Cost of Pam to Vanuatu - Solomon Star News

Cost of Pam to Vanuatu

18 April 2015

POVERTY and unemployment in Vanuatu are expected to worsen as a consequence of the devastating impact of Cyclone Pam.

According to statistics released today by the Department of Labour (DoL) in Vanuatu, approximately U$7 million or VT7 Billion of personal income have been lost due to Pam.

The Category 5 cyclone left a trail of destruction in the Provinces of Shefa, Tafea, Malampa and Panama where a total of 269,301 working days have been lost in the Manufacturing Industry, Tourism, Commerce and Transport.

“These are conservative figures derived as part of the government led Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)”, said the Commissioner of Labour and Chair of the Tripartite Labour Advisory Council (TLAC), Lionel Kaluat, when presenting to the World Bank and Prime Minister’s Office lead PDNA macro team.

An expert team, deployed from the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) provided technical assistance to the DoL for the PDNA and the Post disaster recovery programme development.

A task force within the DoL was also established to collect data from employers and micro enterprises to calculate loss of employment and income across the cyclone-affected provinces.

Mr Kaluat said that while Pam affected many Vanuatu’s entire economy, especially micro-enterprises that provide income generation opportunities to a large number of people in the informal economy have suffered significantly.

For instance, about 3,627 mammas who run small handicraft, food and cloths outlets have lost close to VT3.1 million in income. It is estimated that they will need 4-6 weeks to recover and be fully operational, however, additional capital will be needed and customers such as tourists needed to return to buy their products, said Mr Kaluat.

The highest loss of income has been recorded in the agriculture sector amounting to VT5.6 billion. This will have a significant impact on related sectors such as tourism, restaurants and the local market. Many households and individual workers depend on agriculture.

For instance, the owner of Tanna Coffee, said at an “Economic Recovery Meeting”, hosted by the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce & Industry (VCCI) that it will be 18 months before he can see any potential for harvest and that 5,000 people’s livelihoods depended on their coffee supply incomes.

According to the Vanuatu National Provident Fund (VNPF), 5,000 workers have applied to withdraw 20% of their retirement fund to compensate for income loss and repair costs in the aftermath of Pam.

This number indicates that a large number of workers employed in the formal sector have been affected by Pam.

The General Secretary of the Vanuatu Council of Trade Unions (VCTU), Mr Ephraim Kalsakau has expressed serious concerns for this precedent as it may deplete Vanuatu’s social protection fund in the longer term.

He instead called for the development of sustainable programmes for displaced workers such as Emergency Employment Programmes to facilitate a speedy recovery.

Earlier this week, the VCCI announced that VT10billion was needed to rebuild the private sector. This figure was based on the assessment as part of the PDNA conducted by VCCI.

The ILO Director for Pacific Island Countries, Mr David Lamotte stated that this was one of the first assessment in the Pacific on losses in employment and income.

“Typically after a disaster, we read about losses to crops and livestock, or damages to roads and bridges.

“Of course, these are very important, but understanding how the disaster affects working women and men who lose and must rebuild their livelihoods and enterprises is essential, if we are to implement high impact recovery programmes.”

Mr Lamotte said that an ILO team was on the ground and working very closely with the Government, workers and employers representative organizations, and other development partners, to set-up employment programmes that not only focus on the immediate crisis response but also contribute to long-term creation of decent work for all.

Unfortunately, the Pacific region, particularly Vanuatu is one of the most disaster prone regions worldwide and sadly events like this are expected to reoccur with greater intensity and greater frequency.

This calls for greater attention of United Nations agencies such as the ILO to assist their constituents in preparing and mitigating the impact of disasters on households and communities across the Pacific.