MINISTER PRAISES ASSOCIATION ON EMBRACING DEVELOPMENTS
95 PER CENT OF THE POPULATION DEPEND ON AND USE BUS SERVICE: SURVEY ‘Implementation of the national transport planning database will address efficiency within the transport sector, enabling an integrated information system that will assist Government and
President of the Fiji Buses Operators Association, Association members, members of the media, Ladies and Gentlemen, Bula Vinaka and a very Good morning to you all.
It gives me great pleasure to be here today as the Minister responsible for Fiji’s transport sector to officiate at the Fiji Buses Operators Association Annual General meeting this year. At the outset, I wish to commend the President and the Association Executive members for your leadership and actively engaged in advancing Fiji’s public transportation. Ladies and Gentlemen, a safe and reliable transportation system is critical to the prosperity of any economy by ensuring that goods and commodities are moved safely, efficiently and in an environmentally responsible way to reach internal and external trading partners. It also plays a key role in moving passengers to and from destinations, connecting people and places, both at home and abroad.
Fiji’s bus services with its affordability, reliability, regularity reaches a majority of Fiji’s population and is the preferred mode of service for most people. According to the recent Household Travel Survey conducted by my Ministry, about 95 per cent of the population depend on and use bus service as a preferred mode of commuting from one destination to another. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bus industry is very important in its role not only for the provision of services, but also its contribution to the economy by providing employment. The Bus Industry together with the other transport providers collectively contributes about six per cent to the country’s GDP. Fiji is dependent on the Transport Sector to develop and drive the economy. The theme “Partnerships Build Public Transportation” augurs well with Government’s commitment in working together with its key partners in advancing an improved transport industry.
This is not only in the provision of safe and reliable public transportation but also in the development of sustainable road infrastructure. In this regard, Government has invested (ranging from $415 million in 2014, $653 million in 2015 and $527 million in 2016) on infrastructure construction and renewals to address the backlog in the maintenance of our road infrastructure including bridges and jetties. Ladies and Gentlemen, with the increasing population and travelling public, the need for an improved public transportation cannot be overstated. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MoIT) ensures that there are proper policies and mechanism in place for this to be realised. Hence, in July this year, my Ministry launched its Transport Policy and Transport Planning Database. The Transport Policy encompassed a sector assessment providing an overall assessment of the profile of transport system, institutions and traffic operations including some historical perspective, present situation, policy and investment actions that will be targeted. It also complements Government’s vision by supporting and providing the basis for the development of the transport sector for the next 20 years. The implementation of the national transport planning database will address efficiency within the transport sector, enabling an integrated information system that will assist Government and other transport users to make sound transport policy and business decisions. Ladies and Gentlemen, Fiji’s Transport Sector is heavily reliant on fossil fuel and the strategic focus by my Ministry is Sustainable Transport in the Land Transport Sector. The implementation of National Guiding Policies such as the Green Growth, Draft Fiji National Development Plan and the National Transport Policy (Land and Maritime) sets the National platform not only for our Ministry but all transport stakeholders to encourage the use of alternative fuels and sustainable transportation. The bus sector has responded well to the wave of change with the purchase of new buses with better conditions, even adopting cyber technology such as the wifi buses, but more importantly buses that protect the safety of the travelling public.
Increasingly, as a result, more people are choosing to travel by buses because of the affordability and comfort they offer.
Buses are also reaching remote villages previously not serviced. My ministry is now holding public workshops on how we can improve public transport in Fiji. I know many of you have attended these events in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa. We are looking forward to working with you closely to come up with practical ideas to improve public transport for the benefit of many Fijians who cannot afford to own a car.
I wish to reiterate that no one public service operator is able to work in isolation.
In consideration that this is an evolving industry, partnerships formed not only to build public transport, but ensure that effective and efficient service is provided providing connectivity from rural to urban centres. We must all work together in partnership to build a vibrant industry, one that is dynamic enough to embrace new changes and advancing public transportation up another level. On that note, I wish you well in your discussions and deliberations.
Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanya Bhat and God Bless Fiji.
Buses at the Suva Bus Station.