Posted by : Posted on : 26-Mar-2020

COVID-19 Emergency financial assistance being planned in the Pacific.

In a letter I wrote yesterday, I said the Asian Development Bank was considering the deployment of a $US6.5 billion Covid-19 rescue package for developing countries, including those in the Pacific.

The director general of the bank's Pacific Department, Leah Gutierrez, had said she was closely monitoring how the coronavirus was affecting Pacific countries.

The bank was also in discussions with governments in the Pacific to ensure its aid reflected the health and economic priorities the Pacific was facing.

Today, Thursday, Radio New Zealand gave more news on emergency financial assistance for the Pacific being considered around the region.

In Tonga, those who've lost jobs or businesses are being encouraged to get in touch with their bank for assistance.

The Reserve Bank's board of governors met this morning where it agreed a range of measures.

In a statement, it said it had s agreed to support the government and economy through the Covid-19 pandemic, with the governor meeting the heads of commercial banks earlier in the week.

They've agreed assistance measures to help struggling businesses - especially the tourism sector - and people who had lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 travel and gathering restrictions.

Principal and interest repayments for the business sector would be waived, and essential services would continue to be provided during the state of emergency in Tonga.

Niue's Chamber of Commerce has reportedly pledged $US58, 000 to help the island's struggling businesses.

The chamber sent its economic stimulus strategy to the government yesterday.

The premier, Sir Toke Talagi, said further help for the private sector was likely.

The island raised its alert level yesterday and all public sector workers have been sent home for two weeks.

An extraordinary session of the French Polynesia's assembly has been called for tomorrow to vote on a rescue package in the face of the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The labour and tourism minister Nicole Bouteau outlined the measures proposed to offset the sudden halt of economic activity.

At home, the Central Bank of the Solomon Islands (CBSI) said in a press release last week that coronavirus would likely have a considerable negative impact on the Solomon Islands economy. The spread and considerable disruption of the epidemic could be exacerbated by the increasingly intertwined trade and investment relationships between China and its neighbours in the Asia Pacific region. Being a small open economy, the Solomon Islands would likely be adversely affected through the trade channel and thereafter the economy and even fiscal operations.

The same press release went on to added that, depending on the severity and duration of the pandemic, the Solomon Islands economy might contract further to around 1% or even fall into a recession. If that were to happen, there could be large-scale closure of schools and businesses. The ability of the Government to provide public goods and services could also be affected. More specifically, the health system would be stretched to its limits and government finances to support the containment measures would be under a lot of strain.

Support from development partners would be crucial to assist the Solomon Islands to respond to the pandemic. This would be for both the emergency health response and also grant and short-term concessional debt financing to support the government and the economy.

In a separate report, Vanuatu's president has declared a State of Emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, following the lead taken by the Solomon Islands yesterday afternoon

Obed Moses Tallis made the declaration this morning in Port Vila.

In Papua New Guinea, the government has said the biggest issue it's facing now in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic is a lack of testing.

According to Mr Kramer, the Police Minister, PNG's ability to test people for covid-19 is limited, especially as in the rapidly evolving pandemic, the number of available kits keeps changing.

He said PNG was relying on a New Zealand company to send test kits, but the initial expected supply of 10,000 was halved.

"They've indicated they can supply five thousand kits a week, but again, that could change," the minister said.

Just one case of covid-19 has been confirmed in PNG to date, a man who has since been sent home to Australia.

A key official involved in the PNG national covid task force, said health officials had checked most of the people the case came in contact with...

Source:  Radio New Zealand

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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