Australian Foreign Minister broke education ground

APIA: Wednesday 3 June 2009 – The visiting Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith broke ground today for the new offices of the Ministry of Education partly funded by Australian aid to the tune of US$2.64 million.

The new US$9.2 million headquarters will take 15 months to build and is a joint partnership between Samoa, Australia, Asian Development Bank and New Zealand.

Australia is providing US$2.64 million to help fund the new headquarters, which is part of Australia’s total contribution of US$8.6 million to the education sector in Samoa over the next six years.

Smith is visiting Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga and it is his first visit to both countries. Australia enjoys a long-standing and close relationship with Tonga and Samoa, underpinned by deep community links and substantial development assistance programs.

There are approximately 7,500 Tongan born people and 15,000 Samoan born people in Australia, who have made their mark in the arts, academia, business and sport.

In Tonga, Smith will meet His Majesty King George Tupou V and Prime Minister Sevele.

He will also have the opportunity to address members of the Tongan Cabinet to reaffirm Australia’s support for Tonga’s program of constitutional and electoral reform ahead elections.

In Samoa, Smith met the Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and Prime Minister Tuilaepa. He also visited the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre. An important element of the visit to both countries is to discuss the adverse impact of the global economic crisis, including with key business people.

Australia recognises the challenges of the global economic crisis on smaller island nations.  As the only G20 country from the Pacific, Australia is committed to developing a global response through the G20.

Smith discussed with leaders in both Tonga and Samoa the shared desire to see the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Fiji.  Fiji is an important part of the economy of the Pacific but its economy has been damaged by the coup.

He also discussed the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, which Australia will host in Cairns in August.

Samoa, along with Papua New Guinea, was one of the first countries to sign a Partnership Agreement in August 2008. The Minister also met with the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development.

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