Posts tagged TLTB

Opening Address at the Itaukei Land Trust Board Annual Strategic Corporation Planning Workshop: Prime Minister Bainimarama

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I am again pleased to be part of the Annual Strategic Corporate Planning Workshop, the purpose of which is to strategize a coordinated and effective work plan for the iTaukei Land Trust Board (“TLTB”).

It’s an important opportunity to share with you some salient thoughts as Chairman of TLTB and as Prime Minister, the Government’s expectations on how the TLTB can focus better on its core role as the “Trustee” for all iTaukei landowners in Fiji, in the new Fiji.

Your strategic plan must be guided by these thoughts and expectations – to ensure you deliver on them. Indeed as trustees you have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries, the landowners, who in fact you are answerable to.

With 91 per cent of the country’s land surface owned by the iTaukei and now protected and guaranteed in an unprecedented manner under our new 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.

Increased opportunities for landowners means TLTB staff and management working efficiently and effectively; it means encouraging the usage of land for productive use; it means the TLTB staff being aware of and understanding the symbiotic relationship between availability of land and the commercial, financial and economic realities and opportunities; it means viewing land as an asset to be utilized so that the landowners reap benefits and simultaneously grow the Fijian economy.

This means a shift in the mindset of the TLTB staff and management, from being a bureaucratic institution to one that facilitates, to one that recognizes through its attitude and actions that it is a critical development partner. Not an organization that works in a vacuum but one that is a team player – a team player for Team Fiji.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have said to a number of Fijian businessmen, who are always keen to have high margins on every transaction, that they would be better off if they targeted lower margins because by doing so they would have more sales or a higher turnover. This in turn would also generate sustained economic growth and prosperity which would benefit all including them, again. So making a kill in one sale is a very short term view, it strangles true growth and denies opportunities.

In same manner TLTB needs to change its approach to the leasing of land, to the management of tenants and potential tenants and of course landowners.  Your approach for example to land lease rates should be realistic and you need to look at the look term and big picture. If you lease lands or renew leases at reasonable rates without unrealistic conditions, you will create economic activity. By creating economic activity you will in turn create long term and increased value for those very lands which the landowner will benefit from.

But the benefit is not only in the increased value in the asset base – when there is increased economic activity everyone benefits, more jobs are created, there is a demand for input from small to medium enterprises. Government also collects more revenue through direct and indirect taxes and it in turn uses that money to build better infrastructure and services like roads, electricity, education, telecommunications, hospitals, medical centers and drinking water.

This is what I need you to think about when strategizing. What you need to understand is that your actions can determine how well we do as a nation. What I need you to understand is the basic economic implication of your actions or for that matter, inaction.

On this note I must say that when I have been around Fiji there have been instances when potential tenants who want to lease land at the right value, TLTB staff have been very lethargic. They are not proactive in assisting potential tenants to, for example identify land. They want the potential tenant to look for land themselves. Such staff is not only are failing in customer service but are undermining the land owners – who are in fact their bosses – by depriving the land owner of income and economic activity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, TLTB must also position itself in the context of the new Fijian Constitution.

The Constitution expressly recognizes the iTaukei, the ownership of iTaukei lands, and the unique iTaukei culture, customs, traditions and language. For the first time, the Constitution, and its Bill of Rights, provides express protection for the ownership of iTaukei lands, which shall always remain with the customary owners and which shall under no circumstances be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange. The Constitution goes further to state for the first time in our history that any iTaukei land which is acquired by the State for a particular public purpose must revert to the customary owners if that land is no longer required by the State for that specific purpose.

These provisions will ensure that iTaukei land can no longer be converted and sold as freehold land, as was done under the previous Governments, without objection from TLTB, in the case of Momi and Denarau.

Also for the first time, the owners of customary land and customary fishing grounds are entitled to receive a fair share of royalties with respect to any minerals extracted from their customary land or fishing grounds.

But we also now have socio-economic rights built into the Constitution which fulfills our objective to mainstream Fijians who are marginalized to.

At the same time, my Government is firmly committed to ensuring that individual members of landowning units receive an equal and fair share of all income generated from any iTaukei land. All Mataqali members must have equal access and benefit to the proceeds from the Mataqali land leases. With the current work being carried out by the Government’s ITC Services, equal distribution will be fully implemented and automated by the beginning of next year. TLTB must give full co-operation and priority to this critical national initiative.

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 also has competition now. Through the Land Use Decree a number of iTaukei landowning units have deposited their lands into the Land Bank. Some landowners are doing so because they believe its easier to deal with the Land Bank unit while some tenants prefer to lease land through the land bank unit because the unit is more customer focused. TLTB should in this respect seek to improve its positioning.

Ladies and Gentleman I have this morning highlighted to you some key issues, changes and challenges that you need to be aware of.

TLTB must remodel itself to be become more savvy, more client focused and customer focused. TLTB must understand modern economics. It must not be politicized nor play politics – as others have done in the past. It must fulfill its fiduciary duty to its beneficiaries, the landowners, with utter most transparency and professionalism. It must not be corrupt nor should it treat the landowners and tenants with indifference.

Ladies and Gentlemen you play a critical role in our country. We look forward to you making that difference in the new Fiji. I rely on you as does the rest of Fiji.

With those remarks, I wish all participants successful deliberations in this Workshop. I now declare the Strategic Planning Workshop open.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank You.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Speech at Annual TLTB Strategic Corporate Planning Workshop

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you.

As Chairman of the Board and Minister for iTaukei Affairs, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address this most important of our nation’s institutions and its staff.

Since 1940, the TLTB has been entrusted with the task of administering and managing iTaukei lands- to lease them, to collect and distribute rent, and above all to maintain the integrity of those holdings to benefit the landowners.

As landlord of at least 90% of the land in Fiji, the TLTB is also responsible for ensuring that iTaukei lands are accessible for development purposes: that they are used as productively as possible. It is no exaggeration to say that the success of the Fijian economy is dependent on the success and modernisation of the TLTB.

The TLTB provides leases for agriculture, housing, tourism, education, health services and industry. This plays a major role in growing our economy. And that development benefits not only the iTaukei, but every Fijian.

When I announced the Government’s Strategic Framework for Change in 2009, I said what I will repeat today; that the landownership system will remain as it is and native title of lands will not be converted to any other form of ownership.

I also say now what I said back then – that more land needs to be made available for productive use. More potential needs to be developed for agriculture, industry, commerce, infrastructure development, and social projects.

 

I pledged that my Government would work with iTaukei landowners to ensure that they get a fair return on their land when they lease it; that the distribution of the lease monies was carried out on an equitable basis so that all iTaukei benefit, not just a select few.

And our reforms in the sugar industry have been and continue to be especially important. Thousands of farmers rely on sugar cane farming for their survival. Thousands of landowners and their families rely on the rents they receive from those farmers. A viable sugar industry is essential for them and for the nation as a whole. It is a major source of export revenue and one of the main planks of our economy. There are no if, buts or maybes when it comes to sugar. We have no choice but to get the arrangements right, especially as relates to land leases.

Today, some three years down the track, I am happy to state that the Government has kept its word. Our reforms are delivering better outcomes for the nation and for those we serve.

And we will continue to reform. Today, I can announce that the administrative fees charged by TLTB will be reduced 2.5%, effective January 1, 2013. It is expected that these will be reduced a further 2.5% later in the year, equalling an effective 5% drop in 2013. This will mean more lease money in the hands of all landowners.

But we must not forget that there is a responsibility on everyone – landowners and lessees – to make sure that the system works. Landowners must make land available, and those who lease the land must make sure that they pay their rent on time.

We cannot allow a vicious cycle to continue in which- landowners are reluctant to renew leases because they cannot extract their rents. And tenants are reluctant to pay rent because there is uncertainty.

But we are also plagued by in-house problems that we must rectify as soon as possible.

The database of landowners is woefully out of date and has not yet been fully computerised.

In some areas there is a continuing lack of understanding of the mission of the TLTB and a lack of willingness to work to further the development of land usage in Fiji.

The TLTB itself must improve its services and standards.

As we turn our attention to developing a strategic plan for 2013 through to 2015, I would urge a more responsible attitude on the part of the employees of TLTB.

We all know that in some areas we’ve fallen short of our obligation to our people to discharge our duties with the highest level of honesty and integrity.

Some individuals have let the team down.

We hear cases of abuse of office by TLTB staff out in the field. Cases of extortion; Of making promises to lessees that the TLTB staff know they cannot or will not fulfil; Of giving encouragement to landowners that they know is false; Of depriving the very people they serve, the landowners, of their just dues.

In fact, staff members have recently been fired because they breached their fiduciary duty to the landowners.

On Friday night, I told our civil servants what I’ll repeat here. That we expect the highest standards of performance and probity.

We will not tolerate laziness or incompetence and anyone who is corrupt will be found out and dealt with.

But it is not only corruption that we must keep a watchful eye on. The TLTB must also fight against the plague of an unresponsive and uncaring bureaucracy. The TLTB must adhere to good corporate governance. And the TLTB must modernise.

As your Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board, I urge each of you to reflect on how you can do your jobs better, not just for yourselves, but for the people you serve.

In order to encourage this, the TLTB will be reviewing the Terms and Conditions of all employees’ contracts and employee rules.

Now, promotion will be given on merit, initiative will be rewarded, and additional benefits will be reserved for those whose performance has set them apart.

You will be judged by current market and industry standards, not by who you know or how long you have been with the TLTB.

This is one the very basic reforms we are looking to implement across Government bodies. We want to put our best foot forward. We need to put ordinary people first. We don’t want to tie them up in red tape, delay services to them because of incompetence, or place unnecessary hurdles in their way.

We must always look for ways to make the system more simple and accessible, to enable and facilitate, not confuse and obstruct.

You need to be more responsive to the people’s needs, especially for the poorer and less educated.

As the largest landlord in Fiji, the TLTB has a huge amount of responsibility: responsibility to the land owners, who rely on honest and competent delivery of service and payment; responsibility to the tenants, who rely on advocacy to ensure security and sustainability; and finally, responsibility to the Fijian people, who rely on the thoughtful and progressive allocation of land and an understanding of the economic and financial imperatives to support social projects and private sector investment that will grow our economy.

That is the big picture. But I want to stress today that it is the little person we stand for – and stand by – most of all.

Empathy, compassion and kindness are as important as lists, graphs and charts.

Yes, we must always observe proper procedure and strive for maximum efficiency.

But we must never forget that we are servants with a mission to serve the people of Fiji.

Good luck with your deliberations. After this workshop, I look forward to improved service delivery by a modern, efficient, and competent TLTB.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.