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Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fiji

 Announcement of COVID-19 Response Budget

Coat of Arms of Fiji

With over 110,000 confirmed cases in 113 countries and territories, the rapid spread of COVID-19 has today been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. While Fiji has so far remained coronavirus-free, we’re not immune from this pandemic’s economic ramifications.
 
The latest reports estimate the net losses to the world economy will be upwards of two trillion dollars this year, with global growth dramatically slowing to half of one percent. The recent oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia has upended global energy markets, throwing another wrench into an already-volatile environment. Nations of all sizes are already facing the spectre of economic recession.
 
The world economy has not seen a threat of this scale since the global financial crisis. But let’s remember, back in 2008, it wasn’t trade wars, tariffs or unilateralism that pulled the world economy back from the brink. What proved successful was an unprecedented, internationally-coordinated effort to refuel and re-spark global growth. Once again, we must achieve the highest levels of global cooperation and goodwill if we are to succeed in bringing badly-needed stability back to our markets and economies.
 
Here in Fiji, our situation demands extraordinary actions to minimise the brunt of the global economic downturn. We cannot risk waiting until the close of the financial year to re-evaluate our spending priorities and take stock of our revenue streams. There are key expenditures that must be made to ensure the protection and continuation of the Fijian way of life, that includes our people’s health, their jobs, their businesses and their food security. Fiji is fortunate to counter this crisis from a position of historic financial strength on the back of our longest-ever economic expansion. It is clear the time to act is now, that is why we’ll be announcing a new COVID-19 Response Budget on 26 March.
 
We’ve already moved quickly and decisively to prevent a large-scale outbreak of COVID-19 in Fiji. As the risk of a global outbreak became clear, we cut off travel from mainland China, Italy, Iran and South Korea and massively stepped up screening at all ports-of-entry in the country.
 
We should all applaud the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for their quick actions and professionalism in handling our nationwide response effort. Our medical teams are ready to identify, isolate and treat any case of the virus in the country and do everything possible to prevent a widespread outbreak. We’ve already allocated a number of unbudgeted expenditures to support our preparatory efforts, including ordering thermal scanners to install at our ports-of-entry.
 
Tourism and travel-related industries can be the hardest hit by a viral outbreak. Fear surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak has meant many people are not travelling. Accordingly, Fiji’s tourism numbers are down, and we can expect them to remain muted for some time. This will have a serious short-term impact, as tourism is the single-largest contributor to our GDP.
 
Global air carriers are anticipating projected losses in revenue upwards of 100 billion dollars. Our national carrier, Fiji Airways, has seen a serious drop in demand on many of its international routes. Regional supply-chains across the Asia-Pacific and globally have been eviscerated by the viral outbreak, with vital flows of goods and labour disrupted or ended entirely. This has a direct impact on capital projects around the world, and developing countries, particularly, will need to look to new source markets outside of China. Lower frequency along shipping routes, in particular from North Asia, will raise the costs of shipping for all goods brought by sea, even to and from countries like New Zealand.
 
Fiji has built many strong economic partnerships around our region and the world. If you look at a nation like the Maldives, which is largely dependent on Chinese and European markets, their tourism sector is taking a brutal beating, putting many of their people’s livelihoods in peril. Luckily, Fiji is not overly-reliant on the Chinese market –– we have a responsible mix of tourism markets to hedge against isolated disruptions. There’s still tremendous potential in our tourism markets in Australia and New Zealand – both of which do not have large-scale outbreaks of the virus. To-date, Fiji Airways’ key routes to Australia, New Zealand and North America are seeing healthy numbers. We will be actively exploring new measures of support for our tourism partners to take full advantage of these and other opportunities.
 
Over the past several weeks, we have been meeting with business and industry leaders to understand exactly how they are affected by and coping with this global slowdown and supply-chain disruptions, and how we – as a team – can work together, explore possible fiscal initiatives, remain resolute, and ride this through.
 
As we’ve already told many of you in-person, your government’s ears are open to listen and our support is steadfast and assured. The team at the Ministry of Economy has been in overdrive preparing a COVID-19 Response Budget. As we prepare, if anyone would like to contribute to our planning, the Ministry of Economy will be accepting electronic submissions over e-mail at Budget Consultation “at” economy dot gov dot fj.
 
Rest assured, we'll be leveraging every channel of growth at our disposal to keep our economy prosperous, keep Fijians employed, and keep our businesses afloat, all while putting our people’s wellbeing first. Our economy remains under prudent and responsible management –– we will not hesitate to make tough decisions with a view towards our long-term economic prospects. It is vital our partners in the private sector take a similar view of the future.
 
And just like in our recovery from the global financial crisis, collaboration is key. Because while nations are shutting their borders to travel, we must continue to work across borders –– and each of us must play our part.
 
World leaders must find ways to protect economies of all sizes, and not play games of economic nationalism when lives and livelihoods are at stake. At home, we cannot politicise this pandemic. We must remain objective without falling prey to sensationalism.
 
Likewise, business leaders must recognise their role in our economic resilience. Keep your people employed. So long as it is safe and sustainable to do so, keep your businesses running. This is a test of our perseverance that we must prove strong enough to endure –– but know that your government will work with you in close collaboration to support you and the Fijians you employ.

We look forward to sharing more in-depth details on the measures we’ll be taking to respond to this situation in Parliament on 26 March.

Thank you.

 


END

 


Several members of Public Accounts Committee of the Fijian Parliament visiting Wellington this week took advantage of a visit to the Wellington City Council’s Southern Landfill yesterday to glean a few ideas for waste management in Fiji. This included the Hon. Alexander O’Connor, Assistant Minister for Health, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua, Opposition parliamentarian and Ms. Priya Chand, Parliamentary Secretary who were accompanied by the Fiji High Commission New Zealand staff.

The Southern landfill is an impressive setup particularly as it focuses on recycling and minimising the damage to the environment at the landfill.

 

Other remarkable features of the landfill were its gas collection, electricity regeneration, green waste mulching and water table management. The Hon. O’Connor, an engineer by profession, was particularly impressed and intends to develop a few ideas for the Fijian Government to consider.

 

The PAC members were invited to attend the Pacific PAC training seminar in Wellington facilitated by UNDP from the 12th to the 13th December.

The PAC members, including Deputy Chair, Hon. Mohammed Dean, MP, were hosted to afternoon tea at the Fiji Chancery.  It was an opportunity for the Parliamentarians to meet the Locally Engaged Staff at the Mission and also update the staff on the work and concerns of the Public A

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