COVID-19 AND SUSTAINABLE RECOVERY IN THE INDIAN OCEAN ISLANDS
Summary of presentations and discussions
23 September 2021
Recording of the Webinar
Mr. Paul Baker opened the webinar and welcomed everyone present for the sixth event in the context of the COVID-19 Recovery Platform, launched in collaboration with the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s office, the World Bank, and International Economics. He went through the previous webinars that had been organised previously. Mr. Baker mentioned that there are sustainable and inclusive response strategies to the recovery through the green economies. A World Economic Forum report suggests that shifting the economies to more sustainable pathways could lead to the global creation of 395 million jobs, at a cost of $2.7 trillion. The OECD has recently launched a new database on spending on COVID-19 recovery as well as the impact it can have on sustainable and environmental policies. Now, 17% of the spending is going towards initiatives that can have positive environmental effects. The energy and surface transport sectors are mostly concerned here.
He concluded his speech by introducing the participants for the webinar.
Mr. Stuart Laing, Lecturer and Researcher, University of Seychelles
Mr. Laing geared his presentation towards Valuing the Blue Economy: Toward an informed recovery from COVID-19 and beyond. He painted a picture of the Seychelles economy, mentioning that GDP growth was at a rate of -12.9% for 2020 and is projected to reach 6.9% in 2021. Seychelles’ economy is susceptible to exogenous shots, especially in the tourism and fisheries sectors. COVID-19 has highly exposed those sectors. The blue economy concept was adopted as early as in 2013, helping towards the transition towards more controlled and sustainable use of resources. Mr. Laing mentioned that the Blue Economy Valuation Toolkit was developed in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The BEVTK methodology helped understand how the blue economy was adding value to the country’s economy. The blue economy was estimated to contribute to 30% of the GDP in 2020 and employed 22,528 people in 2018.
He mentioned that there is a variety of social data which have been compiled providing indicators inside the penetration of the blue economy in Seychelles’ economy. The current ecosystem is valued at $48 billion, spread across coral reef, sea grass and mangrove. The BEVTK introduces the possibility of centralised observation of Blue Economy data, while also showing possible shortcomings and prioritising which ecosystems should be measured and valued.
Beibei Gu, Agency Focal Point, Partnership for Action in Green Economy
Since 2013, PAGE has been supporting more than 20 countries to embark on the green economy journey. Five agencies, namely UN Environment, UNIDO, ILO, UNDP and UNITAR, have partnered to promote green economies for those participating countries. PAGE is involved by creating policies and investments, addresses sustainability and social challenges and create income and jobs. She mentioned that Mauritius joined PAGE in 2014 and has, since then, provided policy support to the development of the National Three-Year Strategic Plan and Marshal Plan against poverty and given technical assistance in industrial waste management, green finance and fiscal tools and worked with national learning institutions to build capacity in green knowledge.
The PAGE Data Monitor tracks socio economic impact from COVID-19 and policy responses implemented to mitigate those impacts. She mentioned that Mauritius has been hit hard due to the pandemic, especially the tourism sector. Mrs. Gu showed some of the fiscal and financial policy measures implemented by the Government of Mauritius to counter the impact of the pandemic on Mauritius.
She elaborated on two projects that PAGE has supported in the space of green finance. The first one is Green Bonds, in association with the Stock Exchange of Mauritius, aimed at building an enabling environment for the development of Green Bonds market in Mauritius. The second project is a study for improving access to Green Finance for SMEs in Mauritius. She went through the key findings and challenges faced by SMEs in the Green Financing Landscape in Mauritius. Among the key recommendations, Mrs. Gu mentioned that it is important to scale up public investments channeled towards green projects for SMEs and adequate policy incentivization through green subsidies and credit guarantees, among others.
Dr. Riad Sultan, Senior Lecturer, University of Mauritius
Dr. Sultan talked about the Modelling Green Employment and Low Carbon Development: A Basis for Economic Recovery for post COVID-19 in Mauritius. The initial findings were presented in an earlier webinar and this presentation highlighted the potential of investing in greener/low carbon sectors and provided an insight into economic-wide modelling of employment and Greenhouse Gases (GHGs).
He showed the sectors which contributed to the GHGs in Mauritius in 2019. The Industrial Processes and Product Use and Agriculture and Forestry and Other Land Use considerably added to the levels of CO2 emissions in Mauritius. Fossil energy was used in the production of various products as well, also providing a dive into the segregation of the different sectors.
Dr Sultan also talked about the output, employment, and carbon emissions multipliers. He showed that the greener sectors tend to have a higher multipliers per rupee. He explained how the agricultural, manufacturing and services have different results on multipliers with respect to green jobs.
He projects to improve the Gross Value Added (GVA) at basic prices on economic recovery and low carbon economy from -15% (2019) to 8% (2020), 8% (2021) and to continue towards 4% in the next year. Based on the projected growth, the GHG emission is expected to increase in the next ten years. He mentioned that the strategy is to attain 50% organic agriculture by 2030.
Dr Sultan concluded that investment in a business climate towards a greener/low carbon economy could be a driver for the economic recovery post COVID-19.
Dr. Pierre Fallavier, Senior Development Coordination Adviser, United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office
Dr. Fallavier provided an insight into the types of interventions that the United Nations have had with the governments of Mauritius and Seychelles. The United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office (UNRCO) coordinates all works being carried out by the different UN agencies. He mentioned that Mauritius and Seychelles have been both classified as high-income countries. The UNRCO made sure that it had a strategy in place, which is aligned with the visions of development of both governments. To achieve the strategy, the UNRCO came up with a strategic partnership framework, centered around three main outcomes in improving the social, environmental, and economic progress.
With the arrival of the pandemic, the UN agencies started preparing the National Preparedness and Response plan, in collaboration with the local government. The UNRCO made sure that they supported these countries by financing the measures, together with bringing the necessary resources and guidelines to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
As from May 2020, the economic shock started to set in, as there were no economic activities in these countries, because of the closing of borders. As a result, the UN developed a global socio-economic response plan. The UNRCO worked with both partners on how the country team provide a multi sectoral support to continue to deal with the health crisis and to deal with the social, economic, and environmental issues. This led to the development of a local social-economic response plan, aiming at providing support on health, social protection and micro-economic modelling and response, while also trying to protect jobs.
During the Wakashio crisis, the UN brought in spill management experts to help manage the effects of the oil spill. This triggered the local government to understand the level of support that can be expected from the UN. Following this, the UN started looking at different types of recovery from COVID-19. PAGE, which was present in Mauritius for quite some time, started green recovery processes and policies.
The UNRCO intends at continuing to work in collaboration with the governments of Mauritius and Seychelles, rethinking their development visions and paths.
Erik von Uexkull, Senior Economist and departing Country Representative, World Bank
Mr. von Uexkull, thanked everybody, while introducing the new country representative of the World Bank to Mauritius and Seychelles.
Gabriela Schmidt, Country Representative, Mauritius and Seychelles, World Bank
Mrs. Schmidt mentioned that there are urgent things that need to be addressed such as environmental change and sustainability that are now impacting with full force. This provides an opportunity to re-think the way forward and to rebuild a better economy. The research initiatives help towards a more sustainable recovery. She expressed her interest in helping Mauritius tackle the challenges they are facing.