SIDS hit hard by global pandemic

The UN Resident Coordinator for the Pacific, Sanaka Samarasinha. Picture: RAMA/FT FILE

Small island developing states (SIDS), which depend largely on tourism for their economies have been hit hard by the global slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was one of the sentiments shared by United Nations (UN) resident co-ordinator for 10 countries in the Pacific, Sanaka Samarasinha during a recent virtual roundtable meeting with the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to discuss multisectoral considerations for safely reopening points of entry.

Mr Samarasinha said the UN had, from the beginning of this crisis, advocated for the safe, responsible and timely reopening of national entry points, on which many small businesses and jobs depend.

“While the decision of when, how and with whom to open borders is a sovereign decision, safety, vigilance, responsibility and international co-operation are critical as the world slowly opens up again,” he said.

Regional director of Asian Development Bank (ADB) Pacific Subregional Office, Masayuki Tachiiri added ADB’s latest assessments suggested the effects of lockdowns and travel bans had been particularly severe on the region’s tourism-dependent economies, with some facing double-digit declines in gross domestic product in 2020.

Mr Tachiiri further stated that collective action was needed now to support health systems and economies in the Pacific.

The latest issue of the Pacific Economic Monitor, the flagship economic publication of ADB’s Pacific Department, says on average the economies of ADB’s 14 Pacific developing members are forecast to contract by 4.3 per cent in 2020 as COVID-19 impacts tourism and trade.

The projected growth rate in 2021 of 1.6 per cent will rely on the reopening of international borders and the subsequent resumption of tourism, labour, and trade activity.

The UN-ADB regional meeting focused on multisectoral considerations and assistance available for safely reopening national entry points targeting pre-border, at border and post-border openings for both air and sea transport.

Support from the international community could include initiatives such as the training of Customs, immigration, police and health officials and the distribution of personal protective equipment for use at airports and seaports.

The establishment of clear protocols and the importance of ensuring that other actors such as airlines, seafarers associations and tour operators are included in preparing plans for reopening borders were emphasised during the meet.

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