Let’s roll in changes in sugar in­dus­try or we will re­gret it later

Fiji Sun - - Comment - NEMANI DELAIBATIKI Feed­back: nemani.delaibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

We can­not af­ford the pol­i­tics of the past and we must not be afraid of changes. We need to in­no­vate and come up with new ideas, not the old ones that are no longer rel­e­vant in the mod­ern econ­omy. We are still ex­pect­ing our econ­omy as a whole to grow by up to 3 per cent this year de­spite the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by Win­ston.

Voreqe Bain­i­marama

Prime Min­is­ter

This is not the time to be play­ing pol­i­tics on sugar. This is a time to se­ri­ously con­sider how we can keep the in­dus­try vi­able in the face of se­vere chal­lenges be­cause all of us will be af­fected one way or the other. Not just the sug­ar­cane farm­ers and their fam­i­lies but the many thou­sands who de­pend on sugar for their liveli­hoods – the cane lorry driv­ers and own­ers, the op­er­a­tors of the sec­ondary in­dus­tries who feed off the sug­ar­cane farm­ers. The shops, trans­port etc.

In a nut­shell, the whole nation is af­fected. The jobs that were cre­ated be­cause of sugar could dis­ap­pear. This is the ul­ti­mate im­pli­ca­tion. In­stead of em­bark­ing on a po­lit­i­cal points-scor­ing game, we need to se­ri­ously look at the end game. Where will be next year when our sugar quotas to the Euro­pean Union end? This is a sober­ing thought. For­tu­nately for us, Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama and his Gov­ern­ment are putting in place changes that will save the sugar in­dus­try and the liveli­hood of more than 200,000 peo­ple who are di­rectly de­pen­dent on it. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Bain­i­marama this has meant dis­man­tling a num­ber of in­dus­try struc­tures, up­grad­ing three of four sugar mills and strength­en­ing the fi­nances of the Fiji Sugar Cor­po­ra­tion. He says now they are con­cen­trat­ing on the le­gal frame­work of the in­dus­try – fur­ther re­fin­ing and stream­lin­ing its pro­cesses – with two bills that have been be­fore a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee that will soon re­port to Par­lia­ment it­self.

The bills have dis­pensed with some his­tor­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions that are no longer rel­e­vant in the much more dy­namic and price volatile en­vi­ron­ment in the sugar in­dus­try.

Crit­ics of the sugar re­forms have at­tacked the pro­posed changes with­out re­ally look­ing at the end prod­uct. We can­not af­ford the pol­i­tics of the past and we must not be afraid of changes. We need to in­no­vate and come up with new ideas, not the old ones that are no longer rel­e­vant in the mod­ern econ­omy. We see politi­cians of old com­ing out of the wood­work and try­ing to in­flu­ence the masses with their own spin of what is wrong with the re­forms. The need for re­forms is even more ur­gent now after Cy­clone Win­ston. All up our losses in sug­ar­cane in­dus­try add up to $163.35 mil­lion. The loss of work­ers’ liveli­hoods is $53.5 mil­lion. The dam­age and losses at the FSC mills is pegged at $72.7 mil­lion. Pro­duc­tion in­fra­struc­ture losses are $16.9 mil­lion. And a fur­ther $19.7 mil­lion has been lost in in­dus­try ser­vices. We are lucky Win­ston spared our tourism in­dus­try. It has given us that breath­ing space to be able to bounce back quickly.

It is some­thing that we will have to con­tinue to be mind­ful about our fu­ture in re­la­tion to cli­mate change.

We are vul­ner­a­ble to ad­verse weather pat­terns. It’s all the more rea­son that we should be in­no­vat­ing and find­ing new ways of sus­tain­ing our in­dus­try in the event of an­other cat­a­strophic nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion is a way for­ward. Right now all ideas should be on the ta­ble to help strengthen our re­silience. If we do not do it now we will re­gret it later.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Fiji

© PressReader. All rights reserved.