OXFAM is calling on the New Zealand Government and the international community to rethink traditional assumptions about economies in the Pacific, in order to best support people through the global financial crisis (GFC) and out of poverty.
Oxfam New Zealand’s executive director Barry Coates said a new report published ahead of the Pacific conference on the global economic recession in Vanuatu starting today, highlighted the fact that economic growth in the Pacific had not always led to improvements in people’s lives and reductions in poverty.
“Oxfam’s report shows many people in the Pacific live outside the formal economy. In times of crisis, they rely on extended family and community networks to support them. That means that in many cases their lives can’t be measured simply in terms of falls or gains in gross domestic product,” he said.
“Given the existing high levels of poverty in the Pacific, it’s crucial we understand the full impact this crisis, and future economic shocks, might have at household and community level if we are to get the response right,” Coates said.
Oxfam is calling on New Zealand and the international community to help the Pacific through and beyond the economic crisis by:
*Helping to establish systems to better monitor the impact of the crisis on people’s everyday lives;
*Determine how traditional support systems, such as family and community networks can be strengthened to help people through economic crises; and
Provide Pacific governments with budget support to ensure vital social expenditures such as health and education are not cut.
“Standard economic relationships don’t always hold up in the Pacific. Economic growth has not always benefitted the local population and government spending does not always lead to improvements in health and education.
“Yet knowing how Pacific households are being affected is crucial to getting the response to the crisis right. We need to know if people are being forced to eat less, sell their assets or borrow more money. These effects will reduce well-being and people’s chances of escaping poverty,” Coates said.
While the global financial crisis has had less impact on the economies of developing Pacific nations than many other parts of the world, Oxfam’s report also found that the majority of economies in the Pacific were predicted to contract in 2010.
Falling exports, a reduction in government revenue and a decline in tourist revenue meant the region had been affected by the crisis. In the Solomon Islands, declining revenue had forced the Government to reduce its expenditure by 35 %. Some countries had been forced to cut health and education spending.
Oxfam has released its report ahead of the 2010 Pacific Conference on the Economic Crisis. Governments, donors and other organisations including Oxfam will meet in Vanuatu from today until Friday to discuss the impact the crisis is having on the region.
*Source: Oxfam. For a copy of the report, visit www.oxfam.org.nz/resources