Report finds COVID-19 impacts unrelenting on the Pacific private sector

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    AUSTRALIA)—The fifteenth Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Pacific Business Monitor reports that sentiments among the Pacific business decision-makers remain critical and expected timelines for economic recovery are shifting back further.

    COVID-19 impacts on Pacific businesses have remained at severe levels since tracking began in May 2020, with between 79 to 92 percent of respondents consistently reporting a negative impact. The recent July survey reinforced this ongoing severity with 84 percent of respondents reporting a negative impact. Of Pacific respondents 33 percent were from the tourism industry, 21 percent were from the agricultural, forestry and fishing industry and 10 percent were from the manufacturing industry.

    Compounding the consistent pressures of COVID-19’s impact on Pacific businesses, the expected road to recovery has continued to lengthen. The July survey found that 26 percent of Pacific businesses do not expect a return to business as usual until 2023 or later. This comes in stark contrast to responses from a year ago, where over 42 percent of respondents expected a return to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2021.

    Despite ongoing adverse impacts and delayed recovery expectations, the July survey showed stability in optimism among the majority of respondents with 70 percent of Pacific businesses confident their business will survive the COVID-19 crisis, compared to 69 percent last wave.

    In line with this resilient outlook, the negative toll on mental health amongst Pacific business decision-makers has decreased significantly, from 65 percent last wave to 53 percent, the lowest level reported since tracking began.

    Caleb Jarvis, PTI Australia’s Trade and Investment Commissioner noted that despite the continued impact of COVID-19 on the Pacific business owners, considerable resilience continues to be demonstrated.

    “The prolonged duration of the pandemic coupled with the resurgence of COVID cases in both Australia and several Pacific countries has taken an overwhelming toll on the business community. As we fast approach the 18-month mark since borders first began to close, we look to the global community to provide the respite and response needed to ensure the survival of so many Pacific enterprises. The purpose of this data is highlight quantifiable feedback on where assistance is most needed, such as access to finance, new markets, e-business opportunities and cheaper freight options, and to encourage collaborative solution-based innovation.”

    To support Pacific exporters in the wake of COVID-19, PTI Australia launched the COVID-19 Freight Assistance Package in late 2020 as an extension of work being done by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to provide tangible relief to businesses during the unprecedented pressures the COVID-19 economic crisis has presented. The Package has now seen over 40 successful applicants receive the monetary grant.

    Recipient of the Freight Assistance Package, Fomiza Bano, Pleass Global General Manager says COVID-19 has brought about several challenges, with delays in shipment and increased freight costs impacting the business severely.

    “It is very difficult time for our business as sales have dropped in both our local and export markets. Due to port congestion and vessels being fully booked, there are delays in shipment. The cost of importing raw materials and freight costs themselves have increased a lot in the past 6-8 months. This is a cost that we are unable to pass onto our customers”.

    Another recipient of the Freight Assistance Package, Sumukh Malankar, Foods Pacific Senior General Manager, believes that whilst the continued impact of COVID-19 is taking a toll on Pacific business, optimism lies ahead.

    “Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the situation is not as encouraging as it used to be. Curfew restrictions are affecting business hours for manufacturers. However, we are quite optimistic that things will get better”.

    This is the fifteenth wave of PTI’s Pacific Business Monitor survey, a regular report that tracks the impact of COVID-19 across the 16 Pacific Island countries to provide governments, donors and stakeholders with valuable data on the state of businesses in the Pacific in the wake of COVID-19.

    As an agency of the Pacific Islands Forum, the role of the PTI Network is to improve the livelihoods of Pacific peoples by facilitating trade and investment into the Blue Pacific

    SOURCE: PTI AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS