ADB restores money flow for Marshall Islands

MAJURO: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said Saturday it has opened the way to resume large-scale funding for the Marshall Islands after a four-year hiatus as the tiny country cleared long overdue debt.

ADB Marshall Islands desk officer Kyoshi Nakamitsu said the western Pacific atoll nation of about 55,000 people cleared overdue debts dating back to 2005 in March and had kept up to date with monthly repayments since then.

"This has normalised relations between the Marshall Islands and ADB," Nakamitsu said

The Marshall Islands owes more than 60 million dollars to the ADB for loans received in the 1990s and early 2000s, and is paying about four million dollars this year, more than 10 percent of the country's locally generated revenues.

As a result of the government's action to keep current on loan payments, "ADB is considering mobilising a large chunk of funding for the Marshall Islands," Nakamitsu said.

In recent years, the ADB has funded a few technical assistance programmes to the Marshall Islands but no loans or grants have been on the table.

However, a three million dollar grant has now been approved in principle and is awaiting the final sign off by officials at the Manila-based bank, Nakamitsu said.