Samoa's slow road to economic recovery: U.N.

Battered Pacific island economies such as the Cook Islands, Palau, and Samoa are facing a gradual recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations says. 

The United Nations Executive Secretary for the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (U.N.E.S.C.) said they are projecting that economies in the Cook Islands, Palau and Samoa will contract this year and next. 

Dr. Armida Alisjahbana said the decline is a result of the countries' dependence on tourism. 

“If borders [are] still closed then you will not be able to get any tourists,” she told Australian state television recently. 

She added that the demand for various commodities including fishing, which is a major export from the Pacific, would still be dismal.

Asked about the path to move forward their economies, she explained that coronavirus containment measures, mitigating the disease's social-economic impact, and prioritising climate resilience measures will be essential to economic recovery. 

According to a recent publication United Nations Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific (E.S.C.A.P) 2021: Towards post-COVID-19 resilient economies, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed chronic development fault lines in Asia and the Pacific.

The disease is taking a heavy toll on the social and economic well-being of people across the region, the authors found. 

“Slow regional progress in implementing the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has done little to reduce wide gaps in social services, digital access and green development, and that has exacerbated the vulnerability to such shocks,” the survey concluded.

“The pandemic caused unprecedented socioeconomic disruptions in Asia and the Pacific. 

“Working hour losses totalled the equivalent of 140 million full-time jobs in 2020, while prolonged school closures severely affected education.

“Taken together, these distortions are likely to have considerable adverse effects on human capital accumulation and productivity.

“The poor and vulnerable groups were disproportionately affected, resulting in a surge in poverty and a widening of inequality gaps.

"E.S.C.A.P estimates that an additional 89 million people in the region could have been pushed back into extreme poverty at the $1.90 per day threshold, erasing years of progress in poverty reduction.” 

The Samoa Observer reported in March that the Government says growing the tourism sector will be a “top national priority” over the next 20 years, even as tourism businesses remain under immense strain with many struggling to survive.  

In the recently launched Samoa 2040 Plan, the Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.) released its vision for the nation's future economic development. Tourism is listed as one of the four pillars for driving that growth in the coming decades.

The plan predicts that tourism will be the largest driver of the nation's economic growth by 2040, accounting for roughly $500 million of the plan's goal to add $500 million to national revenues. 

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