|13th Prime Minister of Tuvalu|
|Assumed office |
19 September 2019
|Governors General||Teniku Talesi Honolulu (Acting)|
Samuelu Teo (Acting)
Sir Tofiga Vaevalu Falani
|Preceded by||Enele Sopoaga|
|Born||5 July 1957|
|Spouse||Selepa Kausea Natano|
Kausea Natano (born 5 July 1957) is a Tuvaluan politician who is serving as Prime Minister of Tuvalu, in office since 19 September 2019. He is also serving as an MP for Funafuti, having also served as the country's deputy prime minister and minister for communications in former prime minister Willy Telavi's Cabinet.
Before entering politics, Natano was director of customs of Tuvalu, and also served as assistant secretary in the ministry of finance and economic planning.
Member of Parliament
Natano was one of seven members re-elected in the 2006 election, in which he received 340 votes. Natano was the Minister for Public Utilities and Industries from 2006 to 2010 in Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia's Cabinet. Natano was re-elected to Parliament in the 2010 general election.
Deputy Prime Minister (2010–2013)
Following the 2010 general election, Natano stood for the premiership, and received seven votes from MPs, thus being narrowly defeated by Maatia Toafa, who received eight. In December 2010, Toafa's government was ousted in a motion of no confidence, and Willy Telavi succeeded to the premiership. Natano was among those who supported Telavi, enabling his accession. Upon appointing his Cabinet on December 24, Telavi appointed Natano as Minister for Communications. He was also appointed Deputy Prime Minister.
Following Prime Minister Telavi's removal by Governor General Sir Iakoba Italeli on 1 August 2013 in the context of a political crisis (Telavi had sought to govern without the support of Parliament), Natano and the rest of Cabinet were voted out of office a day later by Parliament, where the opposition now had a clear majority.
During his ministry, the Economy of Tuvalu experienced challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, the IMF Article IV consultation with Tuvalu concluded that a successful vaccination strategy allowed Tuvalu to lift coronavirus disease (COVID-19) containment measures at the end of 2022. However, the economic cost of the pandemic was significant, with real gross domestic product growth falling from 13.8% in 2019 to -4.3 percent in 2020, although it recovered to 1.8% in 2021. Inflation rose to 11.5% in 2022, but inflation is project to fall to 2.8% by 2028.
The increase in inflation in 2022 was due to the rapid rise in the cost of food resulting from a drought that affected food production and from rising global food prices, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (food imports represent 19 percent of Tuvalu’s GDP, while agriculture makes up for only 10 percent of GDP).
On 26 September 2023, the World Bank (WB) approved US$11.5 million (AUD$18 million) in new grant financing to Tuvalu as part of the WB’s First Climate and Disaster Resilience Development Policy Financing program. This WB support includes a development policy grant of US$7.5 million (AU$11.8 million) This grant is directed to assisting Tuvalu's National Disaster Management Office in coordinating post-disaster response activities; as well to the work of Tuvalu’s National Building Code Assessment Unit, of the Public Works Department, to develop more disaster-resilient infrastructure in Tuvalu.
On 10 November 2023, Natano signed the Falepili Union, a bilateral diplomatic relationship with Australia, under which Australia will increase its contribution to the Tuvalu Trust Fund and to TCAP. Australia will also provide an pathway for citizens of Tuvalu to migrate to Australia, to enable climate-related mobility for Tuvaluans.
Foreign policy and climate change initatives
During his ministry, Tuvalu implemented the National Adaptation Programme of Action as a response to the climate change issues facing Tuvalu, including the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project (TCAP). The Natano Ministry continued the constitutional reform project that had commenced in 2016 in the Sopoaga Ministry. On 5 September 2023, Tuvalu’s parliament passed the Constitution of Tuvalu Act 2023, with the changes to the Constitution came into effect on 1 October 2023.
The 2023 amendments to the Constitution adopt an innovative approach to determining the boundaries of the State of Tuvalu in the event that climate change results in sea level rise that causes loss to the physical territory of Tuvalu.
- Section 2(1) states the perpetual statehood of Tuvalu “notwithstanding the impacts of climate change or other causes resulting in loss to the physical territory of Tuvalu”.
- Section 2(2) declares Tuvalu’s area, including maritime zones (as defined in a schedule that is a Declaration of Tuvalu Geographical Coordinates) are permanent, regardless of any effects resulting from climate change.
The government of Tuvalu recognises that there is no international conventions that it can rely on that can recognise Tuvalu’s new status as the effects of climate change are not addressed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Tuvalu, and other Pacific Ocean countries, support such a position on the impact on territorial boundaries caused by climate change. The leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum countries published a declaration on 6 August 2021 that recalling that Pacific Islands Forum Members have a long history of support for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the “Convention”), and which declaration ended with a proclamation: “that our maritime zones, as established and notified to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in accordance with the Convention, and the rights and entitlements that flow from them, shall continue to apply, without reduction, notwithstanding any physical changes connected to climate change-related sea-level rise.”
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