Left Menu
Development News Edition

INTERVIEW-Pacific islands urged to retune post-pandemic for new economic age

Reuters | Updated: 21-05-2020 17:45 IST | Created: 21-05-2020 17:45 IST
INTERVIEW-Pacific islands urged to retune post-pandemic for new economic age

By Michael Taylor KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Pacific islands that rely on tourism should reset their economies and invest in sustainable industries and migrant workers to better weather the impact of disease and disaster, according to a senior United Nations official.

Kanni Wignaraja, head of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) for Asia-Pacific, urged small Pacific economies that were so hit hard by global travel bans to do things differently when they re-open for business and as overseas labour ventures back. "Use some of these returning migrant workers to actually set up new lines of business and small and medium scale enterprises," Wignaraja told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Otherwise, instead of a wave of tourists coming, you're getting a wave of unemployed workers returning home." The Pacific islands have had relatively few COVID-19 infections, but have suffered intense economic and social shocks as overseas businesses sent migrant workers home and tourists vanished, said Wignaraja by phone from New York.

She urged island authorities not to see returning migrants as a burden, but instead include them in public works programmes and any stimulus spending. Many migrant workers had already returned to the Pacific islands, where unemployment - particularly among women and young people - was high before the pandemic, according to the U.N.

The coronavirus has infected more than 5 million people globally and killed some 320,000, according to a Reuters tally. Pacific islands such as Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands and Samoa imposed strict lockdowns to combat the virus; they denied access to supply vessels and banned contact during aircraft refuelling.

On top of vanishing tourist income came the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Harold - a Category 5 storm that hit the region last month, cutting power and destroying holiday resorts. Wignaraja, who is from Sri Lanka and was appointed to her role in December, said Pacific island nations should look at ways to maintain social-distancing while evacuating people or establishing safe zones for people in a natural disaster.

"There is a triple helix, with COVID, natural disasters and high levels of inequality," Wignaraja said. "Tackling any one of these without looking at the three together, would be a real mistake."

As governments around the world unleash unprecedented support for economies floored by the pandemic, Wignaraja said the poorest people should not be forgotten. In the Pacific, stimulus spending should look at boosting sustainable energy and fishing, and tackling plastic waste that ends up in oceans, she added.

Citing clear skies over many Asian cities during lockdowns - places notorious for air pollution - Wignaraja said fiscal packages must not flow into fossil fuels. "If not doing it now, when are we going to do this - to switch out of fossil fuels?"


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Why COVID-19 is unstoppable in USA despite it being ranked at the top of GHS Index?

Several worst-hit countries such as Italy, France, Spain, the UK, Canada, and Russia have peaked COVID-19 cases in April. Almost all of them have gradually flattened the curve. However, the USA is setting new daily records of infections tha...

COVID-19 seems cooking biggest ever global scam

The increasing number of corruption cases on COVID-19 funds from throughout the world and involvement of high profile persons indicate that the countries cant ignore corruption in their pandemic response programs. This has generated the nee...

Health Management Information Systems lack holistic, integrated, and pandemic resilient character

Being a part of the United Nations system, the World Health Organization WHO deserves its share of rebuke for its alleged failure issue COVID-19 health emergency alerts on appropriate time. However, the pandemic has also exposed loopholes i...

Pride in the time of coronavirus: a welcome move online?

This year is different in many ways not least as celebrations are also taking place against the dramatic backdrop of a global health crisis and a resurgence in grassroots activism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. ...

Videos

Latest News

U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs Trump's immunity claim, lets prosecutor get financial records

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday firmly rejected President Donald Trumps arguments for sweeping presidential immunity and ruled that a New York prosecutor can obtain his financial records but prevented - at least for now - Democratic-led ...

My Hero Academia Season 5: Release in 2021, creator to develop a live-action film

If youre an anime aficionado, then My Hero Academia Season 5 must be on the top of your list of famous anime series. The viewers will get to see two arcs of the manga being animated in episodes. The imminent season is expected to be consist...

ANALYSIS-Mexican president exits Trump embrace smiling, Democrats grumble

Defying warnings that to seek out Donald Trump was to court disaster, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador instead emerged from their first meeting as a cherished friend of his U.S. counterpart, even as some Democrats looked on une...

Changes to Istanbul's Hagia Sophia could trigger heritage review -UNESCO

UNESCO must be notified of any change in the status of Istanbuls sixth-century Hagia Sophia museum and the changes may have to be reviewed by its World Heritage committee, the United Nations cultural body said on Thursday. Turkeys top admin...

Give Feedback