Short Briefs: Lots of Sanctions, Roadmap and Economy, Censorship
SANCTIONS OF ONE SORT OR ANOTHER
Australia not listening. Solomon Islands Foreign Minister, William Haomae, says Australia is not listening to Pacific Island countries on the timetable for talks on the proposed PACER Plus Free Trade agreement. Fiji is excluded from these talks. Photo. Nick Driano.
Continued EU sanctions a blow to sugar industry. USP Economics professor Biman Prasad says the continuation of EU sanctions is a major blow to the sugar industry. Fiji would have received some US$84m of EU aid since 2006, almost all of which has now expired leaving only US$38m available for 2010, and even that is now suspended for another six months. The aid, suspended since the Coup, was intended to improve overall efficiency and boost production at the farm level. Prof Prasad said the "the continued withholding of the aid will have a drastic impact."
It is difficult to see how crippling an already ailing major industry on which so many people's livelihood depend will help Fiji in any way.
The Commonwealth has rejected Fiji's appeal to participate in the 2011 Delhi Games, but Commonwealth countries such as Rwanda, Nigeria and Pakisan with a much worse human rights record will participate. There is little doubt Fiji has Australia and NZ to thank for this. Their supportive voice could have made all the difference. And their sanctions, we are told, hurt ordinary people as little as possible.
By now it must to obvious to the most thick-headed politican that the Bainimarama-government will not voluntarily change tack until its Roadmap is complete.
What then do the sanction-makers want: an uprising! Or is Fiji merely being used as a warning to other small Pacific states? Surely the Pacific "super powers" are not afraid of losing face if they moderate their stance and urge the international community to do likewise.
A purely logical assessment of the situation would indicate it is much more sensible to assist the Government to achieve its stated objectives as soon as possible, and in being so involved be in a stronger position to see it stays on course?
Current overseas government travel warnings do not help tourism, Fiji's largest industry. The Australian government urges its citizens to exercise caution, especially in or near Suva, because of the prevalence of crime, targeted especially at expatriates and tourists, and the potential for civil unrest. The New Zealand government says there is some risk, especially in Suva, due to the potential for civil disorder and violence. The US government urges its citizens to consider carefully the risks of a visit to Fiji at this time, and urges them to avoid demonstrations and large crowds. And that's not to mention typhoid in Suva and hurricanes.
The main tourist areas are, of course, nowhere near Suva but even in Suva I am unaware of any increase in crime targeting tourists (the sword sellers continue to plague cruise tourists perhaps, but this is harassement and petty crime, and the City Council is taking action against them). As for civil disorder and demonstrations: this seems to be more wishful thinking than an actual risk?
ROADMAP SEEKS TO DEVELOP THE ECONOMY
I-Taukei involvement. Government is encouraging indigenous landowners to become shareholders in businesses, especially hotel development, and any hotel development where i-taukei landowners have a 25% shareholding will be allowed an additional corporate tax holiday.
Rice farming needs better infrastructure if it to achieve the State’s target of reducing the $40-million import bill for rice, says Indonesian envoy Aidil Chandra Salim during his tour of the Northern Division. Mr Salim said the Indonesian Government was committed to reviving the rice industry by supplying mechanical aid, technical assistance and training to farmers. Local farmers sent to Indonesia to learn to learn farming practices had doubled their yields.
“Before using our farming system, farmers in Fiji used to produce two to three tonnes per hectare. After using our methods, the yield improved up to seven tonnes per hectare. This is a positive indication,” he said.
The Super Yacht industry, expected to be a big earner for Fiji, has been endorsed by Cabinet.
Red Rascal potatoes. In its ongoing bid towards food self-sufficiency, Fiji is to import $75,000 worth of NZ Red Rascal seed potatoes for planting in the Western Division. Potato imports currently cost the country $19m a year.
A million trees. Environment Minister, Colonel Samuela Saumatua says
Fiji is to embark on a campaign to plant a million trees as part of a national campaign to mark the ‘Year of Biodiversity’ declared by the United Nations Conventions on Biological Diversity.
RBF gives profit to Government. The Reserve Bank has given the government $39,247,000 which is its entire profit of $16,600,000 for the financial year ended 31st December 2009 and $22,647,000 representing one-fifth of the balance of the Revaluation Reserve Account. The prevailing weak economic conditions and tight fiscal position decided the Bank not to add to General Reserves.The transfer to Government in 2009 for the 2008 financial year was $33,000,031. FRB Governor Sada Reddy said that the 2009 financial performance was much better than the Bank's budget estimates and was greatly assisted by improvements in the level of foreign reserves which for the first time exceed $1 billion, almost twice the level of a year ago.
Fiji’s Consumer Council is lobbying for the United Nations to translate consumer rights into a genuine and solid commitment under the UN umbrella of rights and protection.
CENSORSHIP AND NO CENSORSHIP
Anti-government blog. Government attempts to close down the anti-government blog Fiji Today have been only partly successful. The blog is reported to have re-opened under new management.
Suva-based Pacific Island News Association (PINA) and PacNews says the technical problems are responsible for members and users being unable to access their services, not government blocking their website and wire service as some people have speculated.