Ali: Fijian economy registers sharpest economic decline in 2020

The container yard at the main Suva port. Picture: SUPPLIED/FT FILE

The Fijian economy has registered the sharpest economic decline of 19 per cent in 2020, which is equivalent to a loss in GDP of more than $2billion.

Ministry of Local Government acting permanent secretary Shaheen Ali highlighted this while officiating at a workshop by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP), in partnership with the Suva City Council on ‘Building Urban economic resilience during and after COVID-19’ at Tanoa Plaza in Suva yesterday.

Mr Ali said the prolonged border closure, coupled with the devastating impact of tropical cyclones Yasa, Ana and Bina, had further delayed the rebound of GDP to pre-COVID levels for at least the next three years.

“Business activities have declined at varying degrees across most sectors,” Mr Ali said.

“The tourism industry, which once accounted for over a third of the Fijian GDP, has been most affected.

“Visitor arrivals in 2020 plummeted by 87 per cent to 147,000 visitors to pre-1990 levels.

“In the early months of the pandemic, unemployment temporarily spiked to 100,000,” he added.

Mr Ali said the Government took immediate and decisive actions to cushion the impact.

The policy interventions were delivered through the COVID Response Budget and the 2020-2021 National Budget.

These included:

  • Unemployment support in partnership with the Fiji National Provident Fund. To date, $216.6million has been paid to those who have lost their jobs or are on reduced wages. Government has paid out $102million, and approximately $114.6million has been withdrawn from FNPF member General Account;
  • Approximately $30million has been given as concessional loans to 5438 micro, small and medium enterprises, mainly in the agriculture, wholesale and retail, food and hospitality, transportation, manufacturing and other service driven sectors;
  • Launch of the Fijian COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework. Under the Framework, we’ve trialled and implemented safe entry of visitors – both leisure and non-leisure travel. This includes the establishment of various travel bubbles and Vacation in Paradise (VIP) and Blue Lanes, allowing individuals and groups to enter Fiji by air and sea.

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