The local economy at present is on shaky grounds. Although structural repairs have been made to key infrastructure, it will take some time for the economy to spring back to where it left off on Friday, March 12 2015.
The severely affected areas will have a long road to travel in order to get back to past economic statuses. Aid pouring in is a supplement for much needed basic needs, but that will not last. Eventually, the government will put an end to aid from overseas.
Here are a few observations from the economic hard times being experienced in Port Vila.
Greens from Santo are being sold at exorbitant prices with some cabbages selling at 350VT per bundle. A bundle of island
cabbage that would be sold at less than 50VT in Santo markets is selling at 200VT per bundle in Port Vila. People in the capital rush to buy the cabbages nevertheless.
Ball cabbages imported from overseas are selling for at least 2000VT per piece at Au Bon Marché. The price of bottled water has risen from 110VT to 130VT per bottle in some shops. The government has disqualified Duty and VAT on all imports after March 14, 2015 so there would not be an incentive for businesses to put a hike on prices.
The local food markets and stalls are closed in Port Vila and Tanna due to lack of surplus goods to be sold in markets as well as damaged market houses. Some arts and crafts shops have closed because of the damage done to sales premises.
Kava bars are operating and making a profit, much to the chagrin and displeasure of a lot of citizens. The ire of some arises from the concern that the little money earned should be saved to get families through this disaster and not wasted away on kava. Social media commentators have pointed to kava consumption being an unnecessary avenue for spending.
Food security concerns are being raised by experts and proposals are being drawn to address specific issues for both the short and long term.
While fuel prices have dropped, bus fare remains the same with adults paying 150VT, high school students paying 100VT and younger children paying 50VT. A drop in fare prices may have to go through legislation put forth by the land transport association.
Corrugated iron roofings (kapa) are rumored to be sold out and producers have to take orders from clients. The waiting lists are rumored to be long.
While tourism activities will be dramatically reduced for the affected areas, tourists are urged to visit Santo up north. It is as green as ever and they need the employment. However, the affected areas need the tourist money more than anywhere else. These areas may not offer much by way of food and accommodation, but the tourist will be stunned by the picturesque landscapes and the romantic sunsets.