Events and Comments on This Week's Main News

Serua,  south central Viti Levu; Tailevu, eastern Viti Levu. 

 The Tailevu and Serua Provincial Councils met and both indicated support for the 2013 Constitution; Australia could be taking steps to  normalise relations with Fiji; $40m has been set aside for the election and PNG has promised $20m; the Supervisor of Elections position has been advertised (see end note); Budget Day is next Friday 8th November; a new bridge is planned for Denarau and a new port is being investigated for Macuata; the Housing Authority has launched  a 'Toso Mai Dua' loan package for those earning under $25,000; a third new Airbus A330 will arrive this coming week and Fiji Airways Boeing 747s will be retired next month; the laptop per child programme is progressing; the economy is now forecast to grow by 3.6%, an upward revision from 3.2%, across several sector; the PM has revealed a little more about the political party he intends to form; SOLELPA is still to choose its president; and the People's Democratic Party that had earlier denied any connection with unionists now reveals that the Fiji Trade Union Congress was behind the new party. PDP interim President Adi Sivia Qoro also announced the priorities that she thought the Bainimara Government should address.

The People's Democratic Party
The PDP priorities are refreshingly different from those of SODELPA and the FLP that, for all their claims otherwise, want to reinstate the old Fiji.  The PDP pinpoints areas of forward activity, and they do not criticize the broad scope of Government policy.  The intent seems more to be to change some emphases.

Thus, to strengthen the economy, they welcome  capital expenditure on infrastructure but not on borrowed money. Borrowing, they say, should be matched by national productivity. They call upon government to review its loan portfolio, foreign borrowings and its capacity to service debt.

Their concern with the extent of government borrowing is well placed, but one assumes government has done the arithmetic and can see no way of improving a long-neglected infrastructure without extensive borrowing.  The costs are huge and could not possibly be met by national productivity. Indeed, the cost may be needed to lift productivity. Strengthening the primary export sector and creating an "enabling environment" for private investment, for example, which are both PDP priorities, cannot be done without  massive improvements to infrastructure.  The PDP also calls for new lending to the export and import replacement sectors, two areas where government has been particularly active. Witness, for example, expenditure to tie Fiji's economic periphery (Rotuma, the Northern and Eastern Divisions, Kadavu, and parts of the Viti Levu interior) into the national economy.

PDP's domestic policies similarly seem bent on improving what Government has started. Thus, the party wants a review on grants to schools, saying that free education will not be a reality if families still have to pay "other costs." They want a review of allowances to the disabled, saying present allowances are grossly inadequate; and they want a review of VAT paid on basic food stuffs.

All of these recommendations, worthy as they are, cost money.

If Fiji's biggest earner, the tourism industry, is to compete with other destinations and grow, it had to improve the Fiji Airways fleet. The three new Airbuses  purchased will carry more tourists more economically from further distances, but they were financed on money borrowed from various stakeholders including the the European Investment Bank and the Fiji National Provident Fund. Borrowing locally may appear a good choice but Government has already been criticised for borrowing from the FNPF, and local money would never have been enough.

If Fiji is to have a larger, stronger and more diverse economy, there is no choice:  it must have greatly improved infrastructure.

People's party or union party, or both?
Many voters would welcome the launching of this new party, with its broad agenda, but  for what appear to be divisions within the party. The original denial that the party had been set up by trade unionists came unstuck despite some feet shuffling by spokesman Nirmal Singh who said that although the party office was in the FTUC building "we don't use trade union facilities" and he intends to move "out of the FTUC complex soon so there is no link whatsoever.”  Singh also said that the PDP has given hope for many people in this country, and so it might have, though claiming "massive" support would appear a little premature

FTUC president, Daniel Urai and general secretary Felix Anthony, were acknowledged as party founders in August, and Urai confirmed this on FijiLive this week, adding that the FTUC will be appearing and speaking in public forums for the PDP in the lead-up to elections.

It is understood that these statements have not gone down well with some party executives – especially those who have worked tirelessly to promote PDP as a people’s party, such as Adi Sivia Qoro, former FLP stalwart Krishna Datt and USP law lecturer Aman Ravindra Singh.

A political party growing from a union initiative is, of course, not new. Almost all Labour Parties in the Western world were the result of union activity.  In Fiji, the Fiji Labour Party was launched in  1985 under the auspices of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, and its leader, Mahendra Chaudhry was also the first general secretary of the Fiji National Farmers  Union which was launched in 1978. A contrary move, from political party to "union",  saw the establishment of the Fiji Cane Growers Association in 1992 by supporters of the National Federation Party, a move intended to counter the influence of the FLP.  So, the association of unions and political parties is not new, but it could be a hindrance to the PDP as it strives to establish itself as a "people's party, for all people."

The A-G  in Serua
At the Serua Provincial Council chiefs and delegates said they support new constitution after the A-G clarified some key issues that were raised.

These  included the difference between  the village by laws and the supreme law of the land, the surfing decree, issues on mahogany, mineral resources and ownership of anything below six feet, the protection of iTaukei land, socio-economic rights, rights of women and children, fair and unfair discrimination and the 2014 general election.

On the village by-laws, Sayed-Khaiyum said the constitution sets out the basic framework for the whole nation and for the villagers, the chiefs in the village have to sign and agree with their village laws which the government allows.He said the Surfing Decree is to open up economic activity for landowners and attracts more tourists. And Fiji governments have always owned anything below six feet of the ground.  The only difference now is that the landowners have a fair share of lease money, and this is protected by the constitution.

The PM's political party
Speaking at the Serua Provincial Council meeting, the PM confirmed that he will resign, as required in the Constitution, as Commander of the RFMF before forming a forming a political party. Asked by Serua paramount chief , the Turaga na Vunivalu Ratu Peni Latianara about the criteria for selection as a candidate in his party, the PM  said: being loyal and ready to serve, hard work and transparency. He said his proposed party would be different from existing political parties, most of which “in the past had promised to serve the people but when elected they sang a different tune.They cared for a special group. They make promises and most of them are still outstanding.”  He said his proposed party would chart a new way forward for the nation and would be people-oriented. Party membership will be open to all Fijians.“When all is ready I will call on all Fijians to join the party.”

At the talanoa session following the meeting, the PM urged the people of Serua to choose the political party they want to be associated with wisely. Meanwhile, he is  completing the developments promised by the Government.

It would seem the PM's elecdtion campaign is well under way.

Election arrangements
With the Supervisor of Elections position advertised, the question arises as to whether the yet-to-be-appointed Elections Commission will be consulted on the appointment, and whether everything will be held back until the new Electoral law is passed. One would have thought the proper order would be:  law first, then commission, then commissioner, not the other way round. 


Anonymous said…
Simplistic cut and paste and very sanitised. Makes even the Fiji Sun appear to have integrity. Where is the real news?
Anonymous said…

I believe you are correct in stating the "PM's election campaign is well underway" but this raises several questions about a level playing field and fair and credible elections. The PM does not yet have a party and therefore should refrain from any elctioneering. There are very clear steps that need to be taken before the PM or anyone can claim to be a party - this includes 5000 signatures from four established offices all of which need to be checked by the elections office and then published with time for objectons. The party needs a charter, executives and finances - all to be approved by government. It took the older established parties and new parties some time to do this. If the PM is electioneering before he has a party then it is a misue of government funds and a breach of his own decrees. It also feels a lot like previous governments he so likes to paint as evil.
Reality said…
Transparency ? The military government may have done a number of good things but it certainly has not been transparent - no auditor general reports, secret salarie and payments, laws made in secret.....

I wonder if the PM has said transparency so many time he actually believes he is. What a joke.
Who is the PM kidding said…
"They make promises and most of them are still outstanding" PM referring to "old politicians"

Lets look at the currents PMs promises
- Elections in 2010 ?
- Sugar industry fixed ?
- No one in the military will benefit from the coup ?
- No one in the interim government will be eligible to stand for elections ?
- Accountability and transparecny ?

Military people who surround themselves with yes men can be so blind !
Anonymous said…
PNG offered $40 million. How come its now $20million?
Either way, the cost is a disgrace, but no doubt will be well spent to buy votes for the government in power.
Hire of village halls and turaga ni koro's houses , carrier's, and casual employees.

A nice little scam for the country, to get some foreign dollars. lol.
Crosbie Walsh said…
You seem to have no idea about journalistic practice. Acknowledged cut and paste is nothing out of the ordinary, and all my sources are acknowledged which is more than can be said for you,your comments and the "other" blogs you no doubt admire.. Many readers welcome my postings that put together news from several sources, sometimes with comments thrown in. If you do not, please bury your head on some other blog site. You seem more intent on negative criticism than in saying anything useful.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Who is the PM kidding? 1. The court ruling in 2009 created new circumstances that influenced the decision not to hold the 2010 elections. 2.The sugar industry seems to be reviving. I take it you read recent news from Fiji.3. How exactly have the military benefited? Some senior officers have taken up civic positions for which they are being paid. Should they have volunteered to work for nothing? 4. Yes. This is a reversal but they will have to step down from government before standing as candidates. This is probably one reason the PM is leaving his political party until close to the elections. I don't particularly like it, but it's no big thing. 5. The Auditor-General's work excepted, most things are better than before
Crosbie Walsh said…
I suspect this is a journalist error, the amount being originally in PNG kina.
doro@lami said…
We all accept that whatever this regime does or has done, it never a 'big thing to you', nor do they take the slightest notice of any of the advice you provide.So i guess you are in the same boat as the rest of us, except you live in NZ. Ever the spin doctor....'new circumstances', 'seems to be', 'work for nothing', 'will have to step down', 'until close to the elections', 'most things are better'
rusi said…
tut tut, Croz will tell you it is necessary , nay essential, that this regime are not held to the standards of any future government and should be free to make whatever rules that keep them in power. What are you thinking? Heaven forbid we find out what wealth has been acquired and disposed of by thugs and their families during fiji's benevolent rule of the military. So self-less, and all this so i can be safe and equal.
Anonymous said…
Yes, there certainly is a serious deterioration in the state of Fiji under this illegal regime. It will take many years to return to freedom, democracy and the rule of law (uncorrupted). The state of national debt is only one of the many problems that will need correction as the country is rehabilitated.
Anonymous said…
Yes also think of the thugs who robbed the nation under the garb of democracy. All achieved as they felt secure with the Army compliant and supportive. Then the Army was your champ but now it has turned against so they have become the thugs... good on them - if thugs can fix thugs good for the nation! Ask Qarase he went in as PM with no claim to being a millionaire but became a multimillionaire within a short period when he got booted out. Everyone in team had the privilege to feed from the trough of corruption and now it is not available the hooded 'saints' have emerged singing hymns of democracy, as they cannot participate in the loot of the nation.
Anonymous said…
The other crowd had the Auditor General but did it make any difference? The reports got ignored and gathered dust on the shelves. They allowed the Army to grow in power and authority and funded them because it was an ally but it has broken free and challenged the thugs! Reality I know your pain - just learn to live with it!
Anonymous said…
People's Democratic Party is the only and best solution to take Fiji forward. Aiarse and Bainimimi are both losers and have only themselves at heart...nothing to do with the poor or the unfortunate.

PDP for Real Change

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