A 2-day National Business Forum to find proactive approaches on how to sustain the economy through the existing pandemic commenced in the capital yesterday.

The Forum is an intervention between the Government and the Private Sector working together.

With closed borders and the low supply and high demands of goods in the market, it is imperative to work together and form solutions that everyone can benefit from, most importantly to find ways to ensure that revenue is directed to those who need it most.

Facilitated by the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the 2-day forum is a conservative attempt to share ideas in an open dialogue which involves business partners from the Private Sector and Government officials.

The Business Forum has openly discussed the reality of the situation at hand, especially during this COVID-19 season which has greatly affected businesses and institutions at this point.

The matter of contention is to have both Sectors working together and being competitive in a way that doesn’t deprive someone’s rights and to keep our economy alive and thriving.

During the panel discussion based on the Government’s plan to respond to the changes COVID-19 has brought to the economy, the Director General of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, August Letlet has announced the Government’s allocation of Vt3 billion to invest in building economic self-reliance and sustainability against COVID-19.

DG Letlet said for the first time in history, Vanuatu’s economy will contract 4.1% of the national output as measured by gross domestic product.

An economic contraction is caused by a loss in confidence that slows demand and that includes a drop in real personal income, industrial production, and retail sales. It also increases the chances of unemployment rates.

He added “there is a need for immediate policy intervention, since the Government has already contributed Vt3 billion, it is time for the private sector to invest their share”.

Founder and Co-owner of the Havannah Vanuatu, Liz Pechan said the people who had lost their jobs are the ones most impacted by COVID-19, “they are the ones with no access to healthcare, education, transport and other essential services”.

The common aspects that COVID-19 has impacted the economy are:

1. Border Closure

2. Reduced Demand from Citizens and Residents

3. Reduced Demand from local businesses

4. Reduced Investments (Banks)

5. Increased time & costs of exports and imports

6. Low confidence in the future (low expectations of future wellbeing)

7. Reduced demand for Merchandise exports

8. Reduced remittances from Seasonal Worker Schemes

9. No access to certain skilled Technicians (engineers needed)

“As a result, Vanuatu helicopters are unable to fly because in order to do so we’ll have to get in an engineer from overseas,” she said

Mrs Pechan concluded that the main focus of this Forum is Business Continuance, “to find ways of keeping your business alive with access to available facilities and as well as keeping workers employed.”

Day 2 of the National Business Forum is fixated on achieving a united understanding of our opportunities, roles and responsibilities to build back better the economy.

There will be open floor discussions and opportunities for asking questions and engaging on solutions on how the Government and Private Sector will contribute to the economic recovery of our country.

The full-day Forum will be held on Thursday (today) at the Convention Center in Port Vila.

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