The COVID-19 global pandemic and accompanying economic crisis continues to create compounded challenges for the Pacific private sector. With closed international borders, interrupted trade routes and little access to international assistance, the Lowy Institute believes the past 12 months have set the region back by 10 years.
In May 2020 Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) commissioned the Pacific Business Monitor, a monthly survey designed to monitor and understand the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the Pacific’s private sector and identify key areas of support needed to recover.
The data collected in 2020 across 16 Pacific countries have been released in the PTI Pacific Business Monitor Report 2020. The report provides a snapshot into the realities that Pacific businesses faced, in a region that is diverse in terms of the size and economies.
International border restrictions and the absence of international tourists significantly impacted businesses in the Pacific Islands last year, with close to 90 per cent reporting declines in revenue. Although many are looking for alternative revenue streams, it is unlikely to generate the same income as international tourism.
The wellbeing of the community and mental health of business owners have also been negatively impacted in 2020, with the pandemic disrupting livelihoods and lifestyles. This was amplified with the uncertainty regarding how long the crisis will last.
The negative impact on business in 2020 was higher in some Pacific nations, such as Papua New Guinea the Cook Islands and Fiji, compared to others.
The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on the normal operation of businesses in Papua New Guinea with 40 per cent temporarily closed at the end of 2020 compared to 20 per cent overall in the Pacific Islands.
Towards the end of last year, only 22 per cent of businesses in the Cook Islands had returned to full operation, compared to 36 per cent overall in the Pacific Islands.
In the middle of last year 50 per cent of respondents in Fiji were confident their business would survive the COVID-19 crisis, compared with 68 per cent overall in the Pacific Islands.
Positively, the Pacific Business Monitor shows that confidence in business survival has been steadily increasing across the entire region and many businesses are adapting or looking at alternative products/services to generate revenue with 50% of businesses starting to diversify their offering from August 2020.
On Thursday March 4, Pacific Trade Invest and Griffith Asia Institute will host a Pacific Outlook webinar. This panel discussion will look at the findings of the report and bring personal perspectives of the ongoing realities facing businesses in the Blue Pacific.
Moderated by Dr Tess Newton Cain, Adjunct Associate Professor, Pacific Hub, Griffith Asia Institute, the panel will consist of Caleb Jarvis, Trade & Investment Commissioner of Pacific Trade Invest Australia, Liana Scott, General Manager Muri Beach Club Hotel and President of the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, Minoru Nishi, Managing Director of Nishi Trading Co. Tonga and Catherine E Papani, Acting Business Development Management/CEO of Niue Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about the Pacific Business Monitor and to access the survey findings, visit the PTI Australia website.