NZ-Solomons-Fiji, Wages, China, Media, Economy, Health

PACER PLUS WEB LINKS. Apologies to readers were unable to access the links I thought I'd provided on 21 August. Click here to access.

NZ WILL HELP "RESTORE DEMOCRACY." PM John Key has again said NZ will "help the Fiji interim regime restore democracy" with personnel or financial assistance. This is great news except that the "restoration" cannot be to the former very imperfect democracy that some would claim was racism in disguise.

The PM also wants the Bainimarama government to "engage with all the relevant stakeholders in Fiji, including other political parties." Re-engage to restore democracy with race-based political parties?

“My government," he said, " has tried to reach out and offer the hand of friendship to Fiji. We want to see democracy restored there and we are working very aggressively to make that happen.”

John, you must know you are asking the impossible. In fact, you're playing the same cracked record Helen Clarke first played  in 2007. We need a new label and a new tune.

However, NZ's recent support to include Fiji in Pacer Plus talks and the reduced travel ban now only for "regime members and their immediate family" might, just might, be the start of something new.  But who, exactly, are the regime members?  Does the definition still includes career civil servants, the judiciary, members of quasi-government and statutory boards, and members of the USP Council?

SOLOMONS AND NZ ON FIJI. New PM Danny Philip restated that what Fiji does is Fiji’s own business. “We are going to make a practical, candid relationship with Fiji on the matter. We are going to embrace Fiji, we are going to talk with Fiji, to have consultations with Fiji.”

His comment followed his meeting with NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully who in turn said his three visits  to Fiji this year were a sign of engagement with the Fijian administration in Suva. [1. On your marks. 2. Get Set.  3.No Go.]

GARMENT WAGES. The Wage Council has been unable to decide on proposed base wage rates for the garment factory workers as the employers’ representatives were "not available" Chairman Fr Kevin Barr  hopes that the appointment of new Council members by Government will make a ruling possible by the end of the year. Fr Barr acknowledged the need for businesses to remain competitive in a difficult business environment but said the Council will "not allow employers to pay workers extremely low wages."
CHINESE INVESTMENT. Minister for Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that 14 representatives from two Chinese companies have come forward with proposals ranging from setting up a cement factory, slipway facilities, investing in Agriculture, Port facilities as well as hardware opportunities and education, as a result of the Shanghai Expo and the PM's recent visit to China.

. Government recognizes that the media plays an integral role in ensuring good governance and sustainable development says Information Permanent Secretary Sharon Smith Johns. But this means "a responsible and non-partisan press prepared to look at all points of view, not reflecting the personal agendas and prejudices of journalists and media organizations. She pointed in particular to what she calls a ‘hostile media campaign’ against Fiji by a number of Australian media organizations saying they lacked an understanding of the progresses the country has made so far.

. Economist Dr Mahendra Reddy said Fiji's projected 1.7% growth rate is short of the benchmark, and should be growing by 6-7% annually. For the past 20 years the economy has been growing marginally by 1-2% and last year it contracted by 2.2%. He expected growth to improve with the growth of Fiji's trading partners but pointed to the need to improve internal factors. It is hoped Government measures will improve confidence and investment to ensure growth.

HIV/AIDS CASES INCREASING.The number of positive cases of HIV AIDS in Fiji is increasing. The Head of Department of the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission of HIV, Dr Litia Narube says that unless the country introduces the compulsory testing of pregnant mothers, or their partners, then the trend in Fiji will be as bad as that in PNG where one adult in three could be infected within the next 20 years. Where cases are detected among pregnant mothers, they are given drugs from 7 months into pregnancy until one week after birth. The WHO recommends drugs from 3 months into pregnancy but Fiji does not have the resources.

WHY TOO MANY FIJIANS DIE YOUNG. Fiji has an inactive and lazy population  says Fiji College of General Practitioners President Dr Ram Raju. Statistics show that more than 80% of the population die from Non-Communicable Diseases. Approximately 18% are diabetics, 19% are hypertensive and 81% are overweight.Only 16% of the population is aged over 50 years. This means that men and women in their prime working life are dying too early as a result of NCD’s. Dr Raju says our population appears very lazy and NCD’s are preventable if people exercise regularly, eat the right food, stay fit and lead an active life.


Flame haired red rag said…
Sharon Smith Johns has forgotten the first rule of a crack public relations practitioner - stay out of the limelight even as you try to influence events. Going public with allegations of a "hostile campaign" by certain Australian media organisations doesn't help her cause at all. Indeed, you could mount a compelling argument that her comments are more likely to prove totally unproductive - a red rag to a bull prodding the beast into giving Fiji another kick. In any event, public comments like this should come from the communications minister ( Bainimarama ) rather than the permanent secretary for information. Ms Smith Johns seems to regard her role as being a public advocate for the regime when she's a civil servant who ought to remain silent and wield her influence behind the scenes. She's far too big a target for the media in Australia, who are already aghast that one of their fellow citizens should morph into a propagandist for a regional dictator. They certainly won't appreciate her homily on responsible journalism, that's for sure.
Joe said…
John Key is accepting the 2014 election time frame as opposed to his demand for an earlier election previously. Should this be seen as a change of heart and an olive branch? Or is he scared of the Chinese and the ex-Fijians in NZ who will vote him out of power? Go figure.
Dialogue, Power, Personal Grudges said…
I think it remains reasonable to include the countries two largest political parties in dialogue as it relates to a new constitution and voting system. I don’t understand how the PM can talk about “free and fair” elections and at the same time exclude them.

Clearly he fears that after 4 year and even after 8 years of him executing more unchallenged power than any other prime minister in the history of Fiji that these two parties will still get support. He has said he does not trust the people so it is hard to believe he actually believes in democracy and therefore I also worry that he will not keep his promise of 2014.

If the leaders of these two parties are convicted on fraud charges then by all means exclude the leaders (not the party) however to date they seem to be really struggling with this. The double standards are also amazing with Mahen’s indiscretions ignored when they wanted him as part of the Government and now getting lots of attention. I also remember the PM talking about anyone with a criminal past being excluded and only shortly after his brother in law remaining as Navy head after being convicted of manslaughter after a common brawl in a car park (that’s the great military leadership the country should aspire too?). The charges against the former PM actually don’t relate to a time when he was PM so that’s another issue.

The bigger issue is that as it stands no serious new parties can be formed. The PER puts a stop to that. The existing parties don’t even have a chance to reform themselves – you can’t do that without debate and meeting and the PER also puts a stop to that.

I suggest much of the growing frustration in Fiji is that the PM’s actions never seem to meet his promises. He has stopped all debate yet promises democracy of which debate is a centre piece. He promises transparency but applies none to the current government’s decisions and even less to the military and military council.

There is a general view that SDL is the Fijian party and Labour the Indian party. The membership would suggest this. However you can’t claim the parties are racist just because their membership is primarily one ethic background – if you did that most racist institutions in Fiji would surely be the RFMF. So with new manifestos and policy it is possible for existing parties to reform. Besides we are told racism will be eradicated by the existing PM (and enshrined in constitution).

I personally suspect the PM knows he has to crush all his opposition regardless of whether they have done any wrong. He prefers them to be in jail. Why ? Because he knows he has destroyed a lot of people’s lives and livelihoods. He knows much of what he and his team have been about is retribution and settling old grudges real or perceived.

The PM knows any new PM and team would sadly be just as focussed on settling scores with the him for his 8 years of rule. Sadly another reason why he probably won’t give up power……
RBF forecasts said…
Every year since the coup the RBF has forecast positive growth then quickly started the worked of gradually revising the number down untilit becomes negative. The major reason - political instability caused by the military coup in 2006 and the trashing of the constitution in 2009, total military powr under decrees is never mentioned. The RBF again forecasts positive growth this year. I doubt it.
Hollow words said…

"Government recognizes that the media plays an integral role in ensuring good governance and sustainable development" - I don't believe for a second that this government believe this. If they did why would they have the PER in place which stop all debate ?

"a responsible and non-partisan press prepared to look at all points of view, not reflecting the personal agendas and prejudices of journalists and media organizations." This begs the question - what is in Sharon/PM/Governments/Military's eyes is ALL POINTS OF VIEW ?

The evidence today goes something like this.....



"She pointed in particular to what she calls a ‘hostile media campaign’ against Fiji by a number of Australian media organizations saying they lacked an understanding of the progresses the country has made so far."

Well Sharon a good start would be to publish something that shows the progress you have made - perhaps the roadmap to parimentary democracy you often mention. That would be a good start. As you gave a presentation to the Friends of Fiji meeting on this perhaps a easy starting point would be to publish this.

With the PER in place and attitude of this government these words remain empty words.
Where is the credibility? said…
It is all about credibility. And no matter how hard the junta and its sad supporters try that seems to be escaping them. No amount of spin changes the fact that the credibility of the military regime, where it really matters, is very thin. This is a big problem as even more international isolation is their fate.
. said…
@ Flame ... I think we should be welcoming clear and coherent information and opinion from the Fiji government, irrespective of source, but SSJ is only one of four permanent secretaries who have made public comments in the past few days. The others were Public Service, Agriculture and Public Enterprises.

@ Dialogue ... You may well be right but how will the inclusion of the SDL and FLP change your predicted outcome? I expect they will be represented in some way when political dialogue recommences, but they will need to prove greater multi-racialism than they have in the past. I think you are also correct in identifying the role of personal grudges though how Bainimarama will ever forgive Qarase, and to a lesser extent, Chaudhry, I do not know.

@ RBF ... Political instability is certainly ONE reason for the low rates of growth, but neither started in 2006. And since 2006 growth has also been impeded by the global recession and the policies of some of Fiji's overseas "friends."

@ Hollow words ... Are you new to this blog? We have been publishing items on progress for the past two years, and on Roadmap progress since June last year. Political and constitutional reform will come from 2012 on, as Government has repeatedly stated. I suspect these are the only things you are interested in, not other evidence of progress.
Australia Incorporated said…
Are you suggesting the regime members don't know who they are? If so this could explain the current state of confusion?
Anonymous said…
@ Croz

The bigger question. How will they ever be able to forgive Frank ?
Joe said…
@ Croz.
99.9% of comments on your blogsite these days are sadly not in favour of the current govt, as opposed to the contrary some months back. Dont you think that there is a remote possibility that this govt may have lost its way somewhat?
Maynard Keynes Inc said…
@ Australia inc:

Confusion has always reigned: or for as long as anyone can remember. Losses & inefficiencies in the Sugar Industry? Or any other industry/enterprise? They have always been there but there are enhanced now by many factors including: mindset/corruption/failure to fully grasp the world climate and the prospects of yet another recession looming in the USA. No preparation or positioning has ever taken place in Fiji to prepare for future economic events. Five Year Plans are a no no because who would be able to plan so far ahead with any degree of certainty? Until we may plan as least for two years ahead, confusion will reign. But is this any different around the rest of the world just now?
Anonymous said…
Too many Fijians are dying young...

We know that Fijians are dying young because there is simply too much stress. There has been so for the past twenty years. Endless political instability followed by real instability and violence. Violence in the home, violence in the workplace, violence in small businesses, criminal intimidation and threats. These are symptoms of institutions which had almost failed and are still under threat. The Fiji Police have failed to address this. They now have a new leader and a new opportunity. This has to work: it cannot be permitted to fail.
Hollow words said…
@ Croz,

Yes some progress has been made on public service reform but with absolutely no opposition they could have done this all in six months.

Yes I am referring to reform to get to parlimentary democracy - none has happened. Sharan and PM have been recently quoted saying they have been updating people on the progress on the raodmap to parlimentary democracy. It seems you agree there has been none also so it must have been a very short breifing eg "we have made no progress in fact we haven't even bothered to start and we won't till 2012". Then stop the pretendiing please and say something more honest like:

We find it hard to do anything we want under democracy so we have put the whole thing on hold. We might have a election in 2014, definately not before but also not definately in 2014. We will have more exuses later when we start in 2012 and realise how hard it is. Or we won't start in 2012 cause our other reform may not be completed.
RBF forecasts said…
@ croz

You hint there has been some economic growth since the coup. On published economic data the economy contracted in 2007, 2008, and 2009. RBF are forecasting less than 2% growth this year but based on past three they over state this and ususally revise down later. Even a increase 2% (maybe possible) or even 10% (impossible) would still leave us behind economic activity rates in 2006.

Agree Fiji's economic growth has been lactlustre for 20 years and external factors can impact however as Prof Prasard recently pointed out the single biggest negative impact on Fiji's economy has been coups and the impact of 2006 was worse than others because there was no bounce in optimism.

This military led government are the masters at blaming everyone else except themselves. They should acknowlege that the biggest negative impact on the economy has been and remains THEIR action in 2006 and they have had little impact in negating that negative impact since.
Valarius said…
Anon:Sep 1, 2010 10:23:00 PM

Put a name to your post you faceless git.

Listen up Frank does not need forgiving infact your papa Qarase and his fraudulent SDL party ought start asking the people for forgiveness.
Milosevich Reborn said…
@ Valarius said...

You must be kidding! Have you not forgotten that a Ceremony took place in Albert Park: was it in 2003 or 2004? The former PM Laisenia Qarase was seen to have his feet washed at a 'Reconciliation Ceremony'. It was imagined that HE would be washing the feet of those whom he had offended and insulted over very many years. Not in the least! This was "Reconciliation LQ-style". As Topsy-Turvy as it might be. Scarcely a word was uttered or a pertinent question asked. The Fiji Times published as though all "were as it should be". That is why we have no GDP to crow about. What other explanation can there be? However, we must not forget that neither NZ nor Australia made any comment about this. It appeared they believed this to be a condign, democratic move. The latest in a catastrophic choreography to kick-up the dust and confuse them all. What a pity they proved so unastute and so uncommited to principles of human rights. No parity of esteem or regard for the dead and the terrorised? Perhaps the most nauseating display of aspirational ethnic cleansing since the Bosnian and Kosovan wars?
Radiolucas said…
@ Milosovich reborn

Sorry, what was the pertinent question that had to be asked? Whether or not Qarase liked to have his feet washed? Whether it was your feet that needed washing? Or Valarius' feet?

Also what does your statement: "That is why we have no GDP to crow about" have anything to do with Qarase in 2004?

Are you saying that Qarase's economic policy made Frank become the Minister for Finance AND created that Global Financial Crisis?

IN any event, haven't you heard that we have a crack team of Military minds in charge of Fiji's economy?

They have well and truly seen to the defeat of any GDP that Fiji might have had: "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory", you might say. (Perhaps they mistook 'Gross Domestic Product' for Geniuine Democratic Progress'.)

Finally, why are you referring to genocide? Are you saying that Fiji's genocide is as bad as the Bosnian conflict? Over 100,000 people died in that conflict. That is a tenth of Fiji's population at a minimum.

You might be getting a bit carried away here: Godwins law of 'reductio ad Hitlerum' may now have to apply.

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