Why Fiji is not the “Mauritius” of the Pacific?
Lessons for Small Island Nations in the Pacific
Fiji is in the midst of a consultation process for a new Constitution on which General Elections are scheduled to be held in 2014. The new Constitution is going to be the fourth one for Fiji. During the first decade of independence, Fiji’s economy grew at a rate of more than 5% per annum. However, the path to economic prosperity was disrupted by the military coup in 1987 and since then we have had coups in 2000 and 2006. As a small island nation, Fiji’s economic progress has been dismal and this can largely be attributed to the political instability created by the coups. Small Island states like Mauritius has had uninterrupted growth rates in the same period and as a result has delivered significant improvement in the quality of life of its people. This paper discusses why Fiji could not become the Mauritius of the Pacific and points out to the lack of political stability and inclusive economic and political institutions as the major causes of its poor economic performance for the last 25 years.
Many post-colonial countries in the Pacific, Africa and the Indian Ocean started their journey on a positive note, with a vision for shared prosperity. The colonial experiences had left an indelible mark on these countries and their societies. Independence for them meant a move away from exploitation and poverty to democracy and economic prosperity.
Since then, development progress in the decolonized and democratized countries have been uneven, as shown by the literature. Why some countries progressed and others floundered remains an intriguing issue. The questions persist: Why life expectancy increased in some countries, and declined in others? Why did household incomes increased in some, and declined in others? Likewise why did poverty decreased in some and increased in others?
Why are the differences in performance when many countries come from the same geographical region and started out with similar initial conditions? These are questions that continue to interest economists even four decades after the start of what was to become a sweeping decolonization process.
This particular paper looks at Fiji and Mauritius. While different in many respects, they also have many similarities which allow us to compare and contrast their situations, including the path to development. Fiji and Mauritius were almost at the same level of development, with similar macroeconomic indicators well into the eighties. But 1987, when Fiji experienced its first military coup, saw a parting of ways in terms of different paths taken and the outcomes for their development plans.
Continued. The article is in pdf format and contains a number of graphics that are difficult to reproduce in Blogspot. Please click here to quickly download and read the full article.-- Ed.