Fijian Prime Minister Hon. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama last night highlighted the unique challenges presently faced by the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) during this COVID-19 crisis which has severely affected important sectors of the economy particularly, tourism, trade and disruption in supply chains. 

While delivering his remarks at the International Labour Organisation’s Global Virtual Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work, the Prime Minister said after another worse-than-anticipated quarter for the world economy, COVID-19 is clearly the job-killer of the century. 

The global virtual summit saw the participation of the United Nations Secretary-General H.E Antonio Guterres as a key speaker and also brought together some world leaders, chiefs of other UN and international agencies, ILO member states and employers to bolster ideas and solutions of addressing the economic and social impacts of COVID-19. 

“SIDS are shouldering this pandemic’s most severe economic fallout.

The scale of our labour markets means global shocks hold far more destructive impact, and we don’t have the deep pockets of wealthier nations to bail out whole industries or pump stimulus levels of liquidity into our markets,” he said. 

“COVID-19 is deepening the very same inequalities exposed by climate change, a painful parallel that is accelerating catastrophe across SIDS economies. 

“While Fiji is a COVID-Contained country with no cases outside of our quarantine facilities in over 80 days, the burden that Fijian people carry on their backs has not shifted an inch.

The floors of many factories are still quiet and with borders shut around the world, Fijian tourism has come to a halt and many jobs have still not returned, some may never.”

 For SIDS, the Prime Minister said we need resources and not regulations better suited to larger labour markets.

 “When it comes to growing our economy, protecting livelihoods and reducing poverty, along with our urgent priorities of climate adaptation and oceans preservation, we’ve long struggled to reconcile our realities with the ILO’s broadly-focused frameworks,” he said. 

“Let’s find opportunity in this crisis by recognising how the ILO can better support employers and employees who rely on the stalwarts of small island economies, like tourism and target support accordingly. 

“We haven’t seen the end of the extraordinary sacrifices exacted to endure this crisis.

Until these headwinds abate, governments, employers and employees, take sober stock of reality, and put everyone’s well-being at the heart of a compassionate response and an inclusive recovery.” 

The Prime Minister also highlighted some of Fiji’s strategic efforts in containing COVID-19. “After decisively containing the virus, we launched a “COVID-Safe Economic Recovery”, re-opened much of our domestic economy.

Our workplaces are operating in line with tailor-made, COVID-safe operation plans and we’ve launched a mobile application dubbed “careFIJI” that speeds up contact tracing efforts, if ever necessary,” he added.  

“We’re opening “blue lanes” to allow private marine vessels to safely enter Fijian waters, a “Bula Bubble” to re-open travel with Australia and New Zealand and “Pacific Pathways” to reconnect with our smaller Pacific Island neighbours.

Government has also created a new category of unemployment benefits to aid employees whose incomes have evaporated or hours have been slashed due to the pandemic.” Meanwhile, the 5 day global summit consists of five regional and three global events.

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