Kiribati is one of the most remote of the Pacific islands, but also has one of the largest and most productive fisheries. With the introduction of the Vessel Day Scheme in 2012 leading to a massive increase in fishing license revenue, never before has Kiribati had such opportunity to engage proactively in its own development using its own resources. Between 2012 and 2015 there was an unprecedented expansion of government revenue, and in 2016 to 2019 a similarly unprecedented expansion of government expenditure. For the first time in its history, the Kiribati government, rather than a foreign development partner, is the largest financier of public capital investment.
This survey paper explores the recent trends and future prospects for the Kiribati economy. In particular, the paper looks closely at the role that public spending has played in recent years and its likely role in the future, as well as other areas of public reform that go beyond the national budget. With a recommendation of Least Developed Country graduation a surety at the next triennial review by the international community, and climate change presenting a fundamental threat to communities at home, what does Kiribati need to do to secure its future?
James Webb is a Senior Policy Fellow at the Development Policy Centre and also works as an independent consultant in the Pacific Region. James has a Masters in International and Development Economics from ANU, and has spent the last decade working and living in the Pacific. He has worked for several years in the Cook Islands and Kiribati in economic and public financial management, as well as short-term projects covering a range of topics from non-communicable disease-related taxation and development policy, through to public financial management reform.