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Pacific islands in the global economy: Paradoxes of migration and culture


John Connell (email:


Predictions for the future of small islands and island states are invariably pessimistic. Poverty has increased, free trade offers limited possibilities, governance is weak and urban biased, and aid dependence has not declined despite aid fatigue. Populations are contracting from outer islands. One outcome has been increasing migration and remittances, as safety valve and diversification strategy. Selective migration and limited return migration have contributed to skill drain. Yet migration has enabled peripheries to survive through improved welfare and investment, and sustained social structures. Formal development strategies, whether international or national, emphasize ‘modernity’, with culture to be abhorred and ignored; yet hybridity offers possibilities for more equitable sustainable development. A combination of migration, economic diversification and cultural hybridity provides alternative development trajectories.