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And returning to cyclone Pam which has not only devastated Vanuatu in the short term, it’s damaged key industries in the nation that could cripple the country for a generation, as Iskandar Razak explains.

While the United Nations has listed Vanuatu as one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world, it has been a financial bright spot in the Pacific. Vanuatu’s economy experienced steady year-on-year growth for a decade.

According to the World Bank, in 2005, Vanuatu’s GDP in US Dollars was just under $400 million. By 2013, it had grown to more than $800 million US Dollars. And the Asian Development Bank was even forecasting 4% growth in 2015. That data coincided with a lot of other positives for the nation. Life expectancy was rising as well as primary school enrolments and access to central services. But now it’s hard to see how those trends can continue.

A big factor behind Vanuatu’s economic growth has been tourism. Every year, more and more tourists visit Vanuatu. Recently more than 350000 people visited the nation by plane or cruise ship. Tourism and tourism related sectors like retail trade, hotels and transport accounts for anything between 20% to 40% of the nation’s GDP, depending on the report.

But much of the vital infrastructure needed for the sector is now in ruins. It’s estimated 90% of buildings have been destroyed or damaged in Port Vila alone – and that figure could be much worse in the remote regions. That means the sector will suffer in the short to medium term.

As Vanuatu’s President has said, all that the nation has built and developed over the past few years has been wiped out. But it is in agriculture where the real long-term pain will be. Agriculture is the historic backbone of the nation’s economy. Key exports include copra, coconut, coffee, kava and cocoa – as well as beef and fish. And while it accounts for just 20% of Vanuatu’s GDP, it is Vanuatu’s primary industry in more ways than one.

About 80% of the population is involved in agriculture at some level. That’s because most of the people in Vanuatu are subsistence farmers who grow cash crops on the side. It’s estimated Cyclone Pam has destroyed two-thirds of all crops and killed most of the livestock.

But it is perhaps the fisheries sector that could take the longest time to recover. Much of the nation’s fishing fleet has been destroyed and fish stocks and coral reefs damaged. And while trees and crops have the potential to bounce back in years, or even months in some cases, some say the damage to fish stocks and habitats could take a decade to recover.


Source: ABC News 24