The Fiji Times

Schol­ars push for Aust, NZ to act fast, think be­yond bub­ble

- By NASIK SWAMI New Zealand · Massey University · Australia · Beijing · Fiji

A TOURISM bub­ble should not be looked at in iso­la­tion, says Massey Univer­sity aca­demics Apisa­lome Movono and Regina Scheyvens.

The co-authors of a re­search pa­per ti­tled, “Sun, sand and un­cer­tainty: the prom­ise and peril of a Pa­cific tourism bub­ble”, are of the view that Aus­tralia and New Zealand need to act fast to help the Pa­cific build a bet­ter, more sus­tain­able fu­ture af­ter the im­pacts of COVID-19.

They said China was fast in its “COVID-19 diplo­macy” to the Pa­cific, in par­tic­u­lar, Fiji, fund­ing pan­demic stim­u­lus pack­ages and of­fer­ing aid and in­vest­ment which in­cluded draft­ing a free trade agree­ment with Fiji.

“That is not to say Chi­nese in­vest­ment in Pa­cific economies won’t do good,” they said.

“Rather, it is an ar­gu­ment for think­ing be­yond the im­me­di­ate ben­e­fits of a travel bub­ble.

“By re­align­ing their devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties, Aus­tralia and New Zealand can help the Pa­cific build a bet­ter, more sus­tain­able fu­ture.

“The pres­sure to re­open bor­ders is un­der­stand­able.

“But we ar­gue that a tourism bub­ble can­not be looked at in iso­la­tion. It should be part of a broader strat­egy to di­ver­sify economies and en­hance link­ages, ex­am­ple be­tween agri­cul­ture and tourism, to put more lo­cal food on res­tau­rant menus, es­pe­cially in those coun­tries that are most per­ilously de­pen­dent on tourism.”

They said the high debt, lack of eco­nomic di­ver­sity and de­pen­dence on tourism had put the Fi­jian econ­omy in a very vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion.

“Fiji has taken on more debt to cope. Its debt-to-GDP ra­tio, which ide­ally should sit be­low 40 per cent for de­vel­op­ing economies, has risen from 48.9 per cent be­fore the pan­demic to 60.9 per cent. It’s likely to in­crease fur­ther.

“Re­cov­ery will take a long time, prob­a­bly re­quir­ing as­sis­tance from the coun­try’s main trad­ing part­ners.”

... tourism bub­ble can­not be looked at in iso­la­tion

– Apisa­lome Movono, Regina Scheyvens

 ?? Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED ?? Apisa­lome Movono.
Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED Apisa­lome Movono.

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