27 March 2023
In New Zealand there have been 11,258 new cases of Covid-19 reported over the past week and 76 further deaths attributed to the coronavirus.
Of the new cases, 4712 were reinfections.
There were also 211 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, with seven cases in ICU.
The seven-day rolling average of cases was 1605.
In the Solomon Island it seems safe to say the Covid pandemic is over and the country recently saw the welcome arrival of a large cruise vessel. The Pacific Games Council says it expects all Pacific Games venues in Honiara to be ready several months before the Games opens on November 19.
Who would have thought such things would have been possible in the Solomon Islands just a couple of years ago when the outbreak of the Covid pandemic threatened all things at home, including the tourist industry and hopes for the Pacific Games as well.
I believe it is fair to say the government and especially the MHMS enacted crisis management. It is also fair for me to observe that both the government and the MHMS put in place a solid crisis management plan. Some might argue that was not the case, but few can say if it had not been for positive action, with help from many of its partners, especially with the donation and supply of Covid vaccinations, the country would not now preparing for the Pacific Games in November this year.
The Pacific Games Council says it expects all Pacific Games venues in Honiara to be ready several months before the Games opens on November 19.
President Vidya Lakhan and Chief executive Officer Andrew Minogue visited Honiara last week to assess preparations for the 17th Pacific Games.
The delegation visited several of the Games venues, including the main Sports City precinct and the accommodation construction site at the Solomon Islands National University.
They were briefed on the status of works on the main road into the city, the near completion of the new international airport terminal, and the recent "Safe and Green Games" launch.
"I am happy with the state of preparations for the 2023 Pacific Games. Despite the setbacks caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Solomon Islands' preparations to host the 2023 Pacific Games remain on track," Lakhan said.
"The venues are taking good shape and we fully expect they will be completed several months before the Games are due to commence. The progress that has been made since my last visit in November has been impressive."
Lakhan and Minogue met with the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, the National Hosting Authority Board chaired by Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, the Games Organising Committee (GOC) Board, chaired by Martin Rara, as well as the management team led by CEO, Peter Stewart, and the Solomon Islands Pacific Games Association (NOCSI) Board.
Lakhan said they have also called on people of Honiara to continue their efforts to beautify the city in preparation for welcoming the delegations of athletes and officials and all Games visitors.
The Pacific Games Council will return to Honiara in August for the official handover of venues to the Games Organising Committee and conduct a final check on operation plans for the Games delivery.
A warning note on spending for the Pacific Games
The International Monetary Fund has urged the Solomon Islands to ensure spending on this year's Pacific Games and the delayed general election is well controlled.
Masafumi Yabara who led the IMF team to the Solomon Islands, has said the Pacific Games is likely to contribute to an increased fiscal deficit for 2023.
Yabara said expenditure related to the Games and the election needs to be controlled to minimise the crowding out of other essential spending.
The IMF staff has recommended that an audit of expenditures related to the Pacific Games be published after it has concluded.
Yabara said projects related to the Pacific Games had helped with an economic recovery, although challenges including the war in Ukraine and high inflation remained.
"The economy is recovering from a series of shocks, including civil unrest and a local outbreak of covid-19," Yabara said.
"The reopening of the border and infrastructure spending ahead of the 2023 Pacific Games have boosted growth but the recovery has been fragile, as Russia's war in Ukraine has led to higher inflation and a worsening of the terms of trade."
A growth rate of 2.5 percent is estimated by Yabara for 2023, with inflation projected to be 4.7 percent at the end of the current year, in comparison to 8.5 percent at the end of 2022.
Yabara added that the Pacific Games is likely to contribute to an increased fiscal deficit for 2023, meaning that careful control of spending is required.
"The fiscal deficit is projected to widen to 6.3 percent of GDP in 2023, mainly driven by exceptional expenditures for the hosting of the Pacific Games and preparation for the general elections (summing up to 5.3 percent of GDP)," he said.
"Expenditures related to these two events need to be well controlled to minimise the crowding out of other essential spending, including targeted support for the vulnerable and investment for future growth.
"Once the recovery is secured, rebuilding the government's broad cash balance to at least two months of total spending should be prioritised."
The IMF staff has recommended that an audit of expenditures related to the Pacific Games are published after it has concluded.
The Solomon Islands is due to stage this year's Pacific Games between November 19 and December 2, following a four-month delay.
Sources - Radio New Zealand and Adventis.