New Zealand’s recent announcement of budget support and vaccine rollout assistance to Vanuatu is part of a Pacific-wide effort to help the region recover from the effects of COVID-19.
Across the wider Pacific region, we will be spending around $NZ 120 million (9.6 billion vatu) from our aid programme to boost struggling economies in the lead-up to widespread vaccine coverage and eventual reopening of borders.
As New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta puts it: “The economic disruption affecting many countries in the Pacific, particularly those that have tourism-focused economies, is unprecedented.
“New Zealand’s funding will be used by our Pacific neighbours to help households get through this crisis, and support businesses to manage the uncertainty of closed borders.”
Our contribution to Vanuatu will total some 852 million vatu. Of this, 690 million vatu will provide direct budget support to the Government.
This recognises the fact that although Vanuatu has done an excellent job of keeping COVID-19 out of the community, international efforts to protect the health and well-being of communities have had a serious effect on businesses and jobs.
We are working in partnership with the Government on how exactly how our budget support will be applied.
The remaining 162 million vatu of New Zealand assistance will help to fund the Government’s vaccine rollout plan, which is due to get under way at the beginning of June.
Vanuatu faces particular challenges – and heavy costs – in transporting vaccines internally and getting them to communities across more than 60 islands. We hope that our support will make the task a little easier.
Vaccines are becoming an ever-more important part of global recovery from the pandemic.
Not only do they save lives, but their widespread uptake will be a vital part of building confidence between countries as we move to restart international travel.
It is increasingly likely that vaccination will play a central role in facilitating movement between countries, and I am sure that Vanuatu will want to take full advantage of border opening opportunities as they occur.
New Zealand is already a substantial player in the vaccines space. We have provided 1.4 billion vatu to the international COVAX vaccine access facility, on top of a 5.2 billion vatu commitment to support Pacific vaccine access.
Together, this assistance will allow New Zealand to support vaccine access for at least 1.2 million people across the Pacific over the coming year.
New Zealand is also working with Australia and UNICEF to obtain further vaccines for the Pacific.
The fight to overcome COVID-19 is a shared challenge for all of humanity, and our part of the world will have the best chance of succeeding if it pools its resources for the benefit of all.