samoa. 

As an advocate for gender equality and promotion of capable women, I am heartened by these milestone appointments that signify progress towards gender parity and underscore the invaluable contribution that women leadership make to our institutions and economies.  On behalf of everyone here, I wish you the very best in the important calling that you now have, particularly during this very challenging times in your countries, and our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Pacific Islands Regional Initiative (as PIRI in short) has evolved significantly from its early establishment days in 2014 to be at the forefront of driving financial inclusion efforts in our region.  There have been numerous (118) policy changes steered by the forum, a number of knowledge products (10) developed and implemented, with more than 70 Maya Declaration Commitments made by member central banks.  Capacity building has elevated to new forms and approaches of knowledge sharing through peer learning programs, Leaders’ Roundtables such as the one we are attending this week, and technical workshops and seminars.

As we delve deeper into the discussions planned for the week, we therefore seek to remain accountable in effectively meeting the objectives of our forum in:

  • removing policy barriers to improve access;
  • using technology for financial service provision and access;
  • empowering and protecting through financial literacy and education;
  • collaborating with stakeholders to advance financial inclusion in the region; and
  • using data for smart policymaking and monitoring.

PIRI has become the voice of the region in continuing to raise the importance of inclusivity and equality in financial inclusion policy making, but equally important is our ability to highlight and take action on real and emerging challenges facing our region and our individual countries.

It is on this vein that we should all be motivated by the theme of this year’s PIRI meeting:

For a region that is highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change, working on ensuring a sustainable future is now a priority of all our governments.  Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the people of the Pacific.

Earlier this year, the IMF held a Pacific Islands High-Level Conference at Denarau on charting the course towards a shared prosperity.  I had the luxury of being there and hearing the Governor of Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Timothy NJ Antoine who shared a very powerful quote which is very relevant to our region as well as our discussions over the next few day and I quote “As a region, we cannot change our history nor can we change our geography, but collectively we can elevate our development trajectory through innovation and collective action”.

We all can share our experiences on how climate change impacts us and our economies. As a son of a fisherman, I had first-hand experienced or rather realized at a very young age how low income households are disproportionately hit by climate change. 

So what role do we play as central banks?  There is overwhelming evidence that financial exclusion is significantly higher in countries most vulnerable to climate change.  A UN Report quotes that more than four out of five of the world’s unbanked adults, totaling more than 1 billion people, reside in the most climate-vulnerable economies.

As island nation leaders, we have a critical role in addressing climate risk challenges which we all acknowledge is one of the most pressing issues at our doorstep.  We can assist in the transition to sustainable economic development.  As we are now fully aware, our traditional mandates of price stability and financial stability are inextricably linked to the health of our planet.

We can help ensure that sustainable choices are not only made, but also effectively encouraged and implemented.  By integrating environmental considerations into our macroeconomic frameworks, we can incentivise investments in renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, and climate-resilient technologies.

We also have an important role and position as an advisor to politicians and our governments, to highlight the importance of a sustainable economy and the carbon transition.

Ladies and gentlemen, key to our efforts of scaling sustainable finance are two important aspects:

Developing capacity within our financial sectors is essential.  Technical training and knowledge sharing will enhance our ability to understand what is apporpirate and sustainable for our small economies.  Collaboration with international organizations, development partners, and academia is equally vital in this regard.

Recognising the unique vulnerabilities and strengths that women face in the challenges of climate change is very important.  Women, often bear the brunt of climate change impacts, yet continue to be under-represented in decision making processes.  By incorporating gender considerations into our strategies, we can ensure that our responses are inclusive, robust, and truly reflective of the diverse needs of our communities.

I hope that we can agree this week on the best way forward for our region.  I would expect therefore that our discussions will focus on:

  • How we can expand access to Green Financial Products;
  • How we can strengthen policy frameworks around incentivising sustainable investments and supporting the development of green finance markets;
  • How our current capacity building and education programmes can be made more effective in addressing green finance challenges;
  • How we can leverage technology to support our green finance initiatives;
  • How we can continue to promote public-private partnerships in our collaboration between government, financial institutions, and the private sector to mobilize resources and share risks;
  • How we support sustainable livelihoods through the provision of financing sustainable agriculture, fisheries, and tourism, which are critical to our small developing economies; and
  • How do we monitor and report on the impact of action we are taking in ensuring a sustainable future through green finance.

In conclusion, sustainable finance is not a choice; it is an imperative.  Our decisions today will shape the well-being of generations to come.

We require strategic partnerships and a collaborative approach to develop practical policies and guidelines, aligned to national development objectives and international best practices.  As central bankers and policy makers, the onus is on all of us to ensure that we lead this positive change within the financial sectors and that we regulate.

PIRI leaders must continue to collaborate to find workable and sustainable solutions that will enhance our transition to greener economies and have better resilience over climate change risks via the Natadola Regional Roadmap to Inclusive Green Finance in the Pacific.

I wish to end with a quote from a Native American Proverb that “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”, so let us be committed to advancing our sustainable future as the Pacific region, ensuring a prosperous and sustainable future for all our children.

Thank you.

© Alliance for Financial Inclusion 2009-2024