Melanesian & SPC Musical Chairs, The Big Mouth, Contrary Economic Predictions

WEEKEND READING. Allen Lockington's column, A Stock Take on Fiji Octobere 2010, White Media, Brown Aotearoa, Fiji 'Regional Telecommunications Hub', Remittances and Island Economies, Australian Parl. Sec, on Pacific Islands Affairs. Ambassador Thomson's Fiji Day Address at UN Luncheon . K.R.Fred. Thanks.

HAND-WASHING DAY. Some 1,500 people washed their hands with soap and water simultaneously at Veiuto Primary School today as Fiji joined with other countries to celebrate Global Hand-washing Day. Poor hand-washing behaviour is linked to pandemic H1N1 influenza, typhoid Fever, food and water borne diseases.

MSG MUSICAL CHAIRS. It's rather confusing. Two weeks back the Vanuatu PM's office stated the next Melanesian Speadhead Group meeting will be held in Solomon Islands, which could result in the Solomon's PM becoming its chairman. This was strongly denied in Fiji where Bainimarama was  adamant the meeting will be held in Fiji, when Vanuatu will hand over its chairmanship to Fiji. Earlier in the year, Vanuatu PM Natupei prevented Fiji from assuming the chairmanship by cancelling the meeting due in Fiji, almost certainly due to pressure from Australia. Earlier this week Radio NZI reported that the planned special meeting starting next week would be held in Solomon Islands where is expected a "reconciliation" will take place between Vatuatu and Fiji. Natapei’s spokesman, George Tarimanu, says officials from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji, and members of New Caledonia’’s FLNKS will meet from 21st October.This will be followed on 26th October by a meeting of foreign ministers and a leaders' meeting on the 27th.

Tarimanu says it’s likely Fiji will be the only topic on the agenda and a Melanesian style reconciliation is expected.“I understand it is going to be a special meeting just to resolve the issue of Fiji.” It seems the meetings will be held in Honiara but who the new chairperson will be is still unclear.  Solomon Island Foreign Minister Peter Shanel says it was agreed by Bainimarama, Natapei and Somare that the chairmanship be handed over to Solomon Islands. Bainimarama remains adamant it should be Fiji. Talks are continuing.

. The PM has just announced the chairmanship is expected to first be handed from Vanuatu to the Solomon Islands and then to Fiji. Which should make Pacific Islanders happy, and leave others scratching their head! However, Bainimarama will not attend.  Fiji will be represented  by Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

. The MSG counter announcements (see above) leave one again wondering about the reliability of media sources and official pronouncements. Now it's the SPC's turn.  The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has denied its planning to relocate its regional office to Vanuatu, because of the difficulties securing Fijian visas for its staff. Several media reports quoted the Director General of the SPC, Dr Jimmy Rodgers, saying that if the political situation in Fiji didn't improve by the end of the year, the team would move to Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila. Dr Rodgers reportedly made the comment to Vanuatu's Foreign Minister, Joe Natuman, during the signing of an agreement to set up the SPC office in Port Vila.

THE BIG MOUTHTe Waha Nui is written and published by journalism students at AUT. In its October 8 edition it reports on 'Eakalafi Moala's (photo, in his younger days) keynote address to the Pacific Islands Media Association. Previous reports recorded Moala's concerns about the lack of media freedom due to political pressures, notably in Fiji, and the customary restraints of Pacific Islands societies.  Moala also expressed another important concern: "Sometimes we hear, in the media conferences, talk of funding.

"Funding has become to me an obnoxious word in my ear as a journalist. Everywhere you go they say 'we need funding' and I wonder whether this is why many times special interest groups have become so powerful in their control of the media."

In another article, Indian Weekender publisher Dev Nadkarni, spoke on how media competition increases negative reporting. "Everyone's in this game of increasing ratings. So everything can be sacrificed on the altar of ratings ... everyone wants a new angle, and everyone wants to raise his voice and say this is wrong and that is wrong." 

The common factor between these two statements? Money and media ownership. With media freedom —when it suits— sandwiched in between.

VATUKOULA GOLD PRODUCTION DOUBLED to 40,975 ounces up to August this year assisted by increased capital investment and higher international gold prices. Other good news: foreign exchange reserves were around $1,193 million at 30 September, and the 2010 year-end inflation forecast has been revised downwards to 4% from 5%.

Two economists disagree, one seeing the glass half empty; the other seeing it half full.

In a reply to USP Prof Wadan Narsey's negative assessment of government's economic performance and predictions of economic gloom, FNU's economics Prof Mahendra Reddy says there are "positive indicators that the economy is definitely on the right track compared to the highly precarious state it was in when the Government  took over in 2007.

He thought Prof Narsey had focused only on Government's role and did not give sufficient attention to negative weather and global impacts. When the Government took over in 2007 the economy was in bad shape financially and economically and like every corporate entity with problems, it had to be re-engineered.

“The first two years was spent on 'fire-fighting' and stabilising the economy with funds. This was the stabilisation era; 2011 and onwards will be the growth era for Fiji." He thought the economy is now far more robust than it was and poverty is being brought under control. He expects stable growth in the order of 2-5% yearly over the next four years, which will provide a sound base for resolving some of the "social woes the current government has inherited from past governments." -- Based on 2010 No:1666/MOI.


Friends of Fiji said…
All this talk of the MSG reminds me to ask the question, what exactly has happened as outcomes and follow up from the Friends of Fiji meeting ?

I understand they accept Fiji's roadmap to democracy yet no one in Fiji is yet to sight such document and the PM seems to have stopped referring to it.
Sugar briefing said…
I think this article shows how on top of his portfolio the minister for Sugar is. The FSC is insolvent and the idustry has suffered another shocking year and the PM is being "briefed" in Lautoka.

Frankly given the importance of the sugar industry the minister should have....well "Sugar" as his top priority. He should be all over the detail and spending significant time on it every week.

Lets remember as well that in the only published roadmap (2007) the PM was very confident he would have sugar all fixed by 2010. Everyone before him was lazy, incompetant and wrong. He was going to fix everything yet nearly four years later he looks for a briefing....

PM hopes sugar industry bounces back
Publish date/time: 15/10/2010 [10:01]

Print this page
Email this page The future of the Fiji Sugar Corporation which has been under-performing for some time with multimillion dollar loans and government guarantees is now being assessed before the final decision is made on the best way forward.

Speaking to Fijivillage from Lautoka, Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama who was briefed by the board and management of FSC yesterday, said the Deloitte report on the performance of FSC will be thoroughly discussed to map out FSC's future.

Commodore Bainimarama said any steps taken would have to be assessed carefully based on the number of people depending on the sugar industry.

He confirmed that one of the proposals include the privatization of FSC however he stressed that these need to be analysed.

There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen.

Commodore Bainimarama also confirmed that FSC has huge liabilities and he said that they are also assessing what the Corporation would do next after it was temporarily de-listed from the South Pacific Stock Exchange due to a lack of working capital for the next 12 months.

The Prime Minister said they hope that the sugar industry, including the FSC, can bounce back and deliver positive results for the people involved and the country as a whole
Economy now said…
I agree much of the first two years where about "fire fighting" but most of the fires that had to be put out where those that where lit by the coup itself. Anyone remember the crushing impact of the coup on tourism ? Then there was the fall out form the military getting it totally wrong by making FLP leader minister for finance. Then their was all the failed consultants that promised the world and delivered little. Anyone remember the the New Zealand crew of former Fiji Indians who all came and went.

If we are honest I think the economic performance of this government now is no better or no worse that previous governments. We still have blow outs in military spending, we still have low investment levels and we still have a huge trade gap.
Joe said…
If Frank is of the opinion that the MSG chairmanship will legitimize his govt, he better think again. What is the point of being all dressed up and nowhere to go? Other than china of course. OZ, NZ, US will never ever give in to an illegitimate, born out of wedlock admin as in the case of Fiji. Even India did not entertain participants from Fiji in the Commonwealth games.
ECONOMICS - A Dismal Science said…
@ Economy now......

President Obama is facing a similar situation to Fiji on a much larger scale at Mid-term elections. The necessity of bailing out the bans has put him in a difficult place to defend as perceived by all who have lost their jobs with no new jobs around the corner. Indeed, the US faces the spectre of deflation. So, it is not unique to Fiji that there are controversies (valid and substantial differences) about how the macro-economy should be managed. Why is it always so easy for human nature to neglect to recall the huge difficulties faced once things ease somewhat? Presumably it is an evolutionary trait allowing future challenges to be faced "full on"? But, Fiji was in dire straits economically prior to 2006. In practice, for many businesses 2006 was the only year in which profits once more reached a satisfactory level. Profits must allow for provision of future working capital, shareholder returns through dividends, increases in wages and re-stocking: that is what profit is for. Too many of us forget the proper and just purpose of making a profit. "Nothing ventured, Nothing gained" - how true that old proverb is and without it, there would be no business, no jobs, no GDP and no prospect of a growing economy which will produce development. The Qarase past governments and the governments prior to Qarase had little or no understanding of commerce. They appeared to believe it was a Milch Cow to be milked, unsustainably, without end. Cynically, they relied on private enterprise even to provide police cars, ambulances and all manner of other resources which are properly the duty and tax-payer funded responsibility of government (with a small 'g'). They built government into the Big 'G' when they allowed a Cabinet to take office staffed by 36 Ministers and ministers of state all funded by taxpayers. How skewed an idea of economics, macro or micro, was that? Was there an economist or a successful business person among them? And if not, why not? Did they imagine that this edifice of self-indulgence would endure? For how long? Because in taking up a US$150m loan at 7% interest it is apparent that they did not.

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