Posts tagged 2014

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama launches Fiji constitution in brailleform.

Bainimarama presents training gear to the Ono Cricket team

Prime Minister Bainimarama launches book

PM Bainimarama launches Commodore Community Challenge

Bainimarama visits flood affected areas in Naitasiri

Bainimarama visits flood affected areas

Prime Minister Bainimarama Chief Guest at the 2013 Annual Sports Awards Night


Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

I’m delighted, as always, to be here in Nadi and especially for the opening of a new building in our “gateway” town.

The launch of Paper Power’s new head office is both a vote of confidence in Nadi and in the Fijian economy as a whole, which is enjoying a period of steady growth.

It underlines the fact that Fiji is open for business; it sets an example to others about the value of local investment in our nation; and it sends a clear message to everyone that Fiji has a bright future ahead of it as we move to one of the most decisive phases in our history – the introduction of our first genuine democracy within the next seven months.

Only twice before this time in Fiji’s history have we enjoyed such consistent economic growth. Our revised forecast growth rate is three-point-six per cent surpassing that of our bigger neighbours, Australia and New Zealand.

Many business people, professionals such as architects and engineers and construction companies are remarking about a buzz in the air – a sense of optimism, confidence, demand for services, new investment, creation of new jobs and of course expectation for this phenomenon to continue.

The country’s biggest revenue earner – tourism – new figures reveal that yields are increasing, with our international visitors not just continuing to arrive in large numbers but willing to spend more.

My Government has set about to create the right climate for new investment – with consistent policies, a sound and determined economic direction, focus on service delivery, modernizing our outlook and infrastructure and of course connecting us all to new technology. These coupled with the various concessions and incentives are clearly paying dividends.

In fact the savviest investors aren’t waiting for the general election to take place. If they haven’t already done so, they are investing now because they are convinced that things will only get better and they will ride a wave of prosperity to and beyond the election. Of course it will help if the right political party wins government!!!

All of this ladies and gentlemen demonstrates a marked level of confidence in the general state of the Fijian economy and my Government’s policy settings.

My Government regards the private sector as a vital partner in national development and the provision of better living standards for all Fijians. So I would like to thank our partner, Paper Power, for the investment that it has made in this new Head office and warehouse in Nadi and the jobs it is generating for our people.

Paper Power started from a single store in Nadi in 1992 and in those 22 years has expanded to six outlets in the Western Division – two in Nadi, one in Namaka, two in Sigatoka and one in Lautoka.

There’s a lesson for every Fijian young person about the value of hard work in the personal story of Gyanendra Deo of Paper Power.

He started his business career selling newspapers on the streets of Nadi. Then he joined the Desai Bookshop, worked his way up to manager and eventually started his own business, the Sigatoka Bookshop. From those modest beginnings grew the business we now see today, which currently provides employment for 25 people. I have great confidence in the ability of such home grown businesses to prosper even more.

Ladies and Gentlemen I now have great pleasure in declaring this new Head Office open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


Bula Vinaka and a very Good Evening to you all.

In eleven days time, Fiji will have a new and important financial institution when the Home Finance Company Bank opens its doors and begins trading.

It will be different from the other commercial banks because it will be 100 per-cent owned by the Fijian people and operate for their benefit – by the people, for the people.

Tonight we launch the HFC Bank and unveil its branding in a spirit of excitement and with great hopes for its future.
It is our bank, the people’s bank, and I am delighted as Prime Minister to be here on this historic occasion and to share the pride we all have as Fijians in seeing this vision realised.

HFC is a joint venture between our national superannuation fund, the FNPF – which owns 75 per cent of the bank – and the Unit Trust of Fiji, which holds the remaining 25 per cent. So in a very real sense, every Fijian has a stake in HFC and their fortunes are directly linked to its success.

They will not only be able to use the Bank to get a return on their savings but as a source of borrowing to invest in improving their lives and those of their families. They will also benefit from the profits that are ploughed back into their national superannuation fund and the Trust Fund. When those profits stay in Fiji, everyone wins. The returns don’t flow overseas but remain in Fiji.

In my budget address last November in which I unveiled the plans for the HFC, I set a target date for the Bank to open of early this year. I want to thank the Board, Management and Staff for meeting that challenge. Full banking operations will commence on Monday, March the 3rd, 2014.

This is a time for celebration but also a time for sober reflection about the sorry history of our first 100 per-cent Fijian-owned financial institution – the debacle of the National Bank of Fiji. The NBF, as you know, was owned by the people of Fiji through the Government.

When it was launched in 1976, there were the same high hopes that it would be a people’s bank that would create a new level of prosperity in Fiji. Instead a greedy elite – after the two coups of 1987 – used the people’s bank as their personal piggy bank. With their noses stuck firmly in the trough, this elite – aided by a grossly irresponsible management and board – raided the National Bank of Fiji for loans that many had no intention of repaying. They ripped off their fellow Fijians.

When the NBF finally crashed in the late 1990s, it had debts of $220-million dollars or 8 per cent of Fiji’s gross domestic product. It remains the biggest financial scandal in Fiji’s history and must never be forgotten or repeated.

The ultimate blame lies with other Governments, which presided over a prolonged period in which the funds of ordinary Fijians were misappropriated. These elites effectively robbed their own countrymen and women – decent, hardworking ordinary people who had put their trust in the Bank and the Government.
Our Reserve Bank – which is meant to oversee the system – also shoulders some of the blame for failing to see what was happening, turning a blind eye to it or at the very least, going public with its concerns.

By the time the whole fiasco ended, 51 per cent of the remnants of the NBF was sold off to foreign interests for what would be considered a pittance. Any notion of good governance took second place to other Government’s political interests. After all, many of those treating the NBF as their personal piggy bank were its ministers, supporters and hangers-on. Under the SDL Government, the remaining 49 per cent was sold at what would again be considered a pittance.

Now, some of those same politicians and hangers-on who were responsible for this scandal – and others who benefited personally – are seeking your vote in the forthcoming general election. They are relying on you having short memories.
They are treating you as if you are stupid. I urge you to call their bluff and consign them to the political dustbin of history.

My Government expects that the proper mechanisms are now in place to ensure that the Home Finance Company Bank meets the highest prudential requirements and the highest standards of good governance.

We will have zero tolerance for anything else and we will continue to insist on quality and stringent levels of performance if the Fijian people give us the mandate we are seeking to lead Fiji after the election.

We have had a vision and we have delivered it – of a range of Fijian institutions operating at the highest level and being symbols of national pride. Our treasured Brand Fiji includes Tourism Fiji, Investment Fiji and Film Fiji.

It also includes the FNPF – whose timely rescue and prudent stewardship of the savings of every Fijian worker has received an important accolade from the global superannuation industry.

And it includes Fiji Airways, which this Government saved and has been returned to profitably with its state-of-the-art aircraft, flying higher, more frequently and very soon, further.

To add to that glittering stable – whose reputation we must do everything to cherish and protect – we now add our own national Bank, HFC, which is specifically tasked to serve our people by giving them better and more affordable access to finance.

We expect HFC to focus especially on making home ownership more affordable for ordinary Fijians. For too long, Fijians have had to pay too high interest rates for home financing. Yes, while interests rates may be lower than usual at the moment, we need consistency.
We need all stakeholders to realise that home ownership and construction grows an economy, creates jobs and provides security for ordinary families.

By having home ownership, we bring those outside the mainstream into the financial sector. We stop them from going to moneylenders. This is vitally important and the reason I announced a $10-million grant to ordinary people in the last budget to help them realise their dream to own their first home. All the CEOs of the banks have met with us and we hope to make an announcement on the release of this grant in the coming weeks .

My Government is also creating a revolution in the banking system – more competition to drive down bank charges and interest rates and drive up the level of service delivery. We have introduced new players in the market, new competition.

Soon, we’ll be implementing the National Switch, which will benefit every ordinary Fijian who conducts an electronic transaction.
I know that the CEOs of the banks have met with the Ministry of Communications and have agreed with its implementation.
This is good news because it will not only, in a very short period of time, reduce the cost of electronic transactions but increase their volume, encourage the unbanked to bank, and get more non-financial institutions which have high levels of monetary transactions such as i’TLTB to interact more directly with their customers. Of course, new banks entering the market such as HFC won’t have to expend their funds in capital infrastructure but rather focus on, as all banks should, competitive pricing and service delivery.

Starting a bank is no easy process. And I want to thank everyone who has had a hand in the immense task of getting this enterprise off the ground – the shareholders, the Board, Management and Staff. To all of you I say: Pursue a culture of excellence. Adhere to the highest standards of honesty, transparency and propriety. Always abide by the rules, the regulations that are there to ensure the highest standards of governance. And remember above all that you are there to serve our people – to provide them with the means to improve their lives and to create wealth for them and our beloved nation.

As I keep saying, these are exciting times to be Fijian – a time to be proud, a time to face the future with confidence.

I now have great pleasure in launching the Home Finance Company Bank and its corporate branding.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


Bula vinaka and a very Good Morning to you All.

As you know, I attend a lot of public functions as Prime Minister. But for someone who has spent so much of his working life at sea, it’s a special thrill to be commissioning a new ship that is going to make such a difference to the lives of so many ordinary Fijians in our maritime communities.
I’m told that the last new vessel acquired by the Government Shipping Service was 29 years ago in 1984. Frankly, for a maritime nation like ours, this is a huge embarrassment. For too long, the GSS has been neglected. But worse, the people who it is meant to serve have been neglected – the ordinary men and women in our maritime communities who deserved better service delivery but haven’t got it. Until now.

Today marks the start of a remarkable resurgence in the fortunes of the GSS. Because in less than a year, no fewer than three new vessels are being commissioned to finally end the years of neglect, to finally give ordinary people the level of service they deserve. And I’m immensely gratified that my Government has been able to do it.

Today, we welcome and commission the first of these vessels, our new flagship – “Sigavou”. In i’Taukei, of course, it means “New Day” and that’s what this occasion marks – the beginning of a new era of inter-island shipping in Fiji.

This landing craft – which can carry 20 passengers –was purchased in Malaysia at a cost of 2.6-million US Dollars. To the delivery crew, Captain Pauliasi Vakaloloma and his team, congratulations on making the 5000 nautical mile journey safely over 26 days.

In April, we will welcome a second landing craft from Malaysia that can carry 30 passengers as well as its cargo. And in January 2015, the third and biggest vessel is due to arrive in Fiji – one capable of carrying 80 passengers.

What this means is that by the beginning of next year, the Government Shipping Service will be transformed – three new ships to add to the current fleet of six. That means that the economic prospects of the islands these vessels serve will also be transformed. We will finally have workhorses capable of carrying the goods and the people needed to open up these places for further development.

I don’t think anyone will argue that maritime transportation has been one of the most neglected sectors of our nation. As a result, parts of Fiji like the islands in the Lau Group, Lomaiviti, Rotuma and Kadavu have lagged behind the rest of the country in particular, infrastructure development.

You all know that I have made service delivery to ordinary Fijians the central task of my Government. We don’t just promise better services. We deliver. And with these new vessels, we will be able to deliver a better standard of service to Fijians living in some of the most far-flung places in the country.

This 47 meter, 149 tonne landing craft is ideal for Fiji’s needs – with its two dedicated freezers and a forklift that can transport heavy goods and bring the produce of maritime communities quickly and efficiently to markets on the mainland. Fish, seaweed, copra, coconut oil – all the things that maritime communities rely on to earn an income.
They will also be able to cart their goods from Viti Levu to the islands more readily, conveniently and with the economies of scale at more cost efficient freight rates.

We are also going to be able to kick-start some of the projects that have been stalled because we didn’t have the proper capacity to deliver – for example providing these communities with water supplies and generators for electricity.

As I keep saying, we are determined as a Government to provide every Fijian with the same level of service, no matter where they live, whether its access to water, electricity, education, health, mobile phone connectivity or the internet. So I make no apology for the Government Shipping Franchise Scheme, in which we also subsidise the private sector to keep serving uneconomical routes. Whether you live in Lau or Kadavu, Lomaiviti or Rotuma, you will not be a second class citizen under this Government. Everything we do is designed to keep cargo freight rates and passenger fares affordable.
And with these new vessels, we are doing more than ever before to keep you connected to your fellow Fijians.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, I just want to mention our program to ensure that our school leavers can continue to carve out careers at sea. We’ve linked the Fiji National University and its School of Maritime Studies with CINEC, a renowned Sri Lankan maritime training academy that is one of the world’s best. With this partnership, we intend to produce a new generation of mariners in Fiji with the skills to compete globally, to both service our island communities better and extend their horizons to the world at large.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I keep saying, our horizon as a nation has never looked brighter as we move towards the first truly democratic election in our history. For the first time under our new Constitution, we are all Fijians, we all belong, no matter where we live in Fiji. So let us unite and work together to put Fiji first and make Fiji great.
As we commission the “Sigavou” – the New Day – we wish her light winds and safe seas, just as we wish the same for the nation we all love.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.