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Filename Sea Transport - Urban Rural De...19.pptx
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In the context of Pacific Island Countries (PICs), a socio-economic paradox has arisen as a consequence of a shift in development of urban centers and centralization of transport infrastructure. The sovereign PICs (Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) constitute less than 0.15% of the global population, but hold responsibility of over 6.33% of the globally demarcated exclusive economic zone. Because stewardship of each nation’s expansive territory (and the natural resources of which each territory’s environment is composed) fall disproportionately upon relatively small populations, it might be assumed governance and management of these large areas might be best conducted through decentralized distribution of both human resources and capital investment. However, trends towards urbanization are seen across the Oceania region, and some capital cities now maintain more than half of their nations’ citizens. This is the paradox we intend to examine, in part, through the lens of sea transport and the impact it has on driving behavior in PICs.
Increasing urbanization is a trend seen globally, but the relative weight of centralizing populations within decentralized, archipelagic territories creates disproportionate burdens upon those who remain remote from population centers. As seen even in capital port costs, PICs pay up to 834% more per kilometer for sea transport costs over cities in Asia. For those outside of capital cities, the economies of scale are even less favorable. Selection of port terminal locations and subsequent investment by national governments and multinational firms lead to a concentration of wealth in limited geographic areas. Without regular, affordable, accessible sea transport options for outer island communities to engage in balanced trade between other outer islands and with their capitals, outmigration to urban areas ensues and leads to collapse of previously viable communities.
Some mechanisms currently exist to curb the acceleration of this trend, such as Fiji’s operation of a Government Shipping Service to provide transport to routes considered uneconomical, or the implementation in Kiribati of a copra subsidy to provide cash flow to farmers still providing agricultural output on outer atolls. However, the lack of robust interventions at national and regional levels to encourage the decentralization of civil services through low-cost, low-carbon sea transport has led to a concentration of risk in PICs’ capitals, which is of particular concern in the face of increased exposure to, and intensity of, climate-related hazard events.
This presentation outlines the scope of this issue and the degree to which it is impacting PICs, and raises items for consideration by other actors in the development sphere who depend upon reliable, affordable, accessible transport to conduct socio-economic activities. Without acknowledging and addressing the disproportionately large burden faced by rural communities and the impact transport (or the lack thereof) has on driving urbanization, the successful implementation of equitable development initiatives will continue to be hampered and both efficacy and efficiency of investment into the region will continue to fall short of the demonstrated needs of the people of the Pacific.