Forum Secretary General Henry Puna says the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected Pacific economies and exacerbated the Pacific region’s vulnerabilities to external shocks as developing and small island developing states.
Speaking at his first virtual Forum Economic Minister Ministers Meeting (FEMM2021), Puna said the International Monetary Fund (IM)F has forecasted a negative economic outlook for the region.
“Economic output measured GDP is forecast to decline, while public debt as percent of GDP is increasing across our membership. Pacific businesses, big and small, have all felt the impacts of COVID-19. Tourism has come to a standstill for a number of our Members. Our fisheries industry, particularly the tuna longline fishery, is on life support and manufacturing has contracted across all members.
“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are amplifying the challenges the region faces with climate change and disasters. As a region, we are highly susceptible and significantly affected by the increased frequency, intensity, severity of climate induced and other disasters,” said SG Puna.
He said immediate and urgent adaptation and mitigation actions and strategies must be taken to address our special and unique circumstances in the Pacific.
“Access to and mobilisation of financial resources from international development partners continues to be a challenge for the region. But this must not stop us from being proactive, to innovate and develop home grown solutions for the good of our Blue Pacific Continent and its people.
“This meeting is timely to take stock of these issues, discuss appropriate policy options and consider ways forward to address these challenges. The agendas and papers before you provide details on these critical issues. I encourage you all to proactively participate and engage in these discussions.
“I only wish that we could meet physically for a ‘talanoa’ in the true Pacific Way,” SG Puna said.