Thinking … Not Sleeping: Critical but Helpful Ideas on How to Take Fiji Forward

11-13. The Good and Bad News on Business
Continued from yesterday 
( Croz,  responding to some of your questions)

11The good news on business

Tourism is generally a good news story for Fiji. There are some good operators in Fiji and large chains are backed by branding and networks that feed their chains. Government can’t really claim the success as it is the industry that has adapted to the challenges of operating in Fiji. The best thing government has done is stop attacking tourism (although the Reserve Bank (RBF) government still lashes out now and then). They will continue to grow their businesses. Sadly they all now have a ‘coup plan’ just in case. It’s not just big brand names and chains – look at Rosie’s who own LikuLiku for an example of home grown success and a well run operation.

The likes of Hari Punja and his chips and biscuits are also success stories. Everyone loves to have a go at these local tycoons but they are exporting to Australia and New Zealand. Look at the other Punja’s in the West who are exporting to many Pacific Islands. These companies should be encouraged, not attacked. Fiji Water is a success story that has survived Mahen Chaudhry and crazy views from his government. They are not perfect but the overall impact is good for Fiji’s economy. Government would do well to celebrate these companies' success. Business, including foreign investment, follows success not government propaganda (a friend once described the  Trade and Industry Board (FTIB) as the turd-polishing department).

12. The bad new

Sugar is dead, or more correctly dying. I have seen no real positive action on sugar in the 3.5 years of this government and none for that matter from the previous government. It was hard for the previous government with massive union/opposition pressures and influence but no such barriers exist now. Why has government done nothing to fix this ? There is no opposition – they act like a military dictatorship all day every day but when it comes to sugar they worry about who they will offend. The one area that probably needs a military dictatorship to push things through is sugar. Even then there is a good chance they will fail but trying something now is better than crying later.

The new RBF focus on micro-business and micro-credit is hobby horse and pipe dream stuff. The models from India will not work in Fiji. By all means encourage financial literacy (a good place to start would be with some of the military and senior government people). Also, yes - encourage small business but don’t pretend this is an answer to the economy or that government or RBF can teach small business. They can’t.

The focus on so called ‘leakage’ in all industries is rubbish. You can’t stop it – why should every dollar stay in Fiji ? If Australia applied the same, the tourism money coming to Fiji would stop. A better way to think about this is if I have $1 coming into the country today and 40c of that is going out, focus on making the “$1” into “$2”. That way 80c is going out but you have “$1.20” left behind. Tinkering with the 40c to make it 45c or 50c won’t work and the benefit will be small.

(Croz, thanks for your note it encouraged me to finish.)

13. Can the Chambers of Commerce help?
I don’t think so. One of the chambers is run by a failed businessmen and well know coup apologist (I actually think he is more correctly described as coup opportunist). It is the only chamber government talks to because like good soldiers they tell them only what they want to hear. The other chamber is more practical but government wrote them off long ago for daring to say something different to government.

Maybe government could take on some advisers – business people from outside Fiji perhaps with one or two from within Fiji but conflict of interest will always be present.

Continued tomorrow …

Click "Comment" below to comment and see others' comments.


Red Dragon said…
"Conflict of interest will always be present.."

Conflicts of interest are often present and that is not the issue: the issue is whether they are undeclared and what the person who wears the different hats decides to do to mitigate them. Many business people in Fiji have failed in this place. Many directors and Chairpersons sitting on diverse boards (How did that happen again?) are seen to avoid discussing their conflicting interests with fellow directors, so jeopardising the proper running of the business or institution they are currently with. This is a failure of personal and corporate ethics: no more, no less. It must always be exposed as such.
Another thinker said…
Thinking makes some good comments but much more needs to be said about tourism and sugar. For example:
- Government has been pumping in $24m into tourism in recent budgets
- Tourism brings in only 40-42c in the dollar while the sugar industry brings in 90-95c in the dollar.
- The wages in the lower section of the tourism industry are very low
- There has been a mismatch between tourism and agriculture and furniture production which, hopefully is in the process of being remedied..
Subversive dig? said…
Is the Alan Judd quote to the right here, Croz, a parody of the Dictator, by any chance?
SOE said…
Am unsure about Alan Judd as I have never encountered anything by him before. However, this quotation reflects Barbar Tuchman's observations to a 'T'. We need some self-actualised thinkers and advisors around. Self-actualised people have lost their egos and found their wits: the sum total leads them on to Wisdom. When we meet such people, we recognise this instantly. They are courageous and constantly seeking for new ways and means. They do not have to prove themselves right but look for innovative ways to improve and are flexible in their 'smart thinking'. I must say that President Obama comes immediately to mind and also Sir Winston Churchill. Not too many others measure up to them. Leaders cannot afford to be self-effacing but they do require humility in their thinking. A constant peer review must be going on and if it is not, then mistakes creep in. "Primus inter pares" - First among Equals. A good way of thinking about PMs. But Australia has just turned this on its head?
Anonymous said…
@ Subversive Dig?

The Qarase quote is rather amusing to ponder now (three years and more on). The consumate self-absorption and certainty of the 'topped'. Has former PM Kevin Rudd said anything like this, one wonders? If not, will he soon?
Anonymous said…
@ Thinking not sleeping

Good thinking but your time might be better spent sleeping in Fiji at present. My own friends there say no ones talking becaus no one is listening.

Look forward to your next bit all the same.

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