The week in brief

Vanuatu wants to defer leaders meeting

The Government of Vanuatu has formally advised of its intention to defer the 51st Pacific Islands Forum Meeting scheduled for 4 – 7 August 2020 to next year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum Secretariat is now consulting with members on next steps.

Pacific aid

The Lowy Institute estimates that the Pacific’s development partners “have so far announced around $825 million (US $570 million) in Covid-19 related financial support, including the debt standstill announced by the G20 in April.” Not all the announced amounts are additional, for example, Australia’s A$100 million COVID-19 package is being drawn from the existing aid budget.

Authors Alexandre Dayant and Roland Rajah suggest what other measures could assist the Pacific in the near term.

Solomons Chamber wants compliance for all businesses

The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) says the country’s business environment is not a “level playing field” and that companies who pay their taxes and meet all government regulations, “lose significant market shares.”

“We conducted a desk-top exercise to project the amount that could be collected by Government when ensuring compliance to its laws and regulations and it was estimated between $200m-$400m,” the SICCI says.

Oil Search woes

Oil Search is suspended from trading on the PNG stock exchange until further notice. The order is based on allegations that Oil Search breached the PNG Capital Market Act by failing to obtain approval from the Securities Commission for the PNG Retail component of its recent capital raising. The company denies this, and says it will challenge the matter in the courts.

COVID impacts being felt in Solomons: IFC

The IFC has surveyed nine Solomon Islands companies from the Waka Mere initiaitve, and says 89% of them have experienced a reduction in demand as an impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition,  78% have reported a reduction in turnover or cash flow, and 56% may need to downsize in the next year.

Waka Mere is an initiative to promote gender equality in the private sector in Solomon Islands.

Of the companies surveyed, two employers believed that COVID-19 has had an impact on their employees’ experiences of domestic and sexual violence. All of the companies surveyed have domestic and sexual violence policies in place. At the workshop, companies reviewed ways to combat COVID-19-related workplace gender-based violence risks.

Fiji, Vanuatu COVID-response projects win impact funding

Ten initiatives have been picked by the UNDP’s Sustainable Livelihoods Challenge to receive technical and financial support.

The initiatives have been developed by local entrepreneurs and experts in Fiji and Vanuatu to assist the most vulnerable individuals or groups cope with the adverse socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 The selected initiatives are in Fiji:

*Barter for Better Fiji in collaboration with The Greenhouse Studio – Online barter platform; 

*Green Thumb – Model farm in the Western Division; 

*Rise Beyond the Reef – Economic empowerment for women in rural communities; 

*Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises & Development (FRIEND) – Incubator and seed fund for start-ups by those losing their source of income; 

*Smart Farms Fiji – Home-based hydroponic farming kits (supported by UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific); 

*Pacific Blue Foundation – School farm in Beqa Island (supported by UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific).

And in Vanuatu:

*Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu (ACTIV) Association – Platform to connect small businesses and farmers with consumers;

*Next Limited – Mobile fundraising solution;

*Village de Santo – Community farming for early recovery;

*SH Products and Services – Grocery packs for minimum wage workers (supported by Accelerator Lab Pacific).


Budding entrepreneurs urged to take up FNU’s free online course

Registration for Fiji National University’s (FNU) free online course in entrepreneurial skills is now open

The course is designed to help those affected by COVID-19 or those looking to start their own business and provides an introduction to business fundamentals to assist entrepreneurs to develop the essential skills, tools and strategies they need to launch a business. The study will cover the fundamentals of launching a business from ideation, marketing, sales, financial management, through to basic operations. Participants will learn how to formulate and refine their business plan and answer questions around product-market fill and price validation.

 FNU says it will offer assistance to participants who produce credible business plans to seek funding opportunities.

New Century interested in Goro mine

Australia’s New Century Resources Ltd says it is in talks with Brazilian miner Vale SA to buy its nickel and cobalt operations on the Pacific island of New Caledonia.

New Century said it would conduct due-diligence exclusively to buy the unit that owns and operates the Goro nickel and cobalt mine which also has a processing plant and a port facility.