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By Ben Bilua
While business-people and workers are hoping economic growth will back to normal by 2021, Denton Rarawa, the Senior Economic Adviser Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat says the economic fallout of the COVID-19 is having a devastating impact and the future will be difficult.
Speaking to Journalist last week Rarawa said the outlook for 2021 is mixed.
“Some countries will expect to rebound in 2021 while others will continue to report negative growth performance,” he said.
Rarawa said that this is because of different conditions in the different sectors which contribute to countries’ economies.
He explained that the tourism industry - and countries that depend on it -have been hit hard with small and medium-sized companies hit hardest of all.
Rarawa adds that the fisheries sector will is also affected as border restrictions impede fishing activity and reduce licence fee income flowing to governments.
No sector is immune from the impact of the pandemic.
“Most if not all Forum island countries are facing unprecedented loss of jobs and income due to the contraction in economic activity and as a result of OVID-19 pandemic,” Rarawa said.
“Many workers have lost jobs. Of those who still maintain their jobs, they are now being on reduced hours and on half pay.
“Even our seasonal workers in Australia and New Zealand are being repatriated back because of this pandemic,” he said.
Rarawa said the impact is so devastating that it will take years before the industries such as tourism come back to pre-COVID-19 levels.
“I'm not sure whether we will be able to come back to pre covid-19 levels but we will wait and see that,” Mr Rarawa said.
For now, he said Pacific leaders need to look at how to regenerate economy regrowth.
And this, Rarawa said requires for greater cooperation and the need for working together with innovative approaches and solutions so that countries in the region can build strong and resilient economies.
Speaking to journalists last month, economist, Professor Stephen Howes, from the Australian National University said the impact of COVID-19 requires two step approach.
He said the first response is to stop and provide support to people and second, is to manage COVID -19 and to restructure the economy in a safe way.
“Two ways any economy can respond to COVID-19 is; one is to stop economic activity, get everyone to stay at home and stay safe but then the question is how you support people.
Professor Howes says it is very difficult for Pacific governments to offer generous welfare payments so they need to manage COVID-19 and make it safe for people to work.
One solution he suggests is developing COVID-safe pathways for an early return of seasonal work for Pacific Islanders in Australia and New Zealand.
Regional Coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), Maureen Penjueli said it is time to find a regional vision and work from there.
Penjueli wants to see more budget support from donors to protect the jobs of civil servants, more support for social protection measures and informal economies based around customary land, as well as increased effort to develop the skills of young people.
She is hoping these issues will be discussed by Pacific Forum economic ministers, this week, when they meet to discuss the impact of the pandemic and consider strategies to avoid further economic damage.
SOURCE: WANSOLWARA ONLINE NEWS/PACNEWS
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