Mr. Serkan Arslanalp, Mr. Robin Koepke, and Jasper Verschuur
This paper proposes an easy-to-follow approach to track merchandise trade using vessel data and applies it to Pacific island countries. Pacific islands rely heavily on imports and maritime transport for trade. They are also highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters that pose risks to ports and supply chains. Using satellite-based vessel tracking data from the UN Global Platform, we construct daily indicators of port and trade activity for Pacific island countries. The algorithm significantly advances estimation techniques of previous studies, particularly by employing ways to overcome challenges with the estimation of cargo payloads, using detailed information on shipping liner schedules to validate port calls, and applying country-specific information to define port boundaries. The approach can complement and help fill gaps in official data, provide early warning signs of turning points in economic activity, and assist policymakers and international organizations to monitor and provide timely responses to shocks (e.g., COVID-19).
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
Tonga’s recovery following the devastation of the 2018 Cyclone Gita has been derailed by a double blow from the pandemic and Cyclone Harold. FY2020 GDP growth is estimated to fall to -2½ percent due to domestic containment measures, a sudden stop in tourism, and investment delays. The full brunt of the pandemic will be felt in FY2021 (beginning July) during peak tourism season, when a deeper contraction is expected. A worse outcome was avoided by early actions to close external borders—which has kept Tonga COVID-19-free—and prompt economic support. Beyond FY2021, the recovery is expected to resume in line with the global recovery, but the magnitude and trajectory is uncertain.
Tonga is one of the world’s most exposed countries to climate change and natural disasters. It suffered the highest loss from natural disasters in the world (as a ratio to GDP) in 2018 and is among the top five over the last decade (Table 1). Climate change will make this worse. Cyclones will become more intense, with more damage from wind and sea surges. Rising sea levels will cause more flooding, coastal erosion and contaminate fresh water. Daily high temperatures will become more extreme, with more severe floods and drought.