With repatriation flights set to re-start in the coming weeks, the government is bracing itself for the huge costs involved.
It is understood the cost of repatriating close to 1,100 Solomon Islands nationals home will be around SBD$100 million.
The estimated SBD$100 million does not include risk allowance for frontline workers. An SBD$20 million contingency warrant had to be authorized by the Finance Minister in 2020 to cater for risk allowance.
But even that is not enough, as it is understood almost half of the provision was already used early this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was before there were confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country.
The government is now tightening its finances as the strain of COVID-19 hits hard on its pocket.
In an earlier statement Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mckinnie Dentana, says that his office has circulated guidelines to the whole of government, putting in measures to ensure funds or resources are prioritised to protect the country from COVID-19.
Apart from repatriation costs and risk allowance to frontline workers the containment of the virus comes at a huge cost. It will cost the government SBD$1500 per person per day for accommodation and meals.
“Expected quarantine and other related costs is expected to run up to the end of December 2020 or even early 2021” Dentana told Solomon Times Online (STO) as they prepare for the upcoming repatriation exercise.
The challenge for the government now is finding the resources to fund these upcoming exercises, some of which will have to be borrowed. The economic outlook is also a challenge, with the global economic shock caused by the virus still far from recovery.
Experts have already warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is a global economic shock like no other. There will be disruptions to economic activities – both on the demand side and supply side.
Developing countries are especially vulnerable, the Solomon Islands is already anticipating huge drop in revenue as demand for commodities decline.