Mr. Chairman, Mr. President of the World Bank Group, Madame Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Fellow Governors, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is truly a great honour and privilege for me, as Minister of Finance and Governor of the Bank and the Fund for Tonga, to have this opportunity to address the International Monetary Fund (IMF or Fund) and World Bank Group (Bank or WBG) Joint Board of Governors 2020 Virtual Annual Meetings on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga. During these unprecedented challenging times due to COVID-19 pandemic, I wish to convey my sincere appreciation and gratitude to Mr. President David Malpass and Madame Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and both their entire management teams, for their significant contributions and astral leadership at the helm of our Bretton Woods institutions. This has facilitated quick response and special attention towards the developing member countries including Tonga to address the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic, and pave the way for a resilient and inclusive recovery, amid the rising debt burden of vulnerable small island developing states and escalating climate change and natural disasters risks. We wish to express our deepest sympathy to the scores of lives and loved ones across the world, that have been lost during this pandemic. We wish to acknowledge with solidarity all those working tirelessly on the front lines fighting the pandemic.
The global economy continues to experience an exceptional negative shock due to the continuous spread of COVID-19 cases and the lack of clear solutions of this pandemic. Member countries have been facing extraordinary needs due to weak health systems, limited fiscal space, and heavy dependence on remittances as a source of income. In addition, the severity of climate change, fragility and high poverty level have limited member countries’ options to respond to the COVID-19 and even so with developing economies. The pandemic has disrupted global trade, supply chains and investment flows. It has left financial and human capital idle, while remittances, transport revenues, and income from tourism have rapidly diminished. In addition, steep drops in commodity prices have harmed commodity-dependent economies. The pandemic has profoundly impacted human capital, including lives, learning, basic wellbeing, and future productivity.