Edmund Burke called the press the fourth estate, the fourth pillar of democracy, with an oversight role on the remaining three pillars – the legislature, executive and the judiciary. In an ideal world, this fourth estate would have unimpeded access to the other three pillars so that the citizenry could be kept informed at all times. This freedom was conceived to be so sacrosanct that many countries have included it as a fundamental right, e.g., the US Constitution enshrined it as the very first amendment.
The COVID-19 pandemic (henceforth pandemic) has women particularly hard. In almost all countries, women constitute the bulk of the labour force in the service sector, which was hardest hit by the pandemic. Furthermore, they also represent a disproportionate share of the work force in particularly vulnerable sectors such as health care. Women also have disproportionate if not sole responsibility for home work including taking care of children.
Economic growth is the time-tested method of raising living standards and, if not accompanied by large increases in inequality, lowering poverty. Since World War II, economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, including in South Asia.
Remittances are an essential part of economic activity in low and middle-income countries (LMIC), including those in South Asia. Because of the pandemic remittances to LMIC are expected to drop from $548 billion on 2019 to $508 billion in 2020 and $470 billion in 2021. The implied growth rates for 2020 and 2021 are -7.2% and -7.5%. For South Asia the drop will be from $140 billion in 2019 to $135 billion in 2020 and $ 120 billion in 2021 with implied growth rates of -3.6% and -10.9%.
On July 25 2020 the Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio with 3,894 tonnes of fuel aboard ran aground off the cost of Mauritius. By 9 August over 1000 tonnes of oil had seeped into the pristine waters off the coast of this beautiful island haven. This spill was so large that it was even visible from space https://www.livescience.com/mauritius-oil-spill-from-space.html
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020 set off a series of health and economic crises that feed upon each other. The health crisis exacerbates the economic crisis by disrupting supply chains, throwing large number of people (particularly those working in the informal sector) out of work and closing down large numbers of enterprises – particularly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).
Prior to the onset of the coronavirus crisis South Asian women participated only sparingly in the labor market. Even though South Asia was and still has the potential to become one of the fastest growing regions in the world (post COVID19) female labor force participation rates were low at 23.6% compared to 80% for men (World Bank figures).
As of 11 AM (AEST) on 20th May 2020 the incidence of COVID-19 virus (henceforth virus) on the Pacific Islands was limited. Active cases (deaths) in some of the Pacific Islands were Australia 7,072 (100), New Zealand 1,503 (21), PNG 8(0), Guam 154 (5), Fiji 18 (0), Timor-Leste 24 (0), French Polynesia 60(0), and New Caledonia 18(0).1
Standards of comparison are not uniform across the region since testing capacities of the various countries differ widely. The low number of cases in the smaller Pacific Islands compared to their larger neighbours, i.e., Australia and New Zealand, reflect both variations in testing standards as well as their smaller population size. The smaller Pacific Islands were also not subject to some of the aberrations experienced by the larger countries, e.g., large number of arrivals from foreign countries in planes and cruise ships.