WASHINGTON D.C., February 9, 2021 – The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a US$50 million (FJ$102.7 million) Credit to support Fiji’s recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 and severe tropical cyclones Harold and Yasa. The project has a special focus on women who have been disproportionally affected by the crisis.
In the past 12 months, Fiji has experienced extraordinary hits from external shocks. The immense social and economic impacts of COVID-19 which have brought Fiji’s tourism sector to a virtual standstill, have been exacerbated by a staggering five tropical cyclones in the past twelve months; including two severe Category Five cyclones. These external shocks have resulted in an economic contraction of 19 percent in 2020 and a rise in unemployment to 27 percent – the most severe contraction in Fiji’s history.
In response to these challenges, the Fiji Social Protection COVID-19 Response and System Development Project – which is the first project announced following the recent approval of the World Bank Group’s new Country Partnership Framework for Fiji – will support the government’s COVID-19 relief measures, in particular cash transfers targeting Fijians in the formal sector who have lost their jobs or have had their working reduced hours as a result of COVID-19 through the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF).
Complementing the support to unemployment assistance, the project will also support the government through strengthening the Fijian social protection system, and facilitating access to social protection services for all Fijians. The project will support the development of an Adaptive Social Protection Strategy for Fiji to improve adaptation to future shocks, strengthen data sharing protocols for systems interoperability, enhance social protection delivery systems to support vulnerable groups affected by the social and economic crisis and natural disasters. The project will also improve access to labor market services and employment support programs to support informal sector workers.
“Faced with either a barrage of cyclones or the collapse of our tourism markets on their own would be crippling for the Fijian economy. To face both of these economic crises concurrently is almost unfathomable, and the economic consequences have been devastating for Fijian families,” said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fijian Attorney-General and Minister for Economy. “This capital infusion into Fiji’s social protection systems is a lifeline to thousands of vulnerable Fijians in our formal and informal sectors who need urgent assistance, and will also allow us to establish robust mechanisms that will serve as our first defense against future external shocks.”
“This support of FJ$102.7 million is part of our commitment through the World Bank Group’s new workplan for Fiji. We are proud to be providing ongoing support to complement the Fijian Government’s vigorous COVID-19 response and efforts to recover from the dual shocks of COVID-19 and recent cyclones,” said Lasse Melgaard, World Bank Resident Representative for the South Pacific. “We are committed to helping those Fijians who are most impacted by the impacts of COVID-19 as we continue to work together to boost Fiji’s resilience.”
This project is funded through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries. The World Bank works in partnership with 12 countries across the Pacific and Papua New Guinea, supporting 83 projects totaling US$1.75 billion in commitments in sectors including agriculture, aviation and transport, climate resilience and adaptation, economic policy, education and employment, energy, fisheries, health, macroeconomic management, rural development, telecommunications and tourism.
The World Bank Group’s Operational Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. It is supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. The WBG is making available up to $160 billion over a 15-month period ending June 2021 to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans and $12 billion for developing countries to finance the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.