Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Remarks at the Breakfast Meeting Hosted by the PNG-Fiji Business Council

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It’s a great pleasure to be here this morning to meet members of the Papua New Guinea-Fiji Business Council. Thank you for hosting this breakfast meeting for the Fijian delegation.

The PNG-Fiji and Fiji-PNG Business Councils have naturally been established to promote trade and investment between our countries and enhance the friendship and understanding that already exists between our two countries and indeed our respective business communities.

But aside from generating business links, these councils are also the conduit between business and Government. They’re giving individual businesses a collective voice to express their concerns and provide an input into government decision-making. So they’re an important component of our overall effort to encourage   trade, investment and technical and economic cooperation between Fiji and PNG. Business clearly is working in partnership with Government. We share the same commitment to expanding that relationship.

The Fijian Government values the role of these Business Councils in providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and contributing those ideas to the national policy debate. Business is a key component in assisting Government to get our policy settings right. We all see trade and investment as the key generator of development and the means to provide our peoples with adequate and sustainable livelihoods.

As I keep stressing, the future isn’t just about the health of individual economies. We are working towards a fully integrated regional economy that will improve the lives of every Melanesian and enhance the status of our region in the global economy.  To achieve that, we need to be smarter, more united and seize the opportunities when they present themselves. We need to think outside the box – to develop new strategies that suit our particular circumstances rather than just accept things as they are and have always been.

This aspect of our enhanced relationship as nations should be valued. Papua New Guinea and Fiji – their governments and business communities – are combining their strengths. We can have more economic muscle. We can be taken more seriously in global forums. We can take a leadership role that enhances not only our own interests but the interests of our smaller and less developed neighbours.  And the revival of the Fiji-PNG and PNG-Fiji Business Councils is a key component in that overall vision.

Ladies and gentlemen, This is not a pipedream but a genuine opportunity. Papua New Guinea is renowned for its mineral and energy resources and the wealth that they generate. You have a population base of more that seven million people. You are the largest Pacific Island country.

At the same time, Fiji is at the crossroads of the Pacific. It has a developed financial sector, a strong manufacturing base and a well-educated work force. As nations, we already have immense potential. Combined, we have even more. We have the means and the resources to take ourselves and our neighbours to another level of development if we work more closely together.

My Government recognises that our role is to provide a better framework in which business can operate and expand. We’re listening to our people and the private sector and amending and modernising our laws and regulations. We’re cutting red tape. And we’re improving the infrastructure that a modern economy needs to thrive.

We have instituted a telecommunications revolution that has taken 3G technology to 95 per cent of the country. We will be in the next few months auctioning spectrum for the launch of 4G. And we are upgrading our roads after years of neglect. Fiji is now also highly attractive from a tax perspective. We have slashed the corporate rate to 20 per cent and 17 per cent for companies willing to move their regional headquarters to Fiji. And we are providing tax free holidays for those willing to invest in less developed parts of the country or in important industries such as dairy.

We have also embarked on a revolution of another sort – resolving the social and political conflict that has dogged us since independence and hampered our development. We are currently consulting on the  draft Constitution that provides for a common and equal citizenry, a genuine parliamentary democracy of one person, one vote one value for the first time in our history and a more accountable and efficient Parliament and civil service. We are building a new Fiji, a better Fiji, and laying the foundation for lasting stability and prosperity.

The Government as the developer of policies and regulations and the private sector as the driver of economic growth cannot be detached from each other or work in isolation. We need to understand each other better and work towards our common objective –thriving economies and a thriving region. So I ask you all to keep bringing us fresh ideas on how we can improve trade and investment, ensure the free flow of goods and services and remove unnecessary barriers to trade.

We are breaking new ground on this visit. It is the first Fijian trade and investment mission to PNG and the biggest our country has ever mounted. We look forward to a similar mission in response and look forward to seeing many of you in Fiji and returning your hospitality.

I again thank the PNG-Fiji Business Council for hosting the Fijian delegation at such a delightful venue and look forward to the positive results that are certain to flow from our discussions.

Vinaka vakalevu and thank you.