The new Government is looking at rebuilding economically from the COVID-19 crisis and cyclone Harold.

Prime Minister (PM) Bob Loughman confirmed this when he announced the strategy for the development of a recovery plan yesterday.

“The former government had immediately respond to these disasters with the stimulus package. The current government’s focus is to quickly develop and implement this recovery plan,” said the newly elected PM.

PM Loughman delivered his official maiden address to the nation yesterday.

He began his speech by conveying sympathy on behalf of the government to families suffering from the impacts of the cyclone and those that have lost loved ones.

“As the head of the government, I want to assure all citizens that our priorities are immediate response and recovery from TC Harold, humanitarian relief to volcanic ash fall affected Tanna communities and addressing impacts of COVID-19 and all disasters,” he said.

“A long-term objective of the government is to address the social and economic impacts of these crisis.”

Starting off with COVID-19, the PM said the medium and long term priorities are: building the nation’s health capability and improving health facilities, ensuring testing and screening equipment are available and making sure front line workers such as health and border control staff are properly equipped with safety equipment.

Ensuring that the stimulus package is fully implemented, reinforcing international border measures and good health practices such as social distancing and washing hands and facilitating international cargo boats and flights without passengers until the crisis passed are other priorities.

With cyclone Harold, PM Loughman said a Recovery Operation Center has been set up under the PM’s Office to oversee post-disaster assessment needs and coordinate the COVID-119 and TC Harold Recovery Plan.

“A quick brief with technical people from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MoFEM) indicates that economic growth is likely to be lower than what has been forecast as trading partners imposed border restrictions and lock downs globally to curb coronavirus,” he conveyed.

“The economic growth projected in the 2020 budget was 3.8%.

“This been revised to 1.9% but, it might fall lower considering the current emergency situation.

“We as a nation should not be afraid however, we should plan carefully on rebuilding back our economy quickly.

“The government will work with the service sector, especially tourism and hotel industry to develop their recovery plans.

“We want to put more emphasize in the agriculture sector and encourage production and internal trading.

“We are looking at supporting small medium enterprises and ensure their full economic participation.

“In the infrastructure sector, we will continue to improve accessibility and reliability of the land and sea transport to ensure movement of people, goods and services.

“The government will continue to improve access to education and ensure every child has the right to access quality education services.

“It will ensure there is stability, unity, transparency and accountability at all levels of political development.

“The government is aware works to settle boundaries are unfinished therefore, it will follow up and address it in the nation’s interest.”

He said further priorities are security challenges such as climate change and natural disasters are also priorities, improving public service machinery to allow decentralization, ensuring bilateral relations benefits the people and ensuring quality and access to justice services.

He said the government will also come up with a plan to address the current high youth unemployment.

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