Almost eighteen months on since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, Pacific economies are still grappling with its impact and putting in place their economic recovery efforts. Whilst for most of the last year, the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) were remarkably isolated from the devasting effects of the COVID crisis, with most nations remaining COVID free, the economic consequences continued to mount with differential impacts within and across the PICTs.
Although isolation has proven itself to be an effective preventative strategy, the border closures and travel restrictions have taken a severe toll on these Pacific nations and their fragile and fledging economies. The pandemic has now not only claimed lives but has also destroyed jobs, inflicting lasting damage on investment, productivity, and growth. It has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable which in turn has given rise to increases in poverty, hardship, and malnutrition, shattering all hopes of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).
A closer look at a range of indicators drawn from the Pacific National Statistics Offices, Central Banks, and Ministry of Finance websites for the first quarter of 2021, illustrate the extent of the impacts. A year-on from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 the economies of almost all PICTs had deteriorated significantly over the period. Tourism, a key pillar of economic development for many PICTs remained stalled in the first quarter of 2021 with the tourism-dependent economies of Fiji, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, and Samoa witnessing the steepest falls in arrival numbers at 97.0%, 98.0%, 87.0%, 96.2% and 100%, respectively against the March quarter of 2020.