Oct 22, 2017 Last Updated 8:27 AM, Oct 20, 2017

ADB to loan Fiji $341.1m

Confidence in Fiji economy

THE Asian Development Bank has earmarked $341.1million in firm and tentative investments between 2018-2020. The ADBs country operations plan for Fiji 2018-2020 reveals this funding will be directed to three specific areas. Of the amount, $180million will be to facilitate private-sector-led growth - $50 million will be co-financed from the World Bank.

In 2019, the ADB will provide $111.1million towards an Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Management Investment Program. Co-financiers of this project will be the European Investment Bank, the Green Climate Fund, and the Fijian Government. By 2020, $50million will be allocated for a potential new transport (ports) infrastructure investment.

The ADB has confidence in the Fijian economy, according to the operations plan document. “Since 2014, total investment in Fiji has exceeded the government’s target of 25per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), largely driven by higher public expenditure to address infrastructure gaps, particularly in transport and water and sanitation,” says the ADB report.

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SINCE Tropical Cyclone Winston made its brutal landfall in the country last year, Fiji has doubled its efforts to building back better and tripled its commitment to combat climate change. Keeping in mind the Paris agreement, individuals and organizations both have since then re-affirmed the importance of sustaining and restoring healthy ecosystems, including coastal areas, particularly for climate adaption purposes. Leadership Fiji 2016 (LF2016) and Mangrove for Fiji in this same spirit joined hands in establishing a mangrove restoration project for Malake Island that had to bear the brunt of the storm last year.

In August last year, the two teams visited Malake Island and built a 1000 propagule nursery. Following that, they made a second visit to the island this year and planted a new record of 6085 mangrove propagules along the coastline. Fiji Leadership 2016 representative James Pridgeon said the team chose Malake to initiate the project with because Ra was one of the badly affected areas during the storm.

“Malake is the biggest village in the Province of Ra. They are still rebuilding their homes and lives 15 months later,” he said.

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Killing the golden goose

High taxes threaten tourism

HIGH taxes and service charges have pushed Fiji’s major revenue generator into the more expensive destinations for tourists. With VAT increasing from 5 to 10 per cent and Service Turnover Tax reducing from 10 to six per cent and Departure Taxes at $200 per passenger, what was once a popular choice for New Zealanders and Australians may soon be out of reach for families.

And families are the key to the success of tourism in Fiji. Hoteliers have been forced to find creative ways to sell their destination and product in a very competitive market where technology has had a major impact on how companies reaching out to their customers.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has lobbied government not to tax the only industry that it claims actively and positively addresses environmental issues through pro-active self-funded programs. During a media workshop organized by the association in Suva last month, participants discussed the need to reduce the tax levied on the industry. Instead, tourism operators want the same taxes spread across industries which impacted the environment. These taxes would be collected and used to fund environment protection programs.

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Beauty with purpose

Miss World Fiji to use global pageant to spread divine word

FULL-TIME missionary and university science graduate Nanise Rainima will represent Fiji at this year’s Miss World Pageant to be staged in China in November. There are three things on her mind: to spread the word about her faith, to promote her culture, and to create awareness about climate change.

The 25-year old lass from Nakelo, Tailevu has a distinguishing feature that makes her stand out. The “buiniga” or traditional Fijian afro hairstyle that she wears with pride. “It’s the true epitome of Fijian beauty,” she says. Nanise will be the first indigenous woman to represent Fiji at the global event. Previous contestants have either been part-European or Indian with long straight hair.

She calls it a blessing having the “buiniga” but reaction on social media from outside Fiji has not been receptive. However, she is determined to fully experience what the pageant has to offer, both the negative and positive. “I’m fully aware of what I’m getting myself into and I’m ready.” It’s not usual for a missionary with a strong evangelical church background to be entering pageants. But this is nothing new to Nanise.

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THE Attorney General and Minister for the Economy Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum is probably the most influential Minister this country has ever had. His influence is everywhere, in the Decrees, the Constitution, the Electoral system, economic policies the news media and even foreign policies of this country.

He has been in a position of unusual power and influence since 2007 when he became the Attorney General and Minister for Justice under the first Cabinet of Commodore Bainimarama. That was after the removal through a bloodless Coup of the elected government led by Laisenia Qarase on December 4, 2006.

Will Khaiyum’s influence on the direction and evolution of Fiji as a state, a political and economic system and a nation of diverse people, be of lasting significance? This is a question that should be evaluated and answered after he is no longer in power, by those who are better qualified and can take a more objective and balanced assessment.

This column is only a narrow impressionistic commentary on some of his initiatives and impacts, particularly on development towards the 2013 Constitution. Parliament and the electoral laws. I generally raise the question: What had motivated him and will his actions be of lasting value to the country?

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