Small Islands Voice Global Forum
A pattern of small island dependency
Many small islands question whether they can compete or develop in the 21st century when their only resources are tourism or fisheries. This idea is discussed here by Tutii Chilton from Palau. Writers from Saba and Indonesia also add their perspectives on living in very small islands.
Tutii Chilton from Palau (Pacific) writes: I teach at Palau Community College and one of the articles I use in my classes is by Mr. Sione Tupouniua, entitled ‘Can island nations avoid dependence?’ His ideas are interesting, specifically as they relate to island nations around the world. I believe and am still researching the idea that island nations are dependent because of their thinking that they only have tourism or fishing as resources. I think this is why we (small islands) question whether we can compete or develop in the 21st century. We have to remember that Europe and specifically USA developed their political, social and economic independence over a 200 plus year period. Most of us in Micronesia are using a new 'democratic' government with a new economic system for only the last 25 years of self government, before that we were under the US Trusteeship. 25 or 50 years is not a long enough time to truly see if we can be independent, but it is a long enough period to look at what went wrong and how can we resolve our own conflict between traditional and contemporary forms of government and economy. I'm asking because I've yet to find in the Pacific, a private, non-profit think tank that can help research, plan and work with our governments to set up a sustainable plan for the growth and development of our nations. It is my 10 year observation in Micronesia that we have a lot of good plans, but done by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, or other large organizations from Australia, USA, or Japan that don't address the voice of the people. They only address economic and political development without taking into consideration cultural, traditional and small island issues that are very different from those of industrialized nations. Again, our plan will take 50 to 100 years of slow, consistent development in order for it to be viable and sustainable. These are just personal ideas that need to be developed and expanded.
Will Johnson from Saba (Caribbean) writes: I have been following the debate on whether one should stay on a small island and seek a future there. When I grew up on Saba there was no electricity, no airport, no harbour, roads or motor vehicles. We had to live from the land. The island is five square miles. I went away to school, came back and have spent the last forty years in politics. With 1,500 people living here our Gross Domestic Product is over US $30 million per year. We have a medical school with 300 students. We have around 25,000 visitors a year and we now have 15 college graduates of our own who have chosen to return to Saba and make a life here. In December we have Saba Day. I started it 30 years ago to give the people more pride in their island. I chose the road less traveled and I stayed on my small island and have happily served my people. Even small islands have many business opportunities. Look around you, and show the way to the large countries that small is beautiful.
Peter Hehanussa, from Indonesia suggests classifying islands by size: We in Indonesia have been using another term for island classification based on an island’s size. There are small, very small, and very-very small islands. The limits are 2,000, 200, and 20 sq km. in size. There is an additional limitation based on the width of the island. In the 1980s I proposed another classification based on whether an island was mainly flat or mountainous.
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