While the private sector across the Pacific wants to return to business, for many sectors this is not possible and there is no reasonable forecast for when they can. As outlined recently in the Private Sector Dialogue with Forum Economic Ministers, the key issues or business in the Pacific are the closure of borders and related impacts on industries like tourism; restrictions at the national level such as curfews and trading hours, and the uncertainties and ambiguities around definition and application of these new regulations; the increasing costs and reduced frequency of freight, upon which many businesses in the region depend; access to finance designed to support businesses to remain open beyond just the short term; and the need for enhanced social dialogue, partnerships, and collaboration with the private sector as employers, as providers of goods and services, and as agents of change.
Q: What were some of the major learnings to emerge from the webinar series? The exercise itself has been a huge lesson on what can be achieved even during times of relative duress. The COVID 19 pandemic is having major impacts on our business communities but through the webinar series we have a sense of optimism and commitment to preparedness, using the time and opportunity wisely so share best practice, to learn from our regional and international partners, and to gain the advice of experts on how we conduct elements of our business.
FCEF’S STRATEGIC PRIORITIES CONTINUE TO EVOLVE IN RESPONSE TO THE POLICY ENVIRONMENT AND OUR NEED TO SUPPORT MEMBERS WITH CAPACITY BUILDING TRAINING AND KNOWLEDGE-SHARING OPPORTUNITIES. PIPSO’S WEBINARS CREATED THE SPACE FOR LEARNING AND SHARING ON NOT ONLY BUSINESS TRAJECTORIES BUT ON GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES, NETWORKING, AND ENHANCING THE PRIVATE SECTOR VOICE IN NATIONAL DISCUSSIONS ON THE CURRENT PERTINENT MATTERS DURING THIS PANDEMIC. "Mr Kameli Batiweti, CEO of Fiji Employers and Commerce Federation (FCEF)
The webinars have also addressed the need to be flexible to be resilient, and the impact good governance has on an organisation.
Q: What feedback has PIPSO had on the webinar series from members and other stakeholders?
COVID19, like many disaster in past, has brought our members closer together to recognize common challenges, identify solutions, and consider ways to strengthen collaboration. So the webinar series has been a catalyst in many ways to stimulate this type of discussion with and among our national members and the feedback from them has been very positive in this respect.
One of the particular challenges our members have faced during the pandemic, like many others, is the onslaught of news, information, guidance and resources about COVID19 and the demand they face from their own members to provide informed and authoritative guidance and advice. The webinar series has been another way for us to support our members to navigate this information by providing an overview of the key issues and through the expert speakers, to provide some direction in terms of what follow up or type of conversation needs to be pursued at national level. As the webinar series was open to participation by other stakeholders, we have also received positive feedback from a cross-section of actors in the region which has led to agreements to co-produce additional COVID19 webinars with the ADB and others.
Out members have also welcomed the closer working relationship and collaboration between PIPSO and the ILO Bureau for Employers Activities (ACT/EMP) and we are now collaborating in a number of other areas such as producing a tailored quick reference guide for our members on COVID policy responses and putting in place a regional cooperation framework with the ITC-ILO to see increased and sustained training and capacity development programmes for our NPSO members.
Q: What is next for PIPSO?
PIPSO is now preparing for an AGM where a proposal will be put to members for revitalising the organization through a new business agenda and structural changes intended to increase the representativeness, influence and efficacy of PIPSO. Following a strategic review meeting supported by the ILO in January 2020, and through preparations with Members in the lead up to Private Sector Dialogue with Forum Economic Minister in August 2020, PIPSOs members have had the opportunity to make clear their priorities and put forward proposals in respect to the role they can play in an enhanced organization where success is a shared responsibility. These discussions will continue with members in the lead up to the AGM and we look forward to implementing a new strategic plan that gives our members a strong regional voice and global influence.
Employers in the Pacific have shown true leadership throughout the crisis. Their ability at the national level and through representative organizations like PIPSO to mobilize the views of the real economy and put forward practical solutions is critical. Social dialogue with and between strong Employers and Workers organizations and responsive Governments is the cornerstone of credible and effective economic and social reforms at every level. "Matin Karimli, Director of the ILO Country Office for Pacific Island Countries
In these uncertain times, a strong and collective advocate for the private sector is needed now more than ever. This webinar series and other initiatives underway provide an important platform for Employers in the Pacific, together with other important stakeholders, to engage in social dialogue around the most pressing issues facing businesses today and to get a regional picture of their current and forthcoming challenges"Deborah France-Massin, Director of ILO Bureau for Employers Activities (ACT/EMP)