Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m very happy to be here in Navua to roll out the second phase of the Government’s Micro and Small Business Grant initiative, four days after I launched the programme in our capital.
I said at the unveiling of the new Trade Framework on Thursday night that I had been proud and moved by the response of the 330 ordinary Fijians I presented cheques to in Albert Park last Tuesday.
You could see on their faces just how much it meant to them that the Government was willing to give them a leg up to either establish a new business or take their existing businesses to the next level. And I’m delighted by the welcome you have given me here this morning and the obvious enthusiasm of those who are getting these grants in the Navua region.
Mr Fellow Fijians,
We are giving you the ability to help yourselves and your families. We are putting our confidence and trust in you to use this assistance well. Because we see you as part of our national effort to promote a business culture in Fiji. To create a solid base of small business people who can be the backbone of our economy, just as the small business sector is the backbone of every successful modern nation.
We want you to put this money to good use. To either buy what you need to start your own business or improve the business you already have.
I was really struck by the range of things the people I gave the money to during the week were planning to do. They had all sorts of ideas they had asked the Government to support that were either already producing income for themselves and their families or they believed would do so if they received one of these grants.
So we have backed their confidence and optimism. We are investing in those ideas and putting our trust in them to use the taxpayer’s investment wisely.
Business is about taking risks and as I said on Tuesday, some of the seeds we are planting here may turn out to wither and die. But I am convinced that most of them will flourish and grow. And as I also said on Tuesday, I have no doubt that some of the people getting these grants will turn out to be Fijian business names of the future. And will contribute to the Fijian economy and play a leading role in our export drive, taking the Fijian-Made brand to the world.
My Fellow Fijians,
Today we are honouring 126 of our citizens who are among the more than seven-and-a-half-thousand people throughout Fiji who qualified for assistance under this programme. A number of you have travelled down from the highlands of Namosi and from villages in the province of Serua. So I’m very pleased to see that
the business spirit is alive and well in our rural communities.
My fellow Fijians
The whole purpose of this exercise is to ignite and encourage a love of business among ordinary people. But today, I also want to call on our established business community to join my Government in helping these smaller businesses grow.
We often forget that some of the largest businesses in Fiji – whether they are FMF, Manubhai’s or Punja’s , Pure Fiji or any number of other names – were once small or micro businesses themselves. It was by working hard, identifying opportunities and taking risks that these enterprises eventually grew. So the established business community can have a big role in helping some of the people we are assisting with these awards.
To the wider business community can I say: Your contribution can be in the form of taking people in and teaching them skills, providing business advice and, where possible, buying Fijian-made or Fijian-grown. You may also consider making smaller businesses part of your own operations.
As our economy grows even further – and I think it is only a matter of time before we hit an annual growth rate of 5 per cent – there are plenty of opportunities for smaller companies to piggy-back off the success of larger enterprises. Large businesses and small businesses can help each other.
My fellow Fijians
I want to pay tribute to the important role being played by some medium to large enterprises in helping micro and small farmers and businesses around Fiji.
So my Fellow Fijians,
Great things are already happening. And we must all work together to encourage an even greater partnership between big business and small business to extend the current opportunities for ordinary Fijians to participate in the national economy.
To the grant recipients today, I want to repeat what I said to the big crowd in Suva on Tuesday: I ask you all not to waste the opportunity you have been given. Use these grants wisely and responsibly to either start your business venture or grow your existing business. It is a vote of confidence in you personally on the part of every Fijian taxpayer. It is an act of trust. So we are counting on you to uphold that trust and behave with honesty and integrity.
We are not just giving you the money and forgetting about you. Through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism and the Fiji Development Bank, we can offer you advice, mentoring, training and support. So here is your chance to grow. To fulfil your ambitions. To fulfil your dreams.
We want as many of you as possible to be in a position to be able to access finance from the banks to expand your current businesses. Small businesses don’t always remain small. Many grow quickly to become medium and big businesses. So go for it. Be ambitious. For yourselves and for your nation.
Here in Navua, there is a great example of a business that started small but is now an important part of the community and a household name in the region – Veejay Enterprises and their supermarket. They got there through determination, perseverance and hard work. And all around us in Fiji are similar success stories – inspirational stories.
My Fellow Fijians,
You may be small now but I want you all to think big. You too can be successful. And on behalf of the nation, I have great pleasure in congratulating you for qualifying for this programme and to wish you all the very best.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.