SPEECH: PM AT THE DISBURSEMENT OF MICRO SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS

Madam Speaker,
Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished Guests
My Fellow Fijians and especially our grant recipients,

Bula Vinaka and a Very Good Morning to you all.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here at Ratu Cakobau Park, where I get to personally meet and hear from the future of the Fijian economy – our entrepreneurs – and bring one of my Government’s most important programs to another corner of Fiji. I am inspired by the ambition and drive I see in our country, with so many Fijians keen on taking their small and micro businesses to the next level.

I know that in ten years’ time, many of these businesses won’t be “micro” anymore, because we know one thing: your economic success is Fiji’s economic success, and I am very pleased today to be able to provide 1,098 Fijians from the Provinces of Tailevu, Naitasiri, Rewa and Lomaiviti the opportunity to become even greater contributors to our economic success. Today, we will be handing over $1000 grants, in the form of resources and materials that will start or expand small and micro businesses.

We have already brought this program to Suva, Navua, Sigatoka, Savusavu, Taveuni, Nadi, Ba and Lautoka. But seeing as Nausori is a part of our largest population corridor, this is by far the largest number of recipients in one centre. And with today’s recipients, 4,220 Fijian entrepreneurs have received grants.

So far my Government has allocated three million dollars in support of this program. But due to the overwhelming positive response, we have allocated another one million dollars towards the Micro and Small Business Grant Scheme – bringing the total investment to four million dollars. These are funds dedicated solely to the future of small businesses in Fiji. And we have made such a sizable allocation because we believe in the industriousness and inventiveness of our people, and we have seen how much good this program can bring.

My Government is always focused on the long-term, and this initiative is no different. Through this scheme, we are making our vision of a resilient and robust economy a reality. The Micro and Small Business Grant Scheme will continue indefinitely. And with the Indian Government’s commitment to support this initiative, we will be able to spread the benefits of the scheme to as many Fijians as possible.

Running a small business is no easy task. After meeting expenses, it can be difficult to save up the necessary funds to invest in growth. That is why this grant scheme is so important. It will provide you with the much-needed capital to kick start your business endeavours or expand your existing businesses to reach new heights.

The true value of this program is not only in the opportunity it brings for Fijians who may struggle to set aside money to invest in their businesses, it also boosts the overall Fijian economy.

As I travel around Fiji spreading this initiative, I’ve said again and again — this isn’t a handout. This isn’t money you can spend on whatever you’d like. It isn’t about what you want, it’s about what your business needs.

In other words, your Government—and by that I mean your fellow Fijians—is investing in you. Your fellow Fijians are offering you a hand up, a boost. And they are doing it because you have shown that you deserve their trust.

Today you will be receiving certificates that you will take to the officers of the Fiji Development Bank over there. They will give you a cheque made out to the supplier of the resources or materials you’ve requested in your applications. Then, you will take the cheque to the supplier and pick up the goods.

The FBD is here today to assist with this process, and we’ve involved them in this scheme for very good reason. When you receive that cheque, you will become a part of the bank’s processes. When your business grows and you again are looking to expand, you can go to the FDB and ask for a loan. Now that the Government has approved you, the FBD will know who you are, and you’ll have a stake in the banking system.

To all of you here in Nausori, I want to say this: Think big. Take full advantage of our efforts to help you help yourselves. Be creative, be imaginative and find ways to expand your business to unprecedented levels. Your own future, your family’s future and Fiji’s future all depend on it.

Now that we have dispersed so many grants throughout Fiji, we can take a full account of all the good that has been achieved. We can see where this money has gone, and take stock of how far we’ve come. I’d like to tell you about five people from Serua and Namosi who have expanded their businesses thanks to this grant.

Vika Radininoco, a market vendor in Pacific Harbor, was able to purchase materials for the construction of her roadside stall opposite the Police Post at Pacific Harbor. She currently earns $200 per week from selling fruit and vegetables — a 100% increase from her previous weekly sales.

Marica Nailele of Lepanoni Village was able to purchase a new sewing machine for her tailoring business. Her current weekly income has increased from $100 to $200 per week from orders she receives from her local community.

Mina Kumari, who currently operates the school canteen at Vashist Muni Primary School, used her grant to purchase canteen stock. As a result of the grant, she increased her sales from $1,000 to $1,100 per week and now employs two additional staff.

Satend Kumar of Tokotoko Back Road utilized his grant to purchase chicken feed and an A-grade layering system. His business has expanded and he has sold seven chickens so far at $20 each. The income he earned has assisted him in meeting family expenses.

Vilitati Canavanua of Nawala Farm in Navua was able to purchase five calves to be raised and be sold from $800 to $900 each during village functions. With this additional income, he will begin expanding his livestock farming business.

We also have estimated that every grant benefits five family members. That means that the 1,098 grants we award today will assist more than 5,000 family members in Nausori.

We also have estimated that every grant benefits five family members. That means that the 1,098 grants we award today will assist more than 5,000 family members in Nausori.

On the subject of families, I also want to take this opportunity to remind everyone here that we must take very seriously the need to end domestic violence and sexual assault in our society. You know that this is an issue that is very important to me personally because it gets to the very heart of what kind of people we are and what kind of people we expect to be. In Fiji, the strong must look out for those who are weaker and less powerful, not abuse and exploit them.

It’s time we start taking more preventive measures in our communities to protect our most vulnerable groups — our women and children – from violence. When we allow violence to persist in our most intimate settings, such as our homes, that creates an infection of destructive behaviour that spreads throughout our society, and it is our collective responsibility to prevent that from happening. Currently, there is zero tolerance in our legal system for sexual assault and domestic violence – however, we need create a culture that condemns these sorts of crimes before they take place.

We can’t talk about creating a better future for families without talking about something that is tearing our families apart and creating so much suffering where there should be love and support.

In fact, what makes this grant scheme so special is the benefits that these funds can have not only for entrepreneurs, but also for their families. Always keep the well-being of your families before you as you work.

I have given you some success stories. But there are many other success stories that have made me very proud of the entrepreneurs who have been assisted. I put my trust in those people to work hard, and find God’s blessing through their own diligence.

We will be with you every step of the way on your journey to success. Through the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Tourism and the Fiji Development Bank, we can offer you advice, mentoring, training and support. And most importantly, we will monitor your progress. So here is your chance to grow. To fulfil your ambitions and fulfil your dreams.

That all begins right here, and I have already been impressed with the plans of our grant recipients here in Nausori. I’d like to introduce some of our entrepreneurs, and I ask them to stand and be acknowledged:

Abdul Munif of Luvuluvu will use his grant to purchase fishing implements for his fishing business in Luvuluvu.

Jone Batiniika from Kuku Village will buy a brush cutter from the grant he receives today and he expects to expand his grass cutting business.

Jovilisi Kawea from Savu Village in Tailevu will use the grant to buy stock for his canteen business.

Nasoni Ranamu from Waicoka, Bau, Tailevu will use his grant to buy equipment to expand his fishing business.

And Navitalai Vunianakula from Vatoa, Bau, Tailevu will use his grant to purchase materials for his poultry farm in the village.

My fellow Fijians, let’s give Munif, Jone, Jovilisi, Nasoni and Lata another big round of applause. But to all of you grant recipients, I offer my congratulations as Prime Minister on behalf of the nation. Use your money well. We wish you every success, not just for yourselves and your families but also your communities.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank You