COVID-19  lockdowns, closing of international borders and travel restriction  in the Pacific, including Palau  has left businesses reeling,  but the challenges can also provide an opportunity to pivot to build a stronger digital economy.

PTI Australia’s Trade and Investment commissioner Caleb Jarvis told Pacific reporters in a virtual briefing Wednesday that the Northern Pacific including Palau, can embrace digital economies in the absence 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.

While Palau might not have a huge and  strong agriculture sector, its proximity to key Asian markets and  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 (PBM) is tracking performance of businesses  in 16 states in the Pacific for over the next six months  The survey monitors businesses across the Pacific region and how they are  affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “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, 22 percent of those surveyed reported they were doing more business online, and many businesses that had already moved to digital have found they were able to reposition themselves.

However, the impact of the COVID crisis is still severe.

The latest survey taken as part of the PBM shows 90 percent of businesses across the Pacific have reported a decline in revenue and 92 percent believe the pandemic has negatively impacted their economy.

Founded in 1979, PTI Australia is an agency of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and is the Pacific region’s lead trade and investment facilitation agency; funded by the Australian Government.

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