External shocks such as natural disasters due to climate change have been one of the main challenges in the country. While Fiji suffered from the severe consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, the country was also hit by the severe TC Harold in April 2020, leading to significant damages and losses, particularly in the country’s eastern, central, and western divisions, with an estimated 2,500 buildings destroyed or damaged. Furthermore, in December 2020, TC Yasa hit Fiji, destroying or damaging over 4,200 houses.

Based on a rapid economic assessment conducted by the World Bank in late December 2020, the economic damage assessment of TC Harold was estimated to be 3.3 percent of 2018 GDP while for TC Yasa the estimate was 4.5 percent of 2019 GDP.

The tourism industry, contributing 38 percent of GDP, was at a virtual standstill; trade flows had been severely disrupted; and business activities had been curtailed. The Government expected the economic contraction to be 19 percent of GDP and a rise in unemployment to 27 percent, the most severe contraction in Fiji’s history.

According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics and International Labour Organization in 2018 through its Employment and Unemployment Survey 2015/2016, it predicted that the pandemic’s impact was to be particularly severe for the 20 percent of households with livelihoods directly linked to the tourism and hospitality sectors, but the depth and breadth of the recession was likely to severely affect other households with indirect links as well.

As per January 2021 data, Fiji only had a total of 55 confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths from the virus. The combined effects of the dual crises represented an economic shock of unprecedented scale for the Fijian economy therefore resulting in response and system development within the Social Protection sector.

The overall objective of the Project is to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the income of the unemployed and underemployed, and to increase efficiency and adaptability of the social protection system. This was further divided into Parent Project and Additional Financing components as follows:

Provide cash transfers to those made unemployed or underemployed by COVID-19

This component supported cash payments to FNPF beneficiaries who had lost their jobs or faced reduced hours or reduced wages in the formal sector as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and Cyclone Harold.

The rapid financing of this component was disbursed against the expenses for cash transfers paid to three groups of beneficiaries under FNPF: (a) one-time benefits of up to FJD 1,000 to tourism sector workers and up to FJD 500 to those affected by lockdown restrictions; (b) recurring payments of up to FJD 220 per fortnight for those who had become unemployed during the COVID-19 crisis; and (c) recurring payments of up to FJD 220 per fortnight for those who had been on reduced hours or reduced wages during the COVID-19 crisis with a tentative allocation of USD 6.5 million.

The component involved retroactive financing of cash transfers while also allowing the government to extend the timeframe for support.

This component has been completed. As of August 2021, FNPF received a total of 118,670 applications for income support since March 2020. The Government paid $185,587,366.17 while $140,608,959.83 was withdrawn from the members’ General Account that totaled $326,196,326. The number of unemployed and underemployed who received cash transfers with government top-ups through FNPF (disaggregated by gender and beneficiaries in the area affected by TC Harold) – 75,226 in total (31,908 females and 43,318 males).

Institutional Strengthening

Component 2 is focusing on strengthening the Fijian social protection delivery system and the relevant policy setting. Activities under this component will enable efficient and timely targeting of existing groups supported by social assistance benefits, as well as the inclusion of other groups of people heavily hit by COVID-19, focusing on workers in the informal economy as well as near-poor groups more broadly.

The component finances technical assistance (‘TA’) activities, study tours, workshop and consultative activities, the procurement of office equipment, hardware and software, as well as project management and monitoring and evaluation activities of the project. The following component is divided into 5 sub-components:

i. Subcomponent 2.1 finances i) TA to support the development of an integrated ASP Strategy in Fiji; ii) ensure specific design to address gender inequalities in social protection (‘SP’) programs participation, including the design of a comprehensive grievance mechanism (‘GM’) for gender-based violence (‘GBV’); and (iii) activities to strengthen data sharing protocols and eventually system interoperability with other SP systems based on a unique identifier.

The TA on ASP Development has been completed and a consultant’s draft has been handed over to the Government for finalization and cabinet approval.

ii. Subcomponent 2.2 finances consultancies to provide TA for strengthening and developing social protection delivery systems in Fiji through the following activities:

  1.  Enhancement of the DSW existing delivery systems: TA has been provided to strengthen the linkages required with the ongoing DSW reforms and the development of the inter-government ASP strategy. The TA includes financing for a resident in-house advisor, to be based in MWCPA and provide coordination and technical assistance for activities in Subcomponents 2.1 and 2.2.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of the NEC including a comprehensive review (functional areas, business processes, expenditures) of NEC with a special focus on existing incentives to register both vacancies and jobseekers, as well as a rapid evaluation of existing programs administered by NEC.
  3. Strengthening the impact and sustainability of FNPF cash transfers: The TA will comprise of (i) a technical report to include recommendations for improved targeting of beneficiaries; and (ii) a feasibility study – including an actuarial assessment and implementation roadmap for reforms towards a new unemployment benefit scheme to be introduced in Fiji;
  4. Strengthening the design and implementation of the temporary employment program including (i) a rapid assessment of the ongoing Stronger Together intervention; and (ii) support of the upcoming program implementation phases, including specific design inputs to strengthen a gender-inclusive implementation approach.
  5. Strengthening the delivery of self-employment and entrepreneurship support programs comprising of (i) a rapid assessment of the concessional loan scheme implemented by the Ministry of Trade, Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises and Communications (‘MTCSC’); and (ii) trainings for MTCSC staff on improved delivery and monitoring of self-employment and entrepreneurship support programs provided in the context of COVID-19 response.

iii. Subcomponent 2.3 finances monitoring & evaluation and project management including the establishment and operation of an effective project management unit (‘PMU’) and strengthening the capacity of MFSPNDS to implement the proposed project.

iv. Subcomponent 2.4 provides technical and operational assistance to the Recipient to support its implementation of Component 4 of the Project, including:

  1. Strengthening the capacity of the Recipient’s agencies involved in implementing component 4 of the Project; and
  2. Developing and conducting Training and Workshops for stakeholders including Eligible Workers on key technical and basic skills necessary for the effective implementation of Public Works Sub-Projects.

v. Subcomponent 2.5 provides technical and operational assistance to the Recipient to strengthen the linkage of its employment programs and social assistance programs available to vulnerable individuals, including:

  1. Developing and providing tailored support for social welfare recipients and eligible beneficiaries;
  2. Developing an economic inclusion framework comprising standard operating procedures; and
  3. Carrying out information system investments to build effective linkages among the Recipient’s various employment programs and social assistance programs.

Unemployment Assistance

This component supported cash payments to the unemployed who lost jobs or livelihood in formal and informal sectors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible Fijians received FJD 120 per month for a period of six months from August 2021 to January 2022.

The first payment of FJD 360 was made in August 2021 to cater for the three months period ending in October 2021 to eligible Fijians who opted to register for the program and had received their first dose of vaccination by August 31. The second payment of FJD 360 was paid out in November to cater for the three months ending January 2022 to eligible Fijians who were fully vaccinated by October 31.

The component was implemented in close partnership of government agencies working in collaboration with the telecommunications sector. MoF signed cash transfer agreements with telecom companies (Vodafone and Digicel) who accepted program applications through USSD for applicants in Viti Levu, and electronically transferred the grants to the individual mobile wallets (M-Paisa and MyCash) for the approved beneficiaries.

This component has been completed and 536,271 unemployed individuals in formal and informal sectors received cash transfers directly paid by the Government.

Supporting employment opportunities for green, resilient, and inclusive growth (Jobs for Nature 2.0)

This component supports job opportunities through public works for vulnerable Fijians impacted by the pandemic and natural disasters. To achieve this objective, the component financed the labor costs related to the implementation of small grants by village cooperatives, community groups (women’s groups and youth groups) selected by the Technical Working Group based on a transparent Expression of Interest (‘EoI’) process and paid to community members in relation to the implementation of eligible activities.

A preliminary list of activities that the groups carried out included (a) wetlands protection: mangrove planting, sea grass planting, restoring waterways, waste and wastewater management; (b) riverbank rehabilitation and coastal bank protection: mangrove planting, vetiver grass planting; and (c) enhancing biodiversity: forest restoration, land degradation through native tree planting, and coral reef protection.

Sub-project Cycle (per semester)

The implementation of this component is being carried out through a coordination among various implementing partners and MoF as well as village cooperatives and community groups.
Achievement to date:

No. Description Round 1 (R1) Round 2 (R2) Comments
1. Total no. of beneficiaries (individuals) 1167 4119 PMU also started to include social welfare recipients from R2.
2. Total Groups Applied 145 271 For R2: 27 R1 + 244 R2
3. Total Groups Approved 87 251 For R2: 27 R1 + 224 R2
4. Total Groups Budget 71 251 R: $3.3m with 7% FNPF)
5. Total Groups moved to R2 27 N/A
6. Total Groups Paid 60 N/A
7. Total Amount Paid $1.02m N/A
8. Equipment & Gumboots 1,493 14,446 9 category of items in total for both rounds
9. Group Categories:
Women’s Club 33 154 Of the 71 group budget confirmed
Youth & Sports Club 38 84
Cooperatives 1 4 Women’s cooperatives
Urban 0 1
Deed Trust 0 1 Includes males over the age of 35
10. Female to Male Ratio 72:28 TBC
11. FNPF vs Non-FNPF 81:19 TBC

The Project is guided by Environmental and Social Management Framework with the following guidelines, agreements, manuals and conditions: