Solomon Islands. A look at how donor aid might tilt in the Covid-19 age?
To prevent the spread of Covid-19 Solomon Islands, like several other Small Islands States in the region, has introduced measures to enforce its isolation and applied restrictive travel.
With the wind-down in the logging industry, the mainstay of the Solomon Islands economy and source of local employment for many years, the ban on travel has curtailed any immediate plans for economic diversification and heightened the need for outside financial aid which, as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains the Solomon Islands will move closer to economic dependence from its aid partners.
What sort of reaction can we expect from traditional aid partners such as Australia and New Zealand?
New Zealand is pondering its position on the very matter of its aid assistance and reportedly looking to pivot its assistance to the Pacific due to the Civid-19 pandemic.
The Deputy Secretary of the Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jonathan Kings, has said he was proud of the way the aid agency was able to provide initial support, but that now it needed to take a longer-term look.
According to Mr Kings, strategies for such things as dealing with climate change will endure but there will be considerable differences in some aspects of the aid programme in the short and medium term.
Mr King has been reported as saying strengthening health systems and economic response and recovery measures would require efforts that evolve over time, but New Zealand was committed to helping nations rebuild more inclusive, more diversified, low-emission and climate-resilient economies.
Mr Kings also cited a need to look at social protection, social inclusion, and tackling the range of underlying issues that lead to fragility and vulnerability.
In the Solomon Islands there is generally limited access to quality health services and the health-services infrastructure and capacity needs to be further improved to ward off any intrusion of coronavirus.
We have seen Australia step up support to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, and the National Referral Hospital (NRH) in preparation for the onset of the virus. Australia has generously given technical assistance and medical equipment.
It has been reported in Australia that should coronvirus penetrate Solomon Island’s borders, then Australia should not hesitate to consider sending medical personnel and more equipment in support of health services.
Also it has been raised by some Australian academics Australia should remain poised to provide longer term economic support given in the Solomon Islands where debt sustainability risks are most acute.
News sources include Radio New Zealand.