Pacific plea to donors as COVID economic damage mounts
Pacific finance ministers have made a strong plea for support from development partners at this week’s annual Pacific Island Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM).
The forum, which was held online, focused on what it called the “severe” and “unprecedented” economic and social impacts of COVID-19.
The ministers asked for debt relief, budget support, better access to funding from financial institutions, more assistance for their social sectors including to prevent gender-based violence, as well as better access to COVID-19 testing kits and vaccines.
They also voiced their concerns over the vulnerability of countries in the Pacific Islands to economic shocks caused by COVID-19.
The chair of the FEMM 2020, Tuvalu Minister of Finance, the Honourable Seve Paeniu, said all ministers are well aware of the financial drain on national budgets due to COVID-19 and are very concerned about debt levels.
“Therefore, ministers strongly recommended action to see if multilateral and financial institutions could provide debt relief because of the strong pressures on our national treasuries and national budgets as a result of COVID-19,” Minister Paeniu said.
Minister Paeniu said the Pacific Islands Forum ministers have called for the establishment of a COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce.
He said the taskforce would, “Oversee the implementation of regional priorities measures and recovery processes and engage with key development partners on these measures and processes and on key regional issues and innovative financing options.”
In the forum meeting, the ministers agreed to maintain measures to reduce the impact of the loss of income on affected peoples, especially vulnerable people, through initiatives such as social protection.
They also reaffirmed the importance of enabling business environments that support private sector development.
The forum also committed to work together as a region supported by the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Taskforce for the short and long-term recovery of economies in the Pacific.
Vanuatu’s Minister of Finance, Johnny Koanapo, and the Director General of the ministry, August Letlet, attended the two-day meeting.