It is not new. Nor is it unknown. As a matter of fact, the race for a Melanesianled economic dominance in the South Pacific has been an on-off, on-again, off again preoccupation of many Melanesian political leaders since the 70s. Then, the island nations that dotted the Pacific Ocean began severing ties with their colonial masters one by one through the process of political independence. In terms of the Melanesian bloc, the shores of these islands were awash with the drive for nationhood. In some cases the anticipation for political independence, which did not come quickly enough for some, reached fever-pitch level as the Jones’ Syndrome hit the Pacific. Not-to-be-ignored alarm bells were ringing in London, Canberra, Washington and Paris. Fiji became the first Melanesian nation to break free of the colonial stranglehold. Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu followed closely one after the other thereafter. But they soon find that maintaining a somewhat comfortable living standard is rather unsustainable. Pressures from population growth have eaten away all or any economic gains since independence in the mid and late 70s (PNG in 1975, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu in 1978). Inter-dependence on donors who were largely their former colonial masters such as Britain, Australia and France set in, leaving little or no time at all to think through initiatives that would keep the dream of a Melanesian-led economic triumph in the Pacific alive. One of the many setbacks confronting the Pacific as a whole is the fact that they are spread rather thinly right across a vast expanse of water. Secondly, these island nations produce either the same or similar commodities when it comes to trading.
Thirdly, these so-called island paradises are located way, way out of the main markets destination such as Australia and the vibrant economies of Asia. But things appear to be changing as a new wave of optimism hits the Pacific’s Melanesian bloc. That optimism seems to be closely tied in with the economic boom taking place in Papua New Guinea, which is leading the fight to resurrect the dream of establishing a Melanesian-led economic bloc and perhaps dominance. Despite its perceived crime-infested environment, PNG’s strong economic growth, due largely to multi-billion dollar investments in its mineral sector as well as in its oil and gas reserves, places this Melanesian giant in a strong position to lead a Melanesian bloc economic-led revival. Exports of its gas and oil are set to hit the roof, transforming the nation’s economic landscape over the next few years.
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