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Though many Pacific island countries have so far been spared a major health disaster, COVID-19 hasn’t been forgiving on the economy.
Chair of Pacific Island Private Sector organisation said it is disappointing that governments – including Pacific governments - are increasingly turning inward and becoming more nationally-focused rather than working together to find a path to recovery from COVID-19.
“Economics, of course, is a regional and international matter. We don’t have an economy if we do not have international trade,” said Stephen Lyon, Chair of Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation.
In a meeting with Pacific Journalists CEO Lyon said he believes it is possible to open some borders without endangering health.
And he expressed disappointment at the lack of priority Australia and New Zealand have placed on requests for opening up borders for trade and tourism with the Pacific.
“While it is not a do or die situation for the New Zealand and Australia economies, that provides absolute lifeline funding for many families in the Pacific,” he said.
“That is in my mind. (It is) an ignorance of humanitarian issues when you start looking inwards, you really do damage those broader international relationships,” he said.
“Through the last 10 to 20 years our developing partners of Australia and New Zealand have been right with us in making sure that the Pacific is supported and that we have a drive of regionalism.”
Alisi Tuqa, CEO of PIPSO (Pacific Islands private Sector organisation in Fiji) said 70-80% of businesses in the Pacific island region are micro, small or medium enterprises.
“It does affect us in a big way, we are all quite interdependent, “she said.
President of Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation said in agreement with Lyon that countries cannot sit and wait, they need to ‘think outside the box’.
“We cannot sit around and hope that a vaccine (for COVID-19) is going to be available and everything is going to go back to normal,” said Sandeep Chauhan, President of Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation.
“Whilst we are worried about the health aspect of the people and the virus, I hope the economic inactivity doesn’t kill us.” ....
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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