17 September 2003

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Dalli joins Commonwealth finance ministers in Brunei for annual talks

- high level conference to focus on delivering basic services to the poor

By David Lindsay
Maltese Finance Minister John Dalli yesterday joined more than 50 fellow Commonwealth finance ministers in Brunei under heavy security surveillance for the 37th Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting.
The meeting, which kicked off yesterday and wraps up tomorrow has placed poverty and the state of the global economy high on the agenda and accordingly carries the theme of 'Delivering Basic Services to the Poor'.

As is customary, the meeting is taking place the week before the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The Commonwealth finance ministers are expected to discuss global economic prospects and the means of increasing the flow of private investments to develop commonwealth countries today. The ministers assembled, representing a total population of 1.7 billion - 664 million of whom survive on less than Lm1 per day - will also discuss the dismal outcome of the World Trade Organisation meeting held in Cancun Mexico that ended in failure.
The ministers will also address issues relating to debt sustainability under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).
The Commonwealth is made up of 54 sovereign states to achieve international goals with particular emphasis on equality, trust and understanding. In addition to that, the Commonwealth facilitates the advancement of democracy, human rights and sustainable economic and social development within its member countries and beyond.
Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon said yesterday, "The delivery of basic services to poor people is a major challenge for almost all of us. I hope that our meeting will enable ministers to examine ways and means of improving delivery of these services.
"We also need to be open-minded about alternative ways of delivering services and to ensure affordable access by all Commonwealth citizens. This can best be done by involving the poor in decision-making."
Discussions today and tomorrow will focus on a number of wide-ranging pertinent issues. One such issue of particular importance for Malta is that of small states and their special economic considerations.
The Commonwealth is promoting increased competitiveness of small states though assistance in export promotion and holds that small states should be given special treatment when considered for graduation under the UN Committee for Development Policy as this graduation results in the removal of preferential market access.
The Commonwealth will also stress that small states should have a strengthened representation at the WTO and that assistance should be provided to small states to be able to negotiate and implement WTO agreements.
Due to the sensitive natures of such small states, priority should be given to actions to mitigate shocks, stronger advocacy through research on the special vulnerability of small states and attracting private investment in small states.
See next week’s Financial and Business Times for a full analysis of the discussions.

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Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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