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

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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.

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