PM on Land Use and Landowners: Speaking at Tropik Wood Mill Opening

A Very Happy Christmas to all readers. Let us continue to  hope that the moderation, positivism, balance and good intentions shown by contributors to this blog have some influence in the year ahead on those who are shaping Fiji's future.

CHRISTMAS WEEKEND READING
• Allen Lockington column
• Fiji Human Rights in Perspective
• Interests and Values in NZ's Pacific Foreign Policy by Gerald McGhie
• Ten Pillars of the People's Charter: Some Observations by Sanjay Ramesh
 (Tuesday 20th December 2011, No:2272/MOI) Prime Minister Bainimarama's Address at the Opening of Tropik Wood Mill (19/12/11)

Ni sa bula vinaka and good afternoon to you all. I am both pleased and proud to be here with you today at the opening of the new Tropik Wood mill.

As Fiji’s economy continues to expand – reviving old industries and developing new ones – it is important to ensure these operations run with the utmost transparency, accountability, and above all, integrity. Under previous leadership, this was not a priority and many industries – along with Fijians that relied on them – suffered.

It has been a priority of my Government to uphold high standards for all business and, as a result, we are gathered today to celebrate one of our many success stories.

For too many years, Fiji Pine, Tropik Wood and its subsidiaries suffered from corruption due to mismanagement, non appointment of professionals who know how to run a business, cost inefficiencies and abuses, bank debt, and lack of a long-term vision.

Since the replacement of the previous management with the current Executive Chairman Faiz Khan, the company has reached significant milestones in reducing its debts with banks by $5.1 million; settling a number of outstanding payments to vendors; and, now, re-investing in its future growth, funded from its own cash flow.

With regard to personnel, the company was forced to get lean and smart with its operations, and has made professional development and training of its workers a priority. Employees now are trained to run an increasingly efficient operation—educated to report daily on key performance indicators, offered skills trainings, and rewarded with bonuses on merit-based evaluations.

Just last month, with the money saved by tackling corruption and practicing financial discipline, the company was able to take on the extra cost of harvesting and labour to load the first full vessel of wood chips for export. They also received recognition for excellence at the Prime Minister's Exporter of the Year Awards. 

The implications of these improvements include Fiji’s potential to grow in the marketplace and become competitive through attention to long-term productivity, sustainable business practices, and proper management.

With an eye to the future, Tropik Wood management will continue its effort to ensure investment and engagement in sustainability of the forests, and development of innovative ideas to secure strong production levels for the next 50-100 years. With this in mind, Government will not forget the interests of the Land Owning Units.

In particular, it is important to remember that forest-based companies are set up for the benefit of the Land Owning Units—not simply those working in offices, managerial positions, or one particular family. Landowners and contractors alike suffer if land is not cultivated and harvested; if only a few benefit; or if rights are impinged.

With my Government’s many investments in the resource sector, I encourage landowners to form strong and productive partnerships with companies that operate with transparency—for the greater good of Fiji, and in the creation of a prosperous future with tangible benefits and returns to Fijians. This is now happening under the management of Tropik Wood.

Landowners must all therefore give positive consideration to the renewal of leases. Do not be persuaded by those who consider only their individual interests. You must all think long-term.

I also take this opportunity to invite landowners to deposit your land with the Government's Land Bank, should you wish to do so.

In an effort to support the landowners, I shall—as chair of TLTB—give due consideration that TLTB not deduct administration fees on stumpage payments in the new year.

If implemented, this will mean all administration arrangements on ground rent paid to landowners per acreage will continue. This will eliminate contract inefficiencies and maintain continuity of the business relationship.

The equal distribution of land lease monies also signifies a commitment on behalf of Government to ensure that all land owners benefit from communally-owned resources, not only a select few.

And, to support the continued and growing relationship between landowners and companies like Tropik Wood that operate in the best interest of its workers as well as landowners, my Government will continue its support of directly beneficial incentives announced in the 2012 Budget.

From the direct allocation of funds for new farming equipment and machinery, to the zero-percent fiscal duty on “equipment and machinery purchased for the purposes of manufacturing”, various additional investments in the resource sector will facilitate the growth of the industry, including value-adding.

My Government is here to empower all Fijians and maintain a safe and productive environment for internal investment—directed not by corruption, but by responsible management and financial responsibility.

This, in turn will translate into global competitiveness and demonstrate the true potential of Fijians to sustain and increase their livelihoods, and contribute to the global economy through the socially, economically, and environmentally responsible utilization of its natural resources.

Many a times, we have seen in Fiji that people have been given positions, or are appointed to positions not because they deserve it, not because of what they know, and not because of their professionalism, but because of their connections, ethnicity, or politics.

We have, under my Government, seen that if you appoint the right professionals, then everyone benefits —whether you are a shareholder, a worker, an employee, a manager, a landowner, an industry, or the country at large.

As clearly demonstrated by the impressive reforms implemented at Tropik Wood—to support the opening of a new mill through the elimination of corruption and maintenance of financial discipline by engaging those who run commercial companies as professionals—it is clear that Fiji’s businesses and industries have unlimited potential.

With pride and excitement, it is now my pleasure to declare the new Tropik Wood mill open.


(Tuesday 20th December 2011, No:2272/MOI)Government Will Not Forget Interests Of Landowners
Government will not forget the interests of the Land Owning Units says Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

While recently opening the Tropik Woods Industries new chip mill upgrade this week, the Prime Minister said that it is important to remember that forest-based companies are set up for the benefit of the Land Owning Units—not simply those working in offices, managerial positions, or one particular family.

“Landowners and contractors alike suffer if land is not cultivated and harvested; if only a few benefit; or if rights are impinged,” Prime Minister Bainimarama said

“With my Government’s many investments in the resource sector, I encourage landowners to form strong and productive partnerships with companies that operate with transparency—for the greater good of Fiji, and in the creation of a prosperous future with tangible benefits and returns to Fijians.

This is now happening under the management of Tropik Wood.”

The Prime Minister while  encouraging Landowners to deposit their land in Government’s land bank said that landowners must give positive consideration to the renewal of leases and not be persuaded by those who consider only their individual interests.

“In an effort to support the landowners, I shall as chair of the TLTB (Taukei Land Trust Board) give due consideration that TLTB not deduct administration fees on stumpage payments in the new year. If implemented, this will mean all administration arrangements on ground rent paid to landowners per acreage will continue,” said Prime Minister Bainimarama.

“This will eliminate contract inefficiencies and maintain continuity of the business relationship.

“The equal distribution of land lease monies also signifies a commitment on behalf of Government to ensure that all land owners benefit from communally-owned resources, not only a select few.”

Executive Chairman for Fiji Pine Group of Companies Faiz Khan also identified the non renewal of land leases as one of the major threats to the pine industry.

“I urge the land owning units (LOU) to understand that only a few benefit from the inefficient cost structures but all members of the land owning unit achieve a benefit out of stumpage payments,” he said.

“I also urge the LOUs whose leases have expired or are about to expire and who have not renewed to renew the leases so that we are able to secure a future for your pine industry for the next generation and many more generations to come.”

Comments

Cobbled and Hobbled said…
A Happy Christmas to you, Croz! But with regard to 2012.....that's another matter.

Just participated in another questionable tender process: the second in a month. Leaked papers suggest that it is "cobbled and hobbled". Why would anyone choose to do business in such a manner? In the past two days, at least two businesses going for sale. More will follow. Investors are fed up and insecure. Thirty years is quite enough. There is no fulfillment in pushing forever against the grain of "haram".
Walker Texas Ranger said…
With immediate effect all tender processes which are believed to have been conducted without full accountability and integrity should be referred to Dr Mahendra Reddy and the Commerce Commission.

Evidence should be carefully retained for future potential referral to Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC)

Two cases have come to our notice where those involved have failed to observe a proper procedure and in so doing they allegedly have broken the law. Investors in Fiji require and deserve a clean process. One such tender has been called for and handled by a major Church in Fiji.
Anonymous said…
How is it that one individual/entity is given exclusive rights in Fiji for casino licence.

We read there were 52 applications for a licence.

Should not this be a deregulated industry to gain full benefit from the process.
i.e on payment ($xk's) one recieves a licence given all other requirements are met.

Or is this franchising of an exclusive licence simply a system of setting up of an agent to conduct business once removed from government scrutiny , as with the system of payment of salaries to PM and his cronies acting as ministers of state and playing at being a cabinet.

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