BUILD­ING THE NEW, SMARTER FIJI

Friends, my great­est am­bi­tion as Prime Min­is­ter is to equip ev­ery Fi­jian child – no mat­ter how dis­ad­van­taged their back­ground might be – with the skills to go out into the world and make some­thing of them­selves.

Fiji Sun - - Big Story - Voreqe Bain­i­marama

The fol­low­ing is Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs, iTaukei Af­fairs and Su­gar In­dus­try Voreqe Bain­i­marama’s ad­dress to the Fi­jian com­mu­nity in Auckland on Oc­to­ber 21.

My fel­low Fi­jians and friends of Fiji, Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

It’s won­der­ful to be here with the great ex­tended Fi­jian fam­ily in Auckland and I bring you greet­ings from ev­ery­one back home. As I told the mem­bers of our Aus­tralian fam­ily in Syd­ney last week­end, it doesn’t mat­ter where we are in the world, we re­main for­ever con­nected to our is­land home. And no mat­ter where we go, we take our Fi­jian val­ues with us. Our yalo loloma or our bada dil – the big hearts that we all pride our­selves on hav­ing.

Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston

The first thing I want to do tonight is to thank you all for your big hearted re­sponse to the plight of our peo­ple back home who were af­fected by Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston in Fe­bru­ary.

We are still get­ting over - as a na­tion and as in­di­vid­u­als - the loss of 44 of our loved ones. We are still in the process of get­ting back on our feet, of re­build­ing the thou­sands of homes that were de­stroyed. But the bur­den that so many Fi­jians faced was con­sid­er­ably light­ened by so many peo­ple around the world like you – the won­der­ful mem­bers of the Fi­jian com­mu­nity in New Zealand. The way you came to­gether to con­trib­ute to the re­lief ef­fort re­ally touched the hearts of our peo­ple. So from your ex­tended fam­ily mem­bers back in Fiji, vinaka vakalevu to you all.

Re­build bet­ter, stronger

Friends, we are de­ter­mined to build back bet­ter and stronger. Be­cause we know that it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore the fury re­turns. Cli­mate change is pro­duc­ing more fre­quent and more in­tense weather events all over the world. And we have to be pre­pared for this new and ter­ri­fy­ing era. While at the same time do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to per­suade the in­dus­trial na­tions to cut back on the car­bon emis­sions that are caus­ing this crisis in the first place.

COP-22

As you know, Fiji is tak­ing a lead role in this fight. And next month, I will be trav­el­ling to Morocco for COP22, where I will again be press­ing for deeper cuts in car­bon emis­sions than we have on the ta­ble at the mo­ment.

Fiji and the other Pa­cific coun­tries want global warm­ing to be caped at one-point-five de­grees above the prein­dus­trial age, rather than the two per cent that the world agreed to at COP-21 last year. So we will keep fight­ing for our po­si­tion. While we also do ev­ery­thing we can to pre­pare our peo­ple for more cy­clones, as well as get­ting them back on their feet af­ter the last.

The sheer scale of the dis­as­ter caused by Win­ston means that it is tak­ing longer to re­build our homes and schools than we would have liked. But the re­build­ing ef­fort is in full swing and we are also ex­plor­ing more in­no­va­tive ways of build­ing back bet­ter and more ef­fi­ciently. In­clud­ing with some Kiwi help.

Kiwi help

A New Zealand com­pany has put in a ten­der to re­build homes and schools us­ing mo­du­lar units – mo­du­lar tech­nol­ogy – that is a lot quicker to erect than con­ven­tional build­ing meth­ods. They did a lot to house the vic­tims of the Christchurch earth­quake and we’ll be look­ing at this as part of the so­lu­tion in cy­clone-rav­aged parts of Fiji.

Where we are now

Friends, I in­tend to take some of your ques­tions af­ter this. But be­fore I do, I just want to give you a brief over­view of where we are at in Fiji, in­clud­ing in our re­la­tions with New Zealand.

As you know, this is my first of­fi­cial visit to the coun­try. And while it’s no se­cret that we have gone through some dif­fi­cult times in our re­la­tion­ship, we are putting all that be­hind us. In fact, I’m coming here at a time when our of­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship has never been bet­ter. And I in­tend to use my face-to-face meet­ing with John Key to­mor­row to bring us even closer to­gether.

John Key

I like John Key and am re­ally look­ing for­ward to our talks and then go­ing to the Bledis­loe Cup to­gether to­mor­row night. It was great to have him in Fiji back in June and what­ever the New Zealand me­dia said about the visit, it was a ter­rific suc­cess and the Prime Min­is­ter and I got on very well. He’s a straight shooter and I ad­mire him for his plain speak­ing and will­ing­ness to let by­gones be by­gones – just as I am do­ing with him and the New Zealand gov­ern­ment. The same ap­plies to Mal­colm Turn­bull in Aus­tralia. So I’m do­ing ev­ery­thing that I can to pro­duce a closer re­la­tion­ship with both coun­tries, in which we col­lab­o­rate on a whole range of mat­ters in an at­mos­phere of mu­tual trust and re­spect.

Work­ing to­gether

As we come closer to­gether, all sorts of op­por­tu­ni­ties present them­selves. More trade, more in­vest­ment and closer co-op­er­a­tion on all those chal­lenges we face in the re­gion. Whether it’s cli­mate change, drug traf­fick­ing, peo­ple traf­fick­ing or any num­ber of other things in which work­ing closer to­gether makes it far more likely that we can find so­lu­tions.

Friends, just to give you some idea of the big pic­ture as I see it: We need to give Fiji a big­ger voice in the world on is­sues like cli­mate change and the threat to our en­vi­ron­ment and es­pe­cially our oceans. The Pa­cific - like other oceans and seas around the world – is in a mess.

Our oceans

Over­fish­ing by self­ish na­tions is af­fect­ing the catch on which our coastal com­mu­ni­ties de­pend. And there is far too much pol­lu­tion, in­clud­ing all those plas­tic bags and bot­tles that the coun­tries on the Pa­cific Rim are dump­ing into our ocean and are mak­ing their way down to us. That’s why Fiji is join­ing Swe­den to

co-host a UN con­fer­ence in New York next June to start ad­dress­ing this crisis. While at the same time, do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to draw global at­ten­tion to the ur­gent need to ad­dress the chal­lenge of cli­mate change. So on two fronts – ex­treme weather events and ris­ing sea lev­els and the qual­ity of the wa­ters around us – Fiji is tak­ing a strong stand. Be­cause if we can’t stay safe and don’t have a clean en­vi­ron­ment, the fu­ture for us all looks pretty bleak.

Our econ­omy

Friends, at the same time, we are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to grow our econ­omy, raise liv­ing stan­dards and pro­vide our peo­ple with in­ter­est­ing, sus­tain­able liveli­hoods. And we are hav­ing a tremen­dous amount of suc­cess in do­ing so. We’ve had seven straight years of eco­nomic growth – the long­est in Fi­jian his­tory. And even with the crush­ing ef­fect of Cy­clone

Win­ston, we’re still ex­pect­ing close to three per cent growth this year. Be­cause, thank God, Win­ston spared our main tourism ar­eas. All this means keep­ing jobs, more jobs, and bet­ter jobs. And with more peo­ple em­ployed and more com­pa­nies mak­ing prof­its, the rev­enue that the Gov­ern­ment gets from taxes is also bet­ter. And we’re able to chan­nel a lot more of that rev­enue into such things as ed­u­ca­tion and health. And in tak­ing care of the more vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our so­ci­ety, such as low in­come earn­ers, the sick and the elderly. We’ve been able to do things that pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions of Fi­jians could only dream about. In­clud­ing free school­ing for our young peo­ple, more schol­ar­ships and a ter­tiary loans pro­gramme. Even the most dis­ad­van­taged Fi­jian child now has the chance to get a proper ed­u­ca­tion. And we’ve es­tab­lished a net­work of tech­ni­cal col­leges across the coun­try to give our young peo­ple ac­cess to bet­ter trade skills and in­crease our na­tion’s skills base. All those things like prop­erly trained plumbers, elec­tri­cians, car­pen­ters, me­chan­ics and cooks that any coun­try needs to be suc­cess­ful.

Ed­u­ca­tion Rev­o­lu­tion

These new tech­ni­cal col­leges plus our ex­ist­ing three uni­ver­si­ties are giv­ing young Fi­jians un­prece­dented op­por­tu­ni­ties to gain higher qual­i­fi­ca­tions. So they can go out into the world and make a dif­fer­ence. Friends, we have set our­selves the task – with our ed­u­ca­tion rev­o­lu­tion – to be­come a smarter coun­try. A clev­erer coun­try. Be­cause that is the surest way to achieve our over­all ob­jec­tive to turn Fiji from a de­vel­op­ing coun­try into a modern na­tion State. To stand on our own feet. To not be de­pen­dent on for­eign aid. To be a bea­con for other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries for what is pos­si­ble if small na­tions put their minds to it, are dis­ci­plined and fo­cused. To make Fiji even greater and more re­spected than it is now. A voice in the world that is lis­tened to. With a peo­ple equipped with skills that are por­ta­ble and are recog­nised wher­ever Fi­jians travel.

Ci­ti­zens of the world Friends, I’ve said that I want Fi­jians to re­gard them­selves as ci­ti­zens of the world. Tak­ing with them – wher­ever they go - our Fi­jian val­ues of re­spect and care for each other, our re­spect and care for the peo­ple of other na­tions and our re­spect and care for the planet on which we all live. Whether it is as UN peace­keep­ers keep­ing or­di­nary peo­ple safe in ar­eas of con­flict, our vol­un­teer teach­ers and health work­ers in other Pa­cific coun­tries, or any Fi­jian who moves to another part of the world. We can all take our val­ues and our skills with us. And we can all make a dif­fer­ence.

In­vest­ments in Fiji Of course, there is lit­tle point in ed­u­cat­ing our young peo­ple if we don’t pro­vide them with in­ter­est­ing and sus­tain­able jobs. That is why man­ag­ing our fi­nances and econ­omy is so im­por­tant. And cre­at­ing the sta­bil­ity and the in­cen­tives for peo­ple to in­vest in Fiji – whether it is in­vest­ment by Fi­jians or peo­ple liv­ing over­seas. A vi­tal com­po­nent of my Aus­tralian and New Zealand vis­its have been the Trade and In­vest­ment sym­po­siums that we have held in Syd­ney last week and in Auckland yes­ter­day. It’s all about ex­plain­ing to po­ten­tial in­vestors the ben­e­fits of putting their money in Fiji. Of our ed­u­cated work­force, our low taxes and easy ac­cess to other mar­kets. And cre­at­ing the jobs and the wealth on which the pros­per­ity of ev­ery Fi­jian de­pends. We have a grow­ing col­lec­tion of qual­ity Fi­jian Made prod­ucts and ser­vices. And I am mak­ing it a pri­or­ity to take those prod­ucts and ser­vices to the four cor­ners of the earth. And to make the Fi­jian Made brand a by­word for qual­ity the world over. Friends, my great­est am­bi­tion as Prime Min­is­ter is to equip ev­ery Fi­jian child – no mat­ter how dis­ad­van­taged their back­ground might be – with the skills to go out into the world and make some­thing of them­selves. And in do­ing so, to work to­gether with other bet­ter ed­u­cated Fi­jians to make our mark as a na­tion. That is our quest. That is our mis­sion as a Gov­ern­ment. And I’m very grat­i­fied that it has the sup­port of the Fi­jian peo­ple. Friends, by man­ag­ing the econ­omy prop­erly, we are also able to pro­vide the Fi­jian peo­ple with a greater level of ser­vices than ever be­fore. New and bet­ter roads, new air­ports and more ef­fi­cient ports, that re­duces the costs of the things peo­ple buy be­cause our wharves are fi­nally work­ing prop­erly.

New Fiji, in­fra­struc­ture If you haven’t been to Fiji for a while, you’ll be amazed at all the ac­tiv­ity go­ing on. As soon as you leave the air­port, you’ll no­tice the new roads we are build­ing, the new street lights. And when you come to Suva, you’ll be amazed at the trans­for­ma­tion of our cap­i­tal. Our ren­o­vated Gov­ern­ment Build­ings and the Par­lia­ment, The won­der­ful Grand Pa­cific Ho­tel - now grand again - and the re­fur­bished Al­bert Park and our brand-new Pavil­ion. You’ll also be amazed at how con­nected ev­ery­one is, not only mo­bile phones but high speed In­ter­net, which is a big draw-card for in­vest­ment as well.

So Fiji is re­ally buzzing and I urge all of you who haven’t al­ready done so to re­con­nect with your coun­try of birth.

Dual cit­i­zen­ship We have peo­ple with us on this trip that can help you ap­ply for dual cit­i­zen­ship. You can be both a Kiwi and the Fi­jian and come and go as you please. We have peo­ple who can reg­is­ter you to vote in the next elec­tion. And we have peo­ple who can reg­is­ter your chil­dren in the Vola Ni Kawa Bula, if you are iTaukei. Our in­dige­nous peo­ple have never been more se­cure or bet­ter ed­u­cated than un­der my Gov­ern­ment. Cre­at­ing a level play­ing field for ev­ery Fi­jian – cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for all – has not been at the ex­pense of any one eth­nic group, which was the pol­i­tics of old. The iTaukei own 91 per cent of the land and that own­er­ship is guar­an­teed un­der our Con­sti­tu­tion for all time. Along with the pro­tec­tion of the cus­toms and tra­di­tions of the iTaukei, Ro­tu­mans, Ban­a­bans and other groups.

In fact, we have strength­ened the po­si­tion of the iTaukei across the board. And we’ve en­sured that or­di­nary iTaukei are more em­pow­ered and are able to get their fair share of the lease monies that are owed to them through their col­lec­tive own­er­ship of the land. We now have a dig­i­tal record of the mem­bers of each landown­ing unit. So we have bet­ter pro­cesses to en­sure that the dis­tri­bu­tion of lease monies is trans­par­ent and fair.

Fairer, more equal so­ci­ety Above all, Friends, we are pro­duc­ing a fairer and more equal so­ci­ety, us­ing more of our re­sources to di­rect as­sis­tance to those Fi­jians who are most in need. Our low in­comes earn­ers are ben­e­fit­ing from sub­sidised elec­tric­ity and free medicine and wa­ter. Our elderly are ben­e­fit­ing from the first pen­sions to be granted in Fiji. Our women are ben­e­fit­ing from a range of spe­cially tar­geted pro­grammes. And we are fi­nally mak­ing the ef­fort we should have al­ways made to en­hance the op­por­tu­ni­ties for dis­abled peo­ple. Build­ing not only a fairer so­ci­ety but a more car­ing so­ci­ety. Friends, we have made great strides in re­cent years. But it is vi­tal as we move to­wards the half-cen­tury mark as an in­de­pen­dent na­tion that the re­forms that we are mak­ing con­tinue. We can­not af­ford to lose our mo­men­tum, es­pe­cially when it comes to the strength of our econ­omy, on which the pros­per­ity of ev­ery Fi­jian de­pends. We must con­tinue with the un­der­ly­ing phi­los­o­phy of my Gov­ern­ment, which has brought about so­cio-eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence, cre­ated and sus­tained jobs, pro­duced a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for in­vest­ment and a just and fair so­ci­ety. And that is why I am also ask­ing you to sup­port my Gov­ern­ment as we move our na­tion for­ward.

Friends, I want to close by say­ing that you all have a part to play in the new Fiji. And I again urge those who haven’t al­ready done so to re­con­nect, to visit Fiji and for those who have the means, to per­haps build a house or start a busi­ness. There are some great op­por­tu­ni­ties for you to do so and I urge you to get all the in­for­ma­tion you need from our peo­ple at In­vest­ment Fiji.

Friends, vinaka vakalevu for lis­ten­ing. I hope you’ve been able to learn some­thing and I’m now happy to take some ques­tions.

. Pho­tos: DEPTFO News

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama dur­ing the Fi­jian com­mu­nity meet­ing in Auckland, New Zealand

. Pho­tos: DEPTFO News

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama dur­ing the Fi­jian com­mu­nity meet­ing in Auckland, New Zealand

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Fiji

© PressReader. All rights reserved.