By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Yokohama

YOKOHAMA,08 MAY 2017 (PACNEWS) — Six months after Cook Islands was earmarked US$26 million project to free itself from fuel dependence, the government is yet to receive any grant from the Green Climate Fund  (GCF).

And Finance Minister, Mark Brown isn’t happy with the bureaucratic process that’s delaying the disbursement.

Speaking to PACNEWS in Yokohama during the Asian Development Bank’s annual conference, Brown said the more they delay the payment, the higher the cost of the project.

“When they delay procurement, the costs start to escalate.  We’ve heard that they are developing a master agreement to cover a lot of their risks.

“We can’t afford any delays and we are quite happy to negotiate some sort of bridging finance to enable the implementation. When the GCF finally releases the fund, it can go to settling that bridging finance facility we are going to establish with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Here in Yokohama, Pacific Developing Member Countries of the ADB have asked the bank to step-in and provide bridging funds until the approved GCF funds are disbursed.

In November last year, the Green Climate Fund also approved a US$31 million project to improve Fiji’s urban water supply and wastewater management. To date, that fund has not been disbursed and an agreement is yet to be concluded before the project begins.

Fiji’s Economy Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum raised this serious concern again at the ADB Governors session in Yokohama saying delays in disbursing funds puts a dent on national budgetary process and planning.

Like Minister Brown, his Fijian counterpart wants the ADB to step in and provide some bridging fund for the approved GCF funds to allow for the implementation of the project.

The very vocal Minister Brown told PACNEWS Pacific countries want multilateral donors to support climate adaptation projects.

“Climate financing agencies continue to force mitigation projects on us but we don’t need them. We are at the front line countries for climate change and we need to adapt.

On Fiji hosting of the annual ADB meeting in 2019, Minister Brown said Fiji’s successful bid was a win not only for Fiji but the Pacific region.

“We are right behind Fiji. This is an opportunity for the Pacific to showcase the Pacific and to demonstrate our growth and opportunities for investment available in the Pacific.

Fiji will become the first Pacific Developing Member Country to host the ABD annual conference.

On the bank turning 50, the Cook Islands thanked the Bank for its continued support for infrastructure development over the years.

“ADB turning 50 is a great opportunity for the Pacific. We turned 50 two years ago.  When you see the ADB 50 years ago, it was the same for the Pacific 50 years ago. We were poor countries back then. In Cook Islands we were mainly subsistence and agricultural based but now we have become modern and a tourism based economy.”

“The bank has been part of our journey along the way but now it has become a lot more sophisticated and the bank has learnt to adapt and meet the challenges of its clients.”

“If recent engagements with them recently are anything to go by, we look forward to the next 50 years with the bank, said Minister Brown.

ADB supports the Cook Islands’ aim to develop renewable energy sources, improve internet connectivity and resilience to natural disasters, among others.

ADB has worked with the Cook Islands since 1976, approving 20 loans for $86.9 million, 3 grants for $12.3 million, and 36 technical assistance projects for $12.1 million….. PACNEWS