MDF 's Response to COVID-19

COVID-19 presents an unprecedented health and economic challenge that will have lasting impacts, particularly for Australia’s closest neighbours in Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. It is critical that any response to the crisis achieves meaningful and lasting results in our region.

During the COVID-19 pandemic MDF has remained active on the ground in the countries in which we operate. We are adapting and expanding partnerships to help in the immediate response and for longer-term survival, adaptation and recovery. We are working to contribute to both economic recovery and towards improved preparedness and economic resilience for future crises.

MDF is guided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response. MDF’s response can be broken into the immediate and medium-term response, and you can read more about how we are responding below:

Immediate Response

MDF has rapidly pivoted its portfolio of interventions to support business responses to COVID-19. Existing interventions have been adjusted to reflect the new operating environment, and new interventions have been developed. These include supporting:

- Manufacturers to produce PPE (Fiji/Timor-Leste)

- Major agricultural buyers and exporters to continue buying from their producers through lockdown (Sri Lanka)

- Industry advocacy for smarter and more business-friendly approaches to lockdown (Timor-Leste/Fiji/PNG/Sri Lanka)

- Large-scale public health information campaigns through agricultural value chains to keep people safe and healthy whilst continuing to trade (PNG)

- Business partners to exploit new commercial opportunities that provide vital, in-demand goods and services (Fiji)

Medium Term Response

The next phase of MDF’s COVID-19 response is already underway and focuses on measures that support business survival, adaptation and recovery. We will focus on three key themes:

Build back better: In the context of huge economic disruption to the countries where MDF works there is an opportunity to ‘build back better’. Old industries will need to find new ways of operating, and reforms that might once have been resisted may now become more acceptable. MDF will be ready to support the business community to adjust and take advantage of new openings to make markets fairer, cleaner and greener – and more resilient and competitive in the longer term.

Exploring new opportunities: As the economic recovery unfolds, it is likely that aspects of local, regional and global markets will work differently, which will present new opportunities for business. For example:

  • Travel restrictions, new consumer preferences and government stimulus measures might lead to an increase in localised consumption and procurement
  • International businesses might seek to make their supply chains more resilient, by more diversified sourcing, opening up regional opportunities for outsourcing or ‘near-sourcing’

Thinking and acting regionally: MDF will dedicate resources to Indo-Pacific regional business engagement. New intra-regional opportunities are likely to emerge as a result of the shift towards near-sourcing and the shortening of supply chains, which MDF will be ready to help businesses realise.