News and Comments Thursday 29 November 2012
is soon expected to provide free internet and data access for Fijians across the country. The move was announced yesterday at the opening of the Tele-centre at Nukuloa School along the Lautoka/Ba corridor by acting Prime Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Another seven Tele-centres will be opened at other locations around the country in the coming weeks.
“This is one of the Government’s most important initiatives – to provide free access to the internet for ordinary Fijians. This is a way we can bridge the digital divide between rich and poor and rural and urban people in Fiji,” he said.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that ten more centres would be established in 2013 as part of the Government’s ongoing efforts to forge a smarter, better connected and more modern Fiji. “Only about 25-thousand Fijians have regular access to a fix-lined internet connection at the moment and we believe that this initiative will improve that figure dramatically,” the he said. As well as all the necessary hardware and software, the Government is also providing security for the Tele-centres and an assistant to help users learn how to use the services. The first lot of Tele-centers were launched by the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, in October last year, at Suva Sangam College, Levuka Public School, and Rakiraki Public High School.
Related story. US expert says Fiji should develop its own net.
CONSUMER COUNCIL CONCERNED ABOUT COUNTERFEITS. Council CEO Premila Kumar has accused "many traders and service providers (of) unfair trade practices which includes selling of counterfeit products as genuine.She gave one example of Czech Cebo sandals being sold as genuine when investigations found they were made in China and sold at a price that matches the price of the genuine sandals. So far the Council has received nearly 2,000 complaints involving goods worth over $2 million.
MORE SQUATTER AREA UPGRADES. Upgrading works will be carried out on three squatter settlements (Nasinu, Ba and Savusavu) next year, and work will continue at Caubati, Sasawira, Narere, Cuvu and Ledrusasa. The 2013 Budget allocated $1 million for squatter upgrading and resettlement projects. A 2007 survey showed that 15% of the population live in squatter settlements but this figure excludes areas on native and private land where people have been given some sort of permission to build without any recourse to building standards. Squatter is not a useful term in Fiji. The terms "informal housing" and "informal settlements" are more appropriate.
NEW VUNIVALU IN MID-2013. The chiefly clan in Bau Island will announce the name of its new Vunivalu next year although a decision has been made on the incumbent for the position.The new Vunivalu of Bau, the paramount Chief of the Kubuna Confederacy that has been vacant since 1989 was put on hold earlier this year. The four male candidates are Ratu George Cakobau Junior, the son of the late Vunivalu, his brother Ratu Epenisa Cakobau, Ratu George Kadavulevu Naulivou, and former Vice-President Ratu Jope Seniloli. The head of the Tovata confederacy is the Tui Cakau, currently Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, and the head of the Burebasaga confederacy is the Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa, both former SDL Ministers and both sworn enemies of the Bainimarama government.
HEALTH MINISTRY BALANCING ACT. The ratio of money allocated to capital works and operational costs will change from 20:80 to 30:70 next year, and perhaps 40:60 later on. The 2013 budget has allocated an additional $15 million to the Ministry of Health, amounting to a total grant of $167 million. The additional funds will allow the ministry to cover operational costs and improve existing services, equipment, and infrastructure. Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma said, "All these years, the ministry had built many institutions and facilities but had not been able to maintain all of it. We have not provided it with a coat of paint, when you go out to the Eastern Division, you will find that there are health centres with no paint, the gutters have fallen off, no more water left there, the poor nurse is trying to do her thing, the machine is broken down. So what she is able to do is a big issue.
FOUR YEARS WORK ON ROAD UPGRADES. Fiji Roads Authority manager Mike Rudge believes that all road works and other road maintenance that needs urgent repairing will be done successfully, with the $422 million budget allocation by the government for next year.
"The FRA is delighted with the budget that the government has provided. This budget achieves a good balance of improving the road network with the new capital projects in Suva, Nadi and Vanua Levu and sustainable funding for roads and bridge renewal and maintenance," he said.
He said if the government and other donors continued to assist FRA with similar funding for the next four years, FRA would be able to maintain maintenance and renewal of more than 500km of reseals, more than 85km rehabilitation works, 80,000km of unsealed roads grading, 300km of new gravel on the unsealed road, all potholes filled within a week maximum response time, pavement repairs, improved pavement marking and delineation, shoulder maintenance, drainage maintenance (cleaning and upgrading), signs maintenance, routine bridge work (excludes major structural work), vegetation control, initial emergency response (excluding full reinstatement to be funded separately) and improved standard of traffic management.
Mr Rudge said government was aware of similar level of funding for the next few years in order to sustain road conditions that had been repaired and those that were currently being fixed.
"The FRA believes that the level of funding the government has provided for maintenance and renewals of roads and bridges will allow us to make a difference to the roads that most need it," he said.
FRA received $27.3 million for its operating grant and $395.1 million as its capital grant.