BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
KOROR, Palau — Pacific businesses — including Palau — can strengthen their digital economies to cope with COVID-19 lockdowns and the closure of international borders.
Businesses across the region face challenges amid the global pandemic that left most of their businesses affected by declining revenues.
Caleb Jarvis, Trade and Investment commissioner of Pacific Trade Invest Australia; told Pacific reporters in a virtual briefing on June 24 that the North Pacific including Palau, could participate with a stronger digital economy while it is experiencing a dip in revenues due to a lack of tourism.
“Palau obviously has a very strong tourism sector and again what we’re all learning through this time is that we need to be diversified in what we do in our investments,” he said.
Jarvis said Palau’s proximity to key Asian markets and relationship with the United States can be an opportunity “to create a stronger digital economy, that education is the foundation of that along with good affordable access to internet connectivity.”
He said that the digital economy is a new sector that can be created as response to the COVID-19 challenges.
“The world is changing and the Pacific Islands can participate in the digital economy more than they are currently doing so. Internet connectivity proves we can see the creation of a completely new sector,” he added.
The PTI Pacific Business Monitor will monitor performance of businesses in 16 nations in the Pacific for the next six months. The survey tracks businesses across the Pacific and the impact to their companies, from revenues to personal well-being. “When we consider ways that businesses are buffering themselves from the effects of the pandemic, digital connectivity has perhaps never been more important,” Jarvis said.
PTI will conduct 15 waves or surveys, the Wave Three survey released on June 29 showed that Palau was among the top three countries in the Pacific who responded to the survey.
According to the survey, 22% of respondents said they have been using the digital space to promote their businesses.
More than 80% of the businesses in Palau that participated reported a decline of revenue due to COVID-19, with 87% believing that COVID-19 has negatively impacted the local economy. Like PNG and Tonga, Palau businesses have had to reduce operational costs and staff working hours to keep companies afloat.
Palau businesses also reported that border closure is one of the challenges.
“Most businesses are finding it challenging not knowing how long the crisis will last and continue to struggle with closed borders and poor cash flow. The need to diversify their business is becoming more important but closed borders continues to be a major barrier preventing tourism and export,” Jarvis said. mbj