IFC – Sydney, Australia, December 22, 2020
Most Pacific-based funds have maintained a long-term investment focus as they look beyond the immediate impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and overcome initial concerns about short-term losses, according to a new survey.
The survey by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the Pacific Islands Investment Forum (PIIF) members – sovereign, superannuation, provident and trust funds across the Pacific – showed they have been stepping up with vital support for financial systems in Pacific countries. These efforts include providing social protection and other financial support, complementing government actions.
While the economic crisis in the Pacific triggered by the global pandemic required a rapid response from funds across the region, which collectively have over US$8.87 billion assets under management, the survey highlights they will continue to play a critical role in their economies. As they plan for the economic recovery, funds are now weighing options for investing in regional infrastructure, generating broader economic benefits including targeting better outcomes for the many people who are members of funds.
The survey showed many funds offered their members withdrawals to help weather the economic crisis. Some funds halted or allowed temporary reductions of contributions from members who needed the money, and those who lend to members, eased repayment obligations. Some funds provided credit to government, particularly through the purchase of government bonds. Most funds said they would also seek to avoid reactive responses to crises in the future.
“Pacific funds provided crucial support during a time of need, helping members, employees and governments weather the economic crisis unleashed by the pandemic,” PIIF chairman and Samoa National Provident Fund CEO, Pauli Prince Suhren said. “They will now be key players in the resilient recovery of our region, with prudent and flexible approaches to investing to create better returns for the many people across the Pacific who are their members.”
PIIF members are also working with IFC and the World Bank to explore the best way to make cross-border investments across the Pacific in industries, services and infrastructure. The PIIF board recently approved a set of co-investment principles, supported by IFC, which sets out the framework for cross-border direct investment opportunities.
PIIF also remains focused on making investments which help bridge the region’s huge infrastructure gap. It estimated an investment of US$45 billion over 12 years is needed to overcome the infrastructure deficit.
“Investing in infrastructure can generate good returns while also delivering broader economic and development benefits,” said Thomas Jacobs, IFC Country Manager, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “It’s worth noting that there are enormous investment opportunities in this region, including in infrastructure, and that Pacific funds are in a good position to partner with government and the private sector as we look towards recovery and building back better.”
IFC’s assistance to PIIF is supported by the Pacific Partnership, through which the governments of Australia, New Zealand and IFC work to stimulate the private sector and reduce poverty..