The Hub and Spokes II Programme provides trade experts to national ministries and regional trade organisations to enhance trade capacity in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states. It is a joint programme of the European Union (main donor), ACP Group Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Samson Odhiambo is a National Trade Adviser deployed to the Kiribati Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives.
Read his blog below:
I was recruited through the Hub and Spokes II programme and placed as National Trade Adviser within the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Cooperatives in Tarawa, Kiribati in March 2014. During this time the position has allowed me to play a key role in contributing to trade and development agenda at broader and sectoral levels.
Kiribati is a small island developing state in the Pacific region with a small population of approximately 110,000 people. The economy is largely dependent on service contributions to GDP, followed by agriculture, with industry only at a low level. From a trade perspective, exports are limited to coconut and fish products.
Kiribati’s low export levels are attributed to limited product varieties, that in turn are limited through low value addition and supply capacity. While exports account for US $7 million annually, imports are around $100 million and are predominantly foodstuffs, creating a large trade deficit.
Remittances from seafarers and seasonal workers schemes in New Zealand have been a large source of income in the past, whilst income from fishing licenses account for the majority of government income.
From a policy perspective, economic policy reforms are being undertaken to open up the Kiribati economy to trade, including abolishing the customs duty tax and introducing value added tax (VAT) and Excise Tax on specific goods. Advancing the trade development agenda at the national level has however been constrained by inadequate trade mainstreaming into national and sectoral policy, with the trade priorities not well articulated.
To address the trade policy gap, I have assisted the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Cooperatives in implementing initiatives to support trade mainstreaming into sectoral strategies and the Kiribati Development Plan. Training and sensitisation was provided to stakeholders on various issues relevant within the trade policy spectrum. This included 200 parliamentarians trained and sensitised since 2014 as high level policy makers and legislators - this has contributed to substantive interest in trade policy issues.
For the Kiribati Development Plan 2016-2019, I assisted in the mainstreaming of trade priorities to ensure wider political trade support and national ownership. Key priorities included the formulation and implementation of a Trade Policy Framework and Investment Policy Framework, as well as coconut development strategy as a key export product for Kiribati. Another key commitment was a priority to undertake business law reform as the key ingredient to private sector development.
In the context of ensuring an inclusive mechanism for trade policy making, I also provided technical support towards the development of trade consultations and a coordination mechanism, which acts as multi-stakeholder trade mainstreaming platform.
The so-named National Trade Advisory Committee (NTAC) was constituted through a Cabinet Memorandum in 2015 and is composed of key government ministries, civil society and representatives from the private sector and Kiribati Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The NTAC provides an important platform for the discussion of trade and development priorities, contributing to policy coherence and national policy ownership.
Some of my other work has also focused on trade considerations within sectoral policies. For example, under the Labour Mobility Strategy, my contributions emphasised Kiribati’s commitments to regional trade agreements, and also, how benefits from labour mobility can be maximised through trade agreements.
Under the Development Cooperation Policy, the role of Aid for Trade was developed as a priority area under the strategy, whilst for the Food Security and Nutrition Policy, contributions focused on food security linkages as an integral part of the nutrition strategy.
Beyond the mainstreaming trade policy, my work at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Cooperatives also focuses on the effective implementation of trade-related policy in Kiribati as well as sensitisation of the private sector.
An effective and coherent Kiribati trade framework is the foundational platform for Kiribati to engage in regional and global value chains, boost exports, and create a conducive trade environment for the domestic private sector to access other larger markets.