COVID-19 tracker traces financial aid in Pacific

Pacific Hub's COVID-19 aid tracker allows anyone to follow the money flowing into Pacific island countries

Griffith Asia Institute (GAI) researchers have released a tracker, organising publicly available data, of financial aid and assistance given to Pacific island countries to fight COVID-19.

The aid tracker is the first major research project from the newly formed Pacific Hub team within GAI, consolidating expertise across Griffith to provide high-quality analysis, commentary and research for the Pacific region.

Pacific Hub Program Leader: Dr Tess Newton Cain

Pacific Hub program leader Dr Tess Newton Cain says the tracker emerged out of a need to understand the scope of aid flowing to Pacific island countries.

“It became quite clear that aid and assistance was going to be a significant part of how those countries deal with the impacts of COVID-19, whether that’s health impacts or what looks to be a more pressing need, economic impacts.

“This is a beneficial resource for our own team but also other researchers, policymakers and the media. We’ve drawn together disparate reports in various sources and put them together for the first time in one place,” she said.

Dr Newton Cain said the data revealed how the pandemic’s widespread economic impact also affected donors making it quite different from other humanitarian events, like natural disasters, Pacific Island countries deal with.

“The tracker provides a record of this particular point in time in which the way things normally happened, couldn’t happen any more and how they have been done differently.”

“The tracker provides a record of this particular point in time in which the way things normally happened, couldn’t happen any more and how they have been done differently. As researchers were getting a sense of the quantum and modality of aid to this part of the world.”

Pacific island countries struggle with coordinating aid

Pacific Hub researchers will also use the COVID-19 aid tracker to evaluate how aid is being used and whether there are sufficient monitoring and accountability measures in place.

“If you look at the Solomon Islands, they’ve received money, loans and resources from all over the place. There’s already concern within the bureaucracy about how they can manage the coordination of this complex supply chain.

“It can be quite a challenge for small bureaucracies to manage the transaction costs associated with multilateral finances which feeds into effectiveness because if you don’t have enough people or resources to manage the money, it makes it difficult to make good use of it,” said Dr Newton Cain.

While active cases of COVID-19 are low in the Pacific region, the loss of tourist revenue from closed borders is creating ongoing pressure to restart the economy in many countries.

“The support will move more to economic support and supporting livelihoods because things are becoming quite grim very quickly. We’ve seen some partners say that aid can be pivoted to support government stimulus packages,” said Dr Newton Cain.

The COVID-19 Pacific aid tracker is available online for free and is being updated regularly by researchers.