Posts tagged PM Bainimarama

Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama opens FNPF Lautoka branch

BAINIMARAMA SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE NEW FNPF LAUTOKA BRANCH

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

I’m delighted to be here in Lautoka and to open the new FNPF branch which will greatly improve the service delivery of FNPF to its members.

Superannuation is all about the future – delivering a future of security and peace of mind for ordinary Fijians who have worked hard all their lives and look forward to a comfortable retirement.

We all owe a great deal to the foresight and vision of those who first set up the FNPF 48 years ago – in 1966 – with that great aim in mind.

From a modest investment of 30-thousand dollars, the FNPF has grown into a Fund of 4 point 2-billion dollars. This amount has been built on the hard work of successive members. It represents their life savings and their hopes for financial security when they retire. It is, therefore, the sacred trust of every Fijian Government and every Board, Management and Staff member of the FNPF to make sure that those hopes are realised. To deliver the peace of mind and contentment that we all want our retirees – both current and future – to have in their advancing years.

My Government has done everything possible to meet that obligation. But unfortunately some of the governments that came before us were not so diligent. And unfortunately, some of the leaders of those governments are back, seeking political office on the back of blatant lies about the state of the FNPF and our stewardship of the life savings of every Fijian worker. They are doing so having done little or nothing themselves to protect those savings when they were in office. And were they to ever regain the levers of power, rest assured that the fortunes of the FNPF would rapidly go into reverse, leaving our future retirees with nothing.

A lot of figures are being bandied about and twisted by these politicians to try to destroy public confidence in our stewardship of the Fund. It is highly irresponsible – a classic fear campaign – but it is also wrong. Because the truth is that my Government and the current Board rescued the FNPF from certain bankruptcy. Without our reforms, it would have gone broke by 2052. Yes, stony broke. So that if you are a worker in your mid-twenties now, there would have been nothing left in the Fund in 38 years time. Nothing for your pension even though you would have contributed to the FNPF for your entire working life.

The reason for this is very simple: You cannot take out more than you put in. You cannot dispense more money from the FNPF without putting more money in. If you do, then of course you will run out. This isn’t rocket science but a principle that every child can understand. Yet for decades, this was how the FNPF operated, in spite of warnings repeatedly given by leading international organisations and financial experts.

Yet repeated governments and FNPF Boards ignored those warnings – including those led by some of these politicians who now want to dupe you all over again. Why? Because it was too hard to take the bold decisions necessary to save the Fund and avert the crunch that was always going to come. Instead these politicians did what they always did; keep on raiding the piggy bank to keep an elite group of retirees happy and to safeguard their own interests. They did so without any consideration for the future – the future of our children, the future of Fiji.

They did it with a whole lot of things that desperately needed reform; the sugar industry, the pine and mahogany industries, industrial relations, our crumbling roads, water systems and other infrastructure. Put simply they failed to put Fiji first.

All these reforms my Government has done over the past seven years. We have arrested the years of neglect, taken the hard but necessary decisions to change the way we do things and we have put our nation’s financial position on a better and more sustainable footing. And that included reforming the FNPF.

Yes, a small group of FNPF members have had to make adjustments, but an adjustment necessary to ensure that our pension scheme – which like all pension schemes is based on sharing risks – became sustainable, fair and just for all members of FNPF. Not the select few.

When you hear some of the lies that are being told and the false promises being made, I want every Fijian to remember this; The reform program is working. We’ve not only reversed the downward spiral but achieved a remarkable turnaround. Indeed, these reforms have been acknowledged with the FNPF winning a major international award from the global super-annuation industry.

The FNPF’s financial position is now strong and sound. And the proof of that is in the audited financial results for 2013 – a net surplus of $293-million. That’s a 21 per cent improvement in underlying performance. That means the savings of ordinary Fijians are secure. That means the 300-thousand FNPF members who are yet to retire can be confident about their nest eggs and their futures.

You’ll have heard me say many times that we are building a new and better Fiji. But I take few things more seriously as your Prime Minister than my obligation to do everything I possibly can to ensure the well-being of all our retirees, present and future. So I’m delighted that we are now on a better footing and I want to thank the current FNPF Board under the chairmanship of Mr. Ajith Kodagoda for its role in achieving that objective. With their commitment, vision, and hard work, we are already reaping the rewards of our reform program. With their constant eye on prudent investments, they are laying the foundations for a more prosperous nation in which every Fijian can benefit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these are great days for Fiji as a whole. They promise a better future for every Fijian.

It is now with great pleasure that I declare the new Lautoka branch of the FNPF open.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER J.V. BAINIMARAMA – SPEECH AT THE COMMISSIONING OF DREKETI GRID EXTENSION

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Many Fijians have grown up having access to electricity all their lives. So they naturally have little idea what it must be like not to have it all.
To not be able to reach for a switch to read your book, plug a kettle into the wall, keep your food cold in the Refrigerator or turn on a television.

They’re things a great many Fijians simply take for granted. Yet for large numbers of their fellow citizens, being able to access the national power grid has been a distant dream, and that includes the people of this region.

Until now, you’ve all needed a diesel generator to have electric light and power. And for many of you, that has simply been too expensive. The cost of a generator and the cost of the fuel needed to run it has been beyond your reach.

And so here, and in other isolated parts of Fiji, many people have grown up dependent on kerosene lamps and lanterns. And you’ve learnt to do without the electrical appliances that have revolutionised household chores elsewhere.

Entire generations of Fijians like you have cooked their evening meal on a fire or a primus. Entire generations of school children have done their homework either before the sun goes down or by squinting at the pages under a kerosene lamp.

All that comes to an end today in this new phase of my Government’s Look North Policy, in which we have made it a priority to develop Vanua Levu for the benefit of its people and the entire country.

I’m delighted to be here with all of you at the Maramarua Primary School to formally turn on the power, to launch the Dreketi Electrification project.

It’s the culmination of two year’s work to install a new 33-thousand volt Transmission Power Grid from Labasa to Dreketi via Seaqaqa at a cost of more than 14-million dollars.

Jointly funded by the Government and the FEA, it will provide power along the 70 kilometres from Labasa to Dreketi to some eight communities and 243 customers, with the ability to add more as the region develops.

It’s a great occasion for you – the people in this corridor from Seaqaqa, Batiri to here in Dreketi – and an important milestone in my Government’s effort to develop the North.

Coupled with the new road from Nabouwalu to Dreketi, we are, in a very real and practical manner, finally unleashing the economic potential of northern Vanua Levu and laying the foundation for new investment, job creation and prosperity.

By providing electricity and a proper road instead of a dirt track, we are creating the basic infrastructure that every society needs to grow. From these improvements are bound to come more people, more businesses and more wealth. And that means more opportunities for the people of this wonderful but previously neglected part of Fiji.

I’m told that about 5,000 people living along the Dreketi Seaqaqa highway will immediately benefit from this project – among them, families, schools and farmers on whom so much of our economy depends.

These Fijians finally have a Government that responds to their needs. Gone are the days in Fiji when Government came to look at what you needed, pretended to listen and then went away and did nothing. My Government is here to serve, to improve the quality of your lives and provide opportunities for you and your families.

We cared that you didn’t have access to power, that many of you couldn’t afford generators, that your evenings were filled with dim lights from candlepower and kerosene. We cared that some of you couldn’t afford to send your children to school, so we got rid of the fees and are opening up new schools to provide every Fijian with education and the opportunities that come with it.

We cared that your road was a rough track that became a mud track in wet weather, that your children had to walk through to go to school, that it took you too long to get medical help, too long to get to Labasa, too long to get to Nabouwalu.

We cared, we acted and we’ve delivered. And I am humbled by the number of people who have come up to thank me and have told me how much that commitment has meant to them. In turn, I want to pay tribute to the Board, management and workers of the FEA, and its contractors, who have made this project possible. You have done us all proud and we thank you for your service.

With the 24-million dollars set aside in this year’s budget to continue our electrification program, we look forward to soon strengthening the supply to the Tavua-Korovou corridor. This will allows rural communities and businesses in Ra and Tailevu to enjoy the same benefits that have now come to Seaqaqa, Batiri and Dreketi.

Fiji has also signed an agreement with the People’s Republic of China to construct a 700 kilowatt Mini Hydro Power Plant in Taveuni.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we begin 2014 as a nation in much better shape than when I and those around me embarked on our revolution eight years ago to create a new and better Fiji.

We now have a new Constitution that gives you more rights than ever before, we are addressing years of neglect when it comes to providing our people with basic services and in eight months’ time, we will have the first genuinely democratic election in our history.

I will soon be announcing the formation of a political party that I will lead to contest that election. We will, of course, be standing on our record of delivering basic services such as this and on the way in which we have created a fairer and more equal society, with justice and opportunity for all.

I will never accept that someone living in Dreketi deserves fewer services just because they live in a more isolated part of the country. I want you -and everyone in Fiji- to have the same basic services as people living in Suva – the same access to electricity, to water, to education, to basic health. It is an ambitious goal but I’m determined to achieve it by putting more money in basic infrastructure for the benefit of ordinary people and their families.

During the forthcoming campaign, I will also be laying out my vision for Fiji after the election, in the new and genuine democracy that we are creating and in which I want you all to play a part.
That vision is to build on the progress that we have made and the stability we have created to attract new investment to Fiji and provide new and sustainable jobs for our young people.

These young people will be prepared for life in a way that few young people in Fiji will have ever been prepared before. With our free education initiative, more of them will gain basic skills and knowledge in our primary and secondary schools and the ability to go on to higher education. With our scholarships and training programs, they will have more chance of being able to afford to acquire the specialist skills that higher education provides.

We want to provide them with more of the opportunities they deserve and that their parents could only ever dream of. And that means broadening their horizons way beyond their island home, to get more Fijians thinking of themselves as educated citizens of the world.

We see ourselves becoming the Singapore of the Pacific –vibrant, brimming with opportunity and a byword for quality, whether its our national airline, our tourism industry or the quality of the things we manufacture and export.

Ladies and Gentlemen, all this is within our reach if we can continue to think imaginatively and stay disciplined and focused. The lost years are over but only if we pursue the right course and think not just of ourselves but each other and our nation. If we put Fiji First.

All of us can detect a sense of real excitement in the air here today as we power up this area of Fiji for the first time. But I’m convinced that the future holds a promise that is limitless if we can harness the power of all Fijians to deliver our new democracy and the new Fiji.

With those words, I now have the privilege of officially turning on the electricity supply to the Seaqaqa, Batiri and Dreketi corridor and surrounding villages and communities.

Vinaka vakalevu, Thank you.

NEW SUVA METEOROLOGY OFFICE

Honourable Ministers;

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It’s a pleasure to be here to mark an important milestone in Fiji’s ability to provide timely and accurate climate-related information that will ultimately help save lives and protect property.

The new Suva Meteorological Weather Office is a state of the art facility that will drastically improve our risk assessment and early warning capabilities, increase our ability to conduct important research, and enhance weather information services to the Fijian people and other Pacific Islanders.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the recent weeks I have spoken a lot about climate change. Whatever its cause, island nations like ours feel its effects more intensely than the larger countries of the developed world.

Climate change causes extreme weather patterns such as intense flooding and ever more frequent tropical storms and cyclones. This is a reality that we have to face in the Pacific region.

Over the last decade, tropical cyclones and floods have cost more than 100 lives and hundred of millions of dollars worth of damages in Fiji alone.
So we have learned to be prepared. And I am proud to say that preparedness meant that not a single life was claimed by Cyclone “Evan” last year.

But we cannot drop our guard and the opening of this new Weather Office is part of a serious campaign to equip Fiji with the latest technology that will increase our capacity to deal with natural disasters.

The equipment housed in this new facility is a far cry from that possessed by Fiji’s first national Weather Office that was built on this site in 1942.

The new two-story building was constructed at a total cost of $3.6million and it houses a modern IT infrastructure, Conference Room and communication facilities.

The Suva Office will work in close co-ordination with the Nadi Forecasting Centre to detect extreme weather and flooding. If the Nadi office goes offline for whatever reason, the Suva Office will take the point position to ensure essential services are continued.

But it’s not just about early detection. The new technology in this facility will also allow us to conduct important climate-related research. The demand for data about the weather is very high for a number of development related purposes.

There’s no doubt that future strategies to deal with climate change will depend upon sound knowledge of past and present climate around our nation and in our region.

This is an important point. This new Weather Office will not only provide services to Fiji, but also to seven other Pacific island countries: Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru and Cook Islands.

Under the World Meteorological Organisation, Fiji has assumed an important responsibility as a key strategic Tropical Warning Center for the South West Pacific region.
This means that Fiji is able to contribute substantially to the protection of life and property against natural disaster not just at home, but for our neighbours as well.

We perform this important job with a deep sense of humility and gratitude that we can provide this important service to the region.

In fact, given our strategic location, the Forecasting Center in Nadi is now one of six specialised centres for tropical cyclone warning and forecasting in the world.

This new Suva Office will support this undertaking by going a long way to raise the level of our Meteorological Services to the highest international standard.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to leave you with one final thought. While we cannot control the course of Mother Nature, with investment in the appropriate infrastructure and the latest technology, we can do our best to make sure we’re prepared for when she comes our way to save lives and property.

With those few words, I thank the Fiji Meteorological Service for its contribution to Fiji and the region over the past years and wish it many more years of success.

I now take great pleasure in officially opening the new Suva Meteorological Office.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.

CONDOLENCE AFTER TYPHOON HAIYAN

 

FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER SENDS CONDOLENCE MESSAGE TO PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT

Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama has sent condolences to the Government and the people of the Republic of the Philippines in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan.

In his message to the President of Philippines, His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, the Prime Minister conveyed sympathy on behalf of the people and Government of Fiji.

“I write to express our sympathy and to convey the message of condolences from the people and Government of Republic of Fiji to the people and Government of the Republic of the Philippines, in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which caused massive damages and loss of life, in most parts of your great country, in the last few days”

“In doing so, we are united in our prayers for your speedy recovery and for great strength and peace to be bestowed upon the many families who have lost loved ones”, Prime Minister Bainimarama said.

“Excellency, please accept the assurances of our heartfelt considerations at this difficult time in your nation’s history.”

According to international media reports, more than 10000 people, the majority from the town of Tacloban, are feared dead after super typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines last Friday.

EQUAL BENEFIT FOR FIJI LANDOWNERS

Fiji Governmentis committed to ensuring that individual members of landowning units receive an equal and fair share of all income generated from iTaukei land.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama who is also the chairman of the ITaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) today made this comment during the opening of a Strategic Panning workshop 2014 – 2016 at the Warwick Resort and Spa.

PM Bainimarama said owners of customary land and customary fishing grounds are entitled to receive a fair share of the royalty with respect to any minerals extracted from their customary land and fishing ground.

“All Mataqali members must have equal access and benefit to the proceeds from the Mataqali land leases,” PM Bainimarama said.

“Protection for landowners through protection of ownership and now a requirement to have fair and equitable rent paid to land owners compliments the constitutional protection for the rights and interests of land lessees and tenants. No law must diminish or adversely affect those rights and interests. Lessees and tenants also have the right not to have their leases and tenancies arbitrarily and illegally terminated.”

TLTB general manager, Alipate Qetaki said reforms within TLTB structures would continue to ensure government’s role as guardians of iTaukei land.

“The reforms that began a few years ago will continue and as PM Bainimarama stated, we will continue to ensure our role as guardians of iTaukei land,” he said.

“The Government and landowners expectations are high and this workshop will assist us on how the TLTB can focus better on its core role as the “Trustee” for all iTaukei landowners in Fiji.”

Mr Qetaki said that under the 2013 Constitution, TLTB clearly needs to make a paradigm shift to truly create and enhance opportunities for the landowners and by natural extension to all other Fijians.

He added that the TLTB expects to fully commence the equal distribution of lease money from the beginning of next year.

Currently, 91 per cent of the land in the country is owned by the ITaukei.

DIWALI MESSSAGE 2013

DIWALI MESSSAGE 2013

Today, across the country Fijians will be lighting candles, setting off fireworks and meeting with friends, family and neighbours to commemorate Diwali, one of the most exciting and festive times of the year.

It is a day of national celebration as we join our Hindu brothers and sisters to observe the “festival of lights.”

Diwali marks the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, happiness over sorrow. To me, Diwali has always been about Fiji coming together as one nation to rejoice and give thanks for the glory of God and the bonds of family and friendship.

It’s a time for each of us to shine light on that which is most important in our lives, which we can all too often lose sight of in the course of our day-to-day responsibilities. It’s also a time to find fellowship with our neighbours – to reach out to fellow Fijians with acts of kindness and hospitality.

This year’s Diwali celebrations also bear a special significance. It is the first of Fiji’s major religious festivals to be celebrated under our nation’s new Constitution, which protects the rights of all Fijians to practice their religion freely and publicly.

What has long been practice is now enshrined in the supreme law of our land.

It’s always been a matter of great personal pride how openly we embrace each other’s different religions and how ready we are to include those of different faiths in our observances.

Such acceptance and understanding is one of the brightest lights in our national life, and it is up to each of us to protect the spirit of peace and harmony that we gather today to celebrate.

Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of the APO 54th Workshop Meeting of the Heads of National Productivity Organisations

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

On behalf of the Fijian Government and people, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to Fiji for the 54th Workshop Meeting of the Heads of National Productivity Organisations.

I also extend a very special welcome to the new Secretary General of the Asian Productivity Organization, Mr. Amano.

We are very pleased to host this meeting in Fiji, and I sincerely hope that you will take time to enjoy  our country and experience our world renown Fijian hospitality.

Fiji is fortunate to have been a member of the APO for nearly thirty years.

We joined the APO because we wanted to take advantage of the large body of knowledge and experience in productivity that had developed within the APO member countries. Asia was on the move. It was growing. It was a force to be reckoned with in technology, industry and trade. Asian manufacturers were transforming the world marketplace, often displacing iconic American and European companies that had once been dominant. And it was clear that this Asian resurgence was driven by productivity and, above all, quality.  Today, we no longer talk about an Asian resurgence; we talk about an Asian standard—in automobiles, electronics, optics, capital goods, and services, just to name a few sectors.

We wanted to be a part of that movement. We wanted to capture the energy, optimism, and spirit of innovation that was driving Asia for ourselves—and I believe we have. We still have a lot of work to do, but there is no doubt that we are a different country than we were when we started with APO. Fiji wants to compete with the best in a global marketplace that is more competitive and includes more players every day.

Over these past 29 years, we have received a great deal of support from APO–training and development in many areas that have helped raised the performance of managers, technicians and CEOs alike—in both the private and public sectors. And thanks to APO’s strong role in building the capacity of our own NPO, we Fijians have advanced our own efforts to be more productive and efficient, to encourage better management, and to stay abreast of the changes that affect the world’s economy.

We owe a great deal to the lessons we have learned from our fellow APO member countries in making Fiji more productive and committed to quality.   The services you have provided in Business Excellence have been particularly useful to both the private sector and my government.

We began with the recommendations for quality awards for the private sector that emerged from the first Round Table Conference on Productivity, in 1995. By 2005, we had developed a similar recognition program for government.  Participation in the Service Excellence Awards is now mandatory for all government ministries.

Our goal is to institutionalize the commitment to quality, to constant improvement, and to commitment to excellence.  We hold up the best performers as examples for the entire country not just to pat people on the back. We do it not just to show how well people have completed steps in a process. We do it because the public needs to know in concrete terms what quality and excellence look like. They also need to see that behind every quality program, product or service, there are people of character, people who persevere, who know how to lead and share, who work with integrity, who do not rest until they have accomplished something that is truly good and worthy—and most importantly, who have their minds firmly focused on how they can do even better.

Ladies and gentlemen, Fiji is determined to link our name—or national brand, if you will—with quality. I believe we are achieving that in the tourism and hospitality sector, where we are competing with the most desirable and sophisticated tourist destinations in the world. This is one of the first truly world-class industries we are creating in Fiji, using a combination of foreign experience, local know-how, and our people’s innate sense of hospitality to build something that gives us great pride. And we have done so without sacrificing our natural environment; in fact, Fiji’s natural beauty and the variety of experiences it offers are a big part of our brand in tourism.

However, there is room for improvement in many areas within this industry. The goal of productivity in itself means a constant reflection, a constant assessment and critique.

We have seen though how one very important and highly visible industry like tourism can inspire and drive quality in other areas. Every business now has a high standard to meet, and as I talk to our private sector leaders, it is clear that they want both the challenge and the opportunity of meeting that standard.

Our Fijian Made campaign is an important step in that process. It is not just a campaign to encourage Fijians to buy products made in Fiji and therefore amongst other things, protect Fijian jobs. It is also a program to promote the quality of Fijian goods at home and abroad. Products must meet quality standards before they earn the Fijian Made label, whether they are manufactured in Fiji, designed in Fiji, grown in Fiji, crafted by hand in Fiji, or assembled in Fiji. In textiles, food processing, apparel, personal products, and many other areas, “Fijian Made” must be a synonym for quality.

My government sees it as our duty to give our citizens what they need to meet the high standards we expect from them. Our main priorities have been to improve the roads, reform the ports, develop a robust wireless broadband regime that connects the entire country, wage a relentless fight against corruption, and invest in education.

And we believe getting top performance out of our state-owned industries is more than just good sense; it sets an example. In that regard for example, we have both created and reformed the Fijian mahogany industry. We made the hard decisions, we made strategic investments, and we engaged all stakeholders in the effort. The turnaround has been dramatic and real.

And we reformed our sugar industry to make our farmers and our mills more productive. Sugar is a big part of our economy, providing livelihoods for thousands of people. There are many sugar-producing countries in the world, and complicated and at times skewered international agreements governing trade in sugar. Nonetheless, our farmers needed to increase yields, our mills need to refine more efficiently, and we need to take advantage of the by-products of sugar cane for other uses.

Ladies and gentlemen, it takes a national commitment to build a nation, and improving national productivity is no different. All of us—producers, retailers and wholesalers, government, labor, the financial community, the business community, employee organizations, the education sector, trade unions and consumers—have to be fully engaged in the effort.

Ladies and gentleman, all nations—irrespective of size, location and endowments—share the dream of creating more wealth and improving the socio-economic conditions of their people.

We understand well that our ability to increase wealth depends in no small part on our ability to raise productivity in all walks of life.

Fiji has made substantial progress in recent times, thanks to the collective efforts of our citizens.

We have created a strong economic platform for growth. Last year, our economy grew by 2.2 per cent. This year our economy is projected to grow by 3.6 per cent.

We have noticed great optimism in the private sector. Investment is increasing and businesses are expanding. Private sector investment this year is expected to reach 13 percent of GDP, up from around 4 percent a few years ago.

Recognizing that infrastructure is one of our biggest barriers to economic development, we have already raised capital expenditures from 20 per cent of budget to 32 per cent of budget.

This long-term investment in capital works, which I alluded to earlier, is unprecedented and will bear fruit in greater productivity. It will also provide a more favorable environment for business and citizens alike as we move towards a knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy.

Our education and training institutions have a key role to play in helping our employees, employers, business sector and governmental organizations become more productive. It was with this in mind, and with a view to realize greater economies of scale and effects, that my government merged all the key higher educational institutions in the country to form the Fiji National University or FNU in 2009.

The FNU now is home to the National Training and Productivity Centre, which is the National Productivity Organisation for the country. It provides training and promotion in all things to do with quality and productivity. I am happy to note the FNU has made a mark not only nationally and in the region, but internationally as well, and I thank the Vice Chancellor and his team for that.

And finally, I would like to talk a bit about political change. Ladies and gentleman, Fiji reached a pivotal moment in its history last month when His Excellency the President of the Republic of Fiji promulgated the nation’s new Constitution.

This Constitution introduces Fiji’s first genuine democracy since we gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1970.  It is a Constitution that upholds the legal and moral basis of a common and equal citizenry without denying anyone’s individuality or culture.

It enshrines principles that are at the heart of the world’s great liberal democracies – an independent judiciary, a secular state and a wide range of civil, political and socio-economic rights.

It recognizes the indigenous peoples of Fiji and their customary practices; enshrines and safeguards the ownership rights of the predominantly indigenous landowners and at the same time gives unprecedented protection to lessees of land; demands accountability and transparency from public office holders; builds strong and independent institutions; and replaces our old electoral system with one based on the principle of one person, one vote, one value.

This historic achievement is the culmination of a path that Fiji embarked on in 2007 to establish a modern and stable society that could determine its own affairs and become a proud and responsible player in the global community.

This has much to do with productivity and quality, because a nation that is not one with itself, a nation that has not established its values, a nation that does not have a clear legal and social framework will have a hard time being truly productive.

To be productive, a nation must harness the talents, energies and aspirations of its people. And the people will freely give of those talents and energies if they know that their government has established a level playing field, that they can get substantive justice, that they will not have to overcome corruption, that they can have access to credit, and that they will be rewarded for their effort.

We now move with great optimism towards the first democratic elections in our nation’s history which will be held no later than 30 September 2014, and an era of unprecedented productivity.

The Secretary General, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen with those few words, it is now my great pleasure to officially declare the 2013 Heads of National Productivity Organizations’ Workshop Meeting open.

I wish you all an excellent meeting—and great productivity.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Thank you.

PRIORITISE YOUR STUDIES

10/19/2013
PRIME Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has impressed upon students the importance of dedicating time and prioritizing their studies over other activities.

Speaking to students from military background at the closing of a seven week revision session organised by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces Wives and Mothers Club, Prime Minister Bainimarama said education was Government’s priority because it envisions a nation led by a smarter group of people in the future.

He said the 15 telecentres opened in schools around the country was a testimony of the priority and commitment Government had made towards education and it will continue to open more such centres for the benefit of the students living in rural areas.

The Prime Minister said Government not only wants more educated youth in the job market, it also wants to see youth who create employment whereby providing jobs for 10 to 15 more people.

“We don’t only want educated people who are looking for work, we want people who can create jobs and employ 10 to 15 people themselves. This is how we will grow our economy,” Prime Minister Bainimarama told the students, parents and teachers at Ratu Sukuna Memorial School.

He commended the students for sacrificing their Saturdays.

Bainimarama Address at the National Workshop for Fiji’s Trade Policy

Ladies and Gentlemen

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning.

I returned yesterday from a very successful tour of Vanua Levu, during which I opened another five of the Government’s new Telecentres to add to the 15 already established in other parts of Fiji.

These Telecentres are a cornerstone of my Government’s program to provide better services to ordinary Fijians – in this instance, giving them access to the information and communications revolution sweeping the rest of the world.

In the wake of my trip, close to 40,000 Fijians now have regular access to these Telecentres and use of the Internet and the Worldwide Web. Inevitably, they are going to be better informed as a result.

We are empowering them as part of our vision to be the powerhouse of economic activity in the region. Because that activity and the resulting prosperity that will flow to all our people can only come if Fiji becomes a smart country, an educated country, an informed country – a country able to adapt quickly to changes in our world, recognise the opportunities and seize them.

This is absolutely essential in order to become a modern, dynamic state. By becoming smarter, better educated, better informed, all facets of our reform agenda will benefit, including what we’re trying to do to grow trade, build our economy, and create jobs.

You’re all aware of my Government’s campaign to improve the economy generally through tax cuts, investment incentives and better infrastructure – better roads and faster turnaround times in our ports.

It’s very gratifying to see that effort finally paying off. Our economic growth has been revised upwards to 3.2 per cent, the best result since 2004. The naysayers have been proven wrong. Fiji is on the move again. Fiji is attracting more investment. More jobs are being created. There’s a new mood of confidence in the country. And a much greater sense of optimism as we move towards the first democratic election in our history next year.

Our Constitution guarantees basic socio-economic rights for all Fijians, such as the right to economic participation and the right of adequate health, education, food and clean water.

This provides the foundation for adopting a pragmatic and inclusive Framework on Trade Policy, which promotes Fijian jobs and improves the living standards of all Fijians.

Our vision is to serve as the hub of the pacific. to be able to compete internationally in all facets of our economy.

This National Workshop is part of the Government’s commitment to deepen cooperation and coordination between stakeholders. To be our best, we all have to be on the same page. We need a single vision.

we are all gathered here to finalise the trade policy framework to ensure how we – as “Fiji Incorporated,” or “Team Fiji” – can maximise our international trade by working together more effectively.

If we are ever to achieve our ambitious aims as a regional and international trading heavyweight, we have to think differently, outside the box as I’m fond of saying. Not just do things the way they’ve always been done but start afresh.

This Trade Policy Framework will capitalise on the positive reforms we’ve already made and improve the general business environment and trade related infrastructure.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin with some internal housekeeping.

I have to say that I’m deeply disappointed that some sections of government have been dragging their feet in embracing this initiative.

I want there to be no doubt – no doubt at all – that the path towards integration of trade policy between all ministries and departments – as proposed by this Framework – is the way forward. The only way forward.

I want more coordination. I want everyone to get with the framework . Because – as representatives of the same Government – we need to work towards the common goal of improving our trade performance. It’s as simple as that.

We need a shift away from the bureaucratic turf wars. We also need to realise that we are a team, not individual agencies working in isolation. All agencies need to realise that they are there to facilitate, not obstruct. all agencies need to work together to achieve the best outcomes for the nation. We need this to happen now.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Government also need to make sure that it works effectively with the private sector. We must seize every opportunity to form effective public-private partnerships, and together contribute to a shared vision.

The National Workshop for Fiji’s Trade Policy Framework is an inclusive and pragmatic approach to enhancing our trade. It’s the paradigm shift necessary to ensure that all segments of the economy, all arms of government work together, not against one another.

Put simply, it is in our shared interest to enhance Fiji’s position in global trade and assume our natural place as the trade hub of the Pacific.

This Framework will determine how to “connect all the dots” and address our production capacity, and supply-side constraints with the ultimate objective of enhancing Fiji’s position in global trade.

Harnessing our opportunities in international trade will mean more demand for Fijian-made goods and services leading to increased investment from the private sector and the creation of jobs and wealth.

That means a better general effort to identify new opportunities. That means every Fijian – government, business and workers – taking responsibility to keep the national economy in the best possible shape. And make things and provide services that people elsewhere want to buy and keep buying.

Because only with a strong national economy and a healthy export trade can we hope to ultimately raise the standards of all Fijians, to put an end to the poverty and give every Fijian child hope for a better and more sustainable future.

It is not someone else’s responsibility. It is not the Government’s responsibility alone. It is not the private sector’s responsibility alone. It is not the responsibility of our workers alone. It is the responsibility of all of us – working together as one nation, one team – to make Fiji stronger.

So the main task before you at this workshop is to strengthen and deepen the support, cooperation and coordination of every stakeholder for the Trade Policy Framework and our national economy.

Fijians don’t want to hear excuses. They want to see results. And that means changing mindsets, getting rid of some of the attitudes and practices that have held us back, including crushing bureaucracy. We need a better developed attitude of serving people’s needs rather than tying them up in bundles of red tape.

The whole emphasis of our collective effort should be to remove inefficiency, eliminate waste and improve productivity. We need to streamline processes, we need to avoid duplication, we need faster implementation of good ideas rather than excuses about why it’s all too hard.

Over the next two days, you’ll be considering a report – prepared after consultations with all the stakeholders – that identifies Fiji’s trade requirements, capacity and constraints. Consider it carefully and improve on it where you can.

We’re also setting up a Multi Stakeholder Council – chaired by the Minister for Industry and Trade – to give each stakeholder an important role in determining our coordination effort. I hope you will all also give that the serious consideration it deserves. Because this is your chance to present your ideas on trade matters direct to me and my Cabinet and contribute to our policy settings.

We’re putting our money where our mouth is by allocating $164,000 in the 2014 budget to implement this initiative and also by providing adequate staffing to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Finally Ladies and Gentlemen, my Government recognises the need for increased trade representation in some of Fiji’s key trading partners to boost our overall effort.

We don’t have a trade representative in our largest trading partners, Australia and the Pacific Islands, which combined accounts for 40% of Fiji’s total trade.

So it stands to reason that we have enormous untapped potential in Australia and the Pacific Region that we are still to capitalise on, especially in the manufacturing sector.

We clearly need to open a Trade Commission in a strategic location in Australia and also possibly appoint a roving Trade Commissioner to the Pacific.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I ask everyone in this room to commit themselves to this process, a genuine partnership to improve Fiji’s trading performance and raise the living standards of all fijians.

And with that, I wish you well in your deliberations.

Vinaka vakalevu and thank you.