This year’s final Pacific Business Monitor, a monthly survey tracking the effects of COVID-19 on businesses in the Pacific region by the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) global network, highlights the persistent and severe effects the pandemic has had on businesses in Vanuatu and the Pacific throughout 2020.
Across eight months of surveying, over 85 per cent of respondents have consistently reported negative impacts on their business due to COVID-19, as well as loss of revenue and perceived damage to the local economy.
Although most Pacific nations have not faced health crises due to the pandemic, border closures have resulted in a collapse in tourism, severe disruptions to international trade and a reduction in remittances.
PTI Australia Trade & Investment Commissioner, Caleb Jarvis, said the announcement of a Transtasman bubble in early 2021 is a positive sign for the reopening of borders with the Pacific, however it is likely the negative trends will continue in the first quarter of 2021.
“Businesses in the Pacific have now faced immense challenges for the majority of 2020,” he said.
“Closed borders has meant those in the tourism sector have had no business or revenue since March. Our survey confirms what we are hearing from businesses, that the pressures have not eased and financial pressures are compounding due to no revenue.
“As the year draws to a close we look to 2021 to provide the respite and global response needed to ensure the survival of so many Pacific enterprises. The announcement of a Transtasman bubble and the development of vaccines providing the first concrete glimmers of hope on a road towards recovery.”
According to the December survey, nearly a quarter of businesses remain temporarily closed while another 43 per cent are only partly operational.
The survey reports that the top three challenges as a result of COVID-19 remain poor cashflow, uncertainty on how long the crisis will last and the impact of closed international borders.
The top three initiatives that businesses have been calling for are financial support, reviews on financial position and assistance with improving online commerce capabilities.
PTI Australia continues to use the data from the PTI Pacific Business Monitor to champion the Pacific’s private sector at a regional level and bring a spotlight to the current reality Pacific businesses are facing.
It reinforces the findings from the Lowy Institute that the Pacific is staring at the potential ‘lost decade’ due to economic damage of COVID-19, projecting the average income per person in the Pacific will no recover to its 2019 levels until 2028.
“We also use this data to help inform the design and delivery of our programs across the 16 Pacific nations we service. This month we launched our Social Media for e-Business scholarship program, a bespoke 6-week program designed specifically for Pacific businesses to help bridge the digital capability gap and enhance e-commerce skills,” said Jarvis.
(Source; Vanuatu Daily post 23 December 2020)