What do the statistics tell us about the impacts of Covid-19 on PICT economies – Q4 2021

Noumea

Key economic indicators from the final quarter of 2021 indicate an uneven recovery for the economies of Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new paper from the Pacific Community.

While economic activity in several of the hardest-hit PICT economies continues to struggle to regain pre-pandemic conditions, the region’s ongoing COVID vaccination rollout, bilateral travel bubbles, and relaxed travel restrictions during the quarter saw the positive signs of economic recovery recorded in Quarter 3, 2021 continue into Quarter 4, 2021.

Fiji recorded an exceptional 2466.7% increase in tourism revenue in the final quarter of 2021, signalling the continuation of economic recovery for much of the region.

This strong recovery is welcome news after the near total collapse in the tourism in the region seen in Quarter 1, 2021.

Against the December quarter 2020, exceptional increases in visitor arrivals were recorded in Quarter 4, 2021 for Fiji, Guam, Solomon Islands, with Palau soaring 3700%, while French Polynesia and New Caledonia saw a double-digit increases over the same period.

Visitor arrivals, % change over same quarter in the previous year. Source: Central/Reserve Banks and NSOs of Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
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Export revenues also increased grew in the same period with Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Samoa and French Polynesia showing robust growth in Quarter 4 2021.

Export receipts, % change over previous quarter. Source: NSOs, Ministry of Finance, Central/Reserve Banks of Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
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While tourism and export revenues have strengthened, PICT labour markets in Quarter 4, 2021 remained fragile with employment indicators for Samoa and Solomon Islands dropping further against Quarter 4, 2020, extending the declining trend since the start of the pandemic. The 2.6% fall in provident fund contributors for Solomon Islands reflected the continuous freeze by the public sector and some private companies due to the uncertainties created by Covid-19.

Fig. 25: Employment proxy, % change over same quarter in the previous year. Source: National Statistics Office and Central/Reserve Bank of PNG, Palau, New Caledonia, Samoa, and Solomon Islands.
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Statistics on remittances, which have been a vital source of funds for daily basic-needs as jobs have been lost, showed strong growth for major remittance countries during the reporting quarter.

However, while remittances dropped for Solomon Islands, remittance receipts for Fiji and Samoa showed double digit increases, there was also moderate growth in remittances to Tonga when compared to September quarter 2021.

Remittances, % change over previous quarter. Source: NSOs, Ministries of Finance and Central/Reserve Banks of Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
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While these statistics may signal the beginning of the economic recovery for the region, ongoing job losses, fiscal pressures and increasing government debts and rising inflation continue to have an adverse impact on the levels of hardship, cost of living and poverty being experienced by households and families across the region.

Download the paper produced by SPC’s Statistics for Development Division here.

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Author(s)

David Wardell

Communications Officer (Data and Statistics), Corporate Communications Office, Pacific Community (SPC)