Wednesday, March 30, 2011

China Helps Towards Energy Sustainability, Into Potatoes, Housing, Squatters, Labour Reforms

N0280. CHINESE-CONSTRUCTED HYDRO DAM at Nadarivatu in the upper Sigatoka River valley that commenced construction in 2009 is 90% completed and should be finished this year. The dam will be able to store a billion litres of water which will travel through a 2km tunnel to the power station on the river. Power capacity is 41.7 megawatts, equal to an estimated saving of F$50million a year in fuel costs. The construction by the China based Sino-Hydro Corporation.  The dam cost will cost about F$283.2 million (US$155million).

N0281. 90% RENEWABLE ENERGY BY 2015? The Fiji Electricity Authority hopes new renewable energy initiatives will help it to meet this target, that would cover a peak daily demand of 217 MW (1045 GWh per annum), by 2015.

The projects include the waste-to-energy power generators by iVITI Renewable Disenergy Power Plants, and Pacific Renewable Energy's wood-fired Lautoka plant.

FEA is also investigating wind-farm possibilities for Ovalau, and the use of bagasse from the Fiji Sugar's Rarawai Mill. There is also a proposal by a new Independent Power Producer for an 8.5 MW biomass-fired power plant for Labasa, to be phased in over five years.

N0282. SWITCHING FROM SUGAR TO POTATOES. A landowning unit (and farm co-operative) at Mataso in inland Ra province that has been farming sugar cane for 50 years is switching to potatoes and vegetable farming. They say they are cheaper to produce because of quicker maturity and they are cheaper to transport.From two hectares of land the co-operative earns between $12,000-$20,000 a year, and the money has already helped improve the lives of the villagers. They have been assisted by the Ministry of Agriculture in the new new venture and Government has provided a tractor.

N0283.N0284. WIDE CONSULTATION ON HOUSING POLICY.  Fiji has a major housing problem with up to one-fifth of its population living in squatter areas and many more unable to afford present housing prices.

Work towards a resolution of the problem and the formulation of a national housing policy commenced in June 2009. A steering committee of key stakeholders was appointed  and broad-based consultations were held to examine options on public and social housing. UN-Habitat assisted with advice based on its global experience and lessons learnt from international best practices.

The Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment launched the National Housing Policy earlier today. The policy is designed to provide a new strategic vision to achieve the goal of affordable housing for all.  -- Based on No.0733/MOI.

N0285. MORE ACTION ON URBAN SQUATTING
. A delegation from the Asia Coalition of Housing Action was in Fiji recently to discuss squatter upgrading projects with town and city special administrators as well as officials of the Ministry of Local Government and Urban Development. According to the Director of Housing and Squatter Settlement, Kolinio Bola,  the parties agreed "that 15 squatter upgrading programmes will be undertaken over the the next three years with a total budget of $1.2 million.”

N0286. LABOUR REFORMS. Fiji is well in advance on its labour reform programmes and is being recognised as the role model on labour reform for Pacific Island countries. Labour permanent secretary Taito Waqa  said yesterday Fiji's Occupational Health and Safety reforms were recognised by the ILO which is using the Fiji's reform model in other Pacific Island countries.

McCully's Carrot, Fiji's Response; MSG Meeting Update, Qarase Trial Date

N0275. AUSTRALIA- NZ, WHO'S LEADING WHO?  Hard on the heels of Kevin Rudd's statement that showed there was no change in the Australian government's position on Fiji (that is now even drawing criticism from former supporters such as Jenny Hayward-Jones of the Lowy Institute) comes NZ Foreign Minister McCully's statement that NZ would relax its travel bans against Fiji if the Bainimarama government would give a firm commitment to hold elections in 2014.

It is hard to know whether to take this remark seriously because Fiji has repeatedly said there will be elections in 2014. Their Roadmap, as readers will know because it has been stated often enough on this blog, set 2009-11 aside for physical and institutional infrastructure reforms, followed by constitutional reforms in 2012, electoral reforms in 2013, and elections in 2014, probably in September.

This is the Roadmap that was spelt out to Melanesian leaders at the "Engaging the Pacific" meeting at Natadola last year, and is being updated to Melanesian Spearhead Group officials this week in Suva (see N0277, below).  The Roadmap is based on the eleven pillars of the People's Charter and progress towards achieving the Charter goals is being monitored by the Strategic Framework for Change committee that was the subject of another posting in this blog last week.

There really is no excuse for the Minister not to know that 2014 is a definite date unless he chooses to heed  misleading media reports where Bainimarama has said some villagers are saying his government is so good, they don't want elections. The anti-government blogs and foreign media, bless them all, have put the villagers' words in Bainimarama's mouth and said they are the first signs that the government will renege on the elections. They have also speculated the military will not give up the "cushy" positions they now hold in government. 

The Minister, incredibly, seems to think that being able to attend "the Rugby World Cup would act as a carrot for the Fijian interim government to give a cast-iron assurance in return for lifting the travel ban in time for the Cup." We all know Bainimarama likes his football but it's more than a little condescending and patronising of the Minister to suppose Bainimarama would put a game ahead of what he is trying to do in Fiji.

There does, however, seem to be some change in NZ's position. McCully had previously demanded immediate elections. He now accepts 2014 as the election year. And in accepting this date, he acknowledges that the ban will have to be relaxed soon to allow the Fiji Government to appoint the people it will require to plan for the election. He notes they have "struggled to recruit for senior positions because the ban automatically applied to those people." In doing so, of course, he admits NZ policies have helped to increase the military presence in government, an outcome he presumably did not want.

The Minister said, "There's a point where it's going to be in our (sic!)  interests for them to be able to recruit heads of government departments that are not members of the military; that means at that point you have to look at the sanctions." Note "our" interests. I thought we were acting in Fiji's interests.

As the NZHerald notes "Mr McCully's views on softening sanctions to help Fiji appear at odds with the harder line taken by Australia." The Minister denies his approach is different from Kevin Rudd's. But why not? We are a sovereign nation, capable of our own initiatives. We do not need to follow Australia's lead all the time. And Dr Rudd has been far too preoocupied with Asia to have any firsthand knowledge of what is happening in the Pacific.


For a refreshing Aussie look at Australia and NZ's position, read this link to the Auckland University of Technology's Pacific Media Watch.


N0276. FIJI RESPONDS TO MURRAY McCULLY. Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Inoke Kubuabola says the Fijian government is  committed to holding General Elections in 2014.

“Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has time and again emphasized his commitment to elections timeline in 2014. That timeline remains and nothing has changed as far as government is concerned. Government is committed to ensuring that good and fair election is conducted. What more cast-iron assurance can this be for New Zealand or any other country for that matter.”

“New Zealand just doesn’t want to recognize nor understand that Fiji needs to give its people a fair and just election system that makes up the multiracial country of Fiji.” said Ratu Inoke. He said these things cannot be achieved overnight, and the government has set the time to 2014. -- MOI.

Col. Pio Tikoduadua, permanent secretary to the PM's Office,  echoed Ratu Inoke's remarks by saying
Fiji remains committed to holding elections in 2014 as this is  government’s promise to the people.  Note, to the Fijian people, not to NZ or some other foreign power. He said he found Minister McCully's comments "interesting."

The sticking point, once the date is accepted, will be on how open and inclusive the electoral dialogue will be, and which people and which parties will be allowed to stand for election.  I suspect McCully will want the "old politicans" represented.  I doubt this will be allowed.  They created the conditions that led to the coup.


N0277. MSG FOREIGN MINISTERS WERE BRIEFED on the progress of the implementation of the Strategic Framework for Change this morning. The areas covered were: Good governance (progress on the constitutional, electoral, public service and public sector reforms); Infrastructural developments (progress on land reforms, enhancement of international relations, maintaining macroeconomic stability and raising investment levels); and  socio-cultural programmes (reducing poverty, developing a common national identity, improving health service delivery and social justice). The Strategic Framework is based on the pillars of the People’s Charter to which all Government ministries are working to achieve. PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Don Polye expressed his country’s support for the work being carried out to reform Fiji. -- Based on No.0737/MOI.

N0278.TRADE EXPO AT MSG MEET. Some 24 companies and manufacturers of food products, home furnishing, textiles, footwear, financial services and much more are showing what they can offer the region at the expo that will be open at the Vale Ni Bose complex for the duration of the MSG meeting.Visits by the public are welcome. -- Based on No.0735/MTC.

N0279. QARASE TRIAL. The trial of former PM  Laisenia Qarase and former Fijian Holdings Chairman Sitiveni Weleilakeba for abuse of office  has been set for September 12. They have been charged by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption with ten counts of abuse of office, forgery and issuing forged documents. There will be another pre-trial conference on June 10 when the two men will confirm their availability for the trial.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chairman Frank's Pacific Coup

N0274. Two Australian Australian journalists, Graham Davis and Peter Hiscock, comment on their Grubsheet blog about Australia-Fiji-Pacific relations, and how Australia  is missing out in the Pacific.     Click here to the Grubsheet site.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Unchanged Utter Rudd-ish, Free Buses, Subsides for Disabled and Elderly, The EU, Increase Sugar Tonnage Price, USP's Token Disaster Assistance

N0268. RUDD: NO CHANGE IN POSITION OR APPROACHES.  Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, cited by the Otago Daily Times, said trans-Tasman  diplomacy calling for democracy in Fiji will continue to be vigorous, and that was often a tendency to focus on what  Australian and New Zealand diplomacy should be doing, rather than putting the onus on Commodore Frank Bainimarama's  military regime. Rudd then went on to talk about Bainimarama sacking its entire judiciary, closing down the media, and not holding elections.

"Bainimarama is the one who must change here ... if he is to  adhere to the standards and the norms of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Commonwealth of Nations, [and] the United Nations." He said Australia and New Zealand were "doing a lot" in pushing for freedom of expression in Fiji, and diplomacy would continue to be active. "It will continue to be vigorous in engaging the Fijian regime. We're not in the business of legitimising what has  been a very ugly military coup ... Bainimarama must change, " he said.

 The article went on to report NZ Foreign Minister Mr McCully's comment last month that there had been little progress toward the resumption of democracy in Fiji, and Amnesty International NZ's allegations of "arbitrarily arresting political opponents, and [subjecting] at least 10 people ...to torture and beatings."

[No comment on Rudd's assessment of the situation other than that it has not changed ... and is not working, whatever the rights or wrongs of the situation in Fiji. Skilled diplomats do not repeatedly beat their heads against a brick wall.  They reassess the situation, and try another approach.]  
Cartoon: Shutterstock.
N0269. UP THE CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE RUDD(ER). Excuse the pun.  To watch the video of yesterday's TVNZ interview with Dr  Rudd, click here, or read the transcript.  The interview starts with the interviewer twice checking Dr Rudd for not answering his question. 
GUYON. I didn't ask you that.
RUDD.  That [the Bainimarama Government] is unacceptable.
GUYON. I didn't ask you that. I asked you whether you had cause to believe that there was a need to change strategy at all.
RUDD. .... We're doing a lot in holding the line ... . will continue to be vigorous in engaging the Fijian regime. We're not in the business of legitimising what has been a very ugly military coup.
 He still hadn't answered the question but the inference is clear: no need for change. Alton Shameem JP, chairman of the Fiji Club of NZ, also had some words to say on Dr Rudd's interview.

N0270. DISABLED GET FREE BUS FARES.
  Meanwhile, in Fiji, Government continues with its reforms. Some 3,000 ID cards are being distributed to people over 60, who will get a 50% discount on bus fares, and people with disabilities who will have free fares. Forty year-old Pranay Chand, a frequent traveller, was one of them. “I have been disabled since birth," he said,  "and I feel that government really care about the disabled. At the moment I am  staying in Wainibuku. From there to Suva is $1.60 per trip. Then I pay $2 from Samabula to Saint Giles Hospital for taxis every day. So that is quite a lot."

N0271. COMMENTS ON 'SNIPING FROM THE SIDELINES'.
  My posting N0258 in which I said Australian and NZ had influenced others, including the European Union, to put sanctions on Fiji, drew these comments: "Get real Professor! The Europeans can think for themselves."

To which  another reader replied: "If they were thinking for themselves how is it that they have allowed such outrageous compromises in the entire field of women's rights to be permitted throughout the Pacific Region since the Women's Parliamentarians' Conference held in Nadi at the Fiji Mocambo Hotel in March 2000?

"Not a word was said about the almost immediate trampling of women's human rights which took place on 19 May 2000? Women parliamentarians taken hostage and threatened with rape, physical and mental violence for 56 days?

"In lieu of taking stock, the EU apparently went along with Canberra and colluded in corrupted elections in September 2001. Despite our vocal opposition. These elections were subverted, bought by the Agriculture Scam and aided in this subversion by the wiles of Mere Samisoni and colleagues. These colleagues in subversion were remunerated by public money and had set an agenda of racism and plunder.

"And where was the European Union in all this? Hanging  onto the coat-tails of Canberra: they knew best. Well, now we know that they plainly did not. There is much  explaining yet to be done. We are still waiting for this. Sanctions are not an explanation. Sanctions represent further damage to the rights and just aspirations of the population. Impositions of this type are as vile and  undermining as any of the ills they deemed to address. What measure of thought is invested here?"

N0272. INCREASE THE SUGAR TONNAGE PRICE. National Farmers Union national president Surendra Lal said expiring land leases and continuous mill breakdowns have hurt many farmers this year but an increase tonnage price  could "see the ailing sugar industry at least in the Northern Division bounce back to its heydays." Rising costs have also hurt farmers.Blended fertilisers that used to cost  $19.50 have cost close to $40 since 2009. Bearing these and other costs in mind, payments of $80 per tonne of cane meant a loss of $30-$40 per tonne. Lal said farmers wanted to see they got a bigger piece of the pie and that had not been happening. "Farmers are losing confidence in this industry [but] if the pricing can be improved, this industry will bounce back," he said.

N0273. USP WAIVES FEES FOR DISASTER VICTIMS.
  Following a candlelight memorial service to remember the victims of the recent disasters in Australia, New Zealand and Japan at USP's Laucala campus in Suva last night, the university announced it will waive 2011 fees and offer scholarships for ten students from these countries who "have lost everything." The service marked the beginning of USP’s campaign, entitled USPHope, to raise funds for the scholarships. Over many years USP, the Pacific's regional university, has received considerable financial assistance from all three countries. The scholarships are tokens of thanks, sympathy and reciprocity.

Sam Speight's DVD Claim Untrue; Condolences for Japanese; Asian Investment, Tourism and the Sevens

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE AND COMMENT ON THE WEEKEND READINGS. 
See right sidebar for new QUOTE FOR THE WEEK.

N0265. SAM SPEIGHT SACKED BY HIS VANUA. Former SDL Cabinet Minister (and elder brother of George Speight who was the frontsman for the 2000 Coup that overthrew the FLP-led Chaudhry Government) was arrested and allegedly beaten two weeks ago for breaking the Public Emergency Regulations and distributing an anti-government DVD made in Australia, and is now seeking political asylum in Australia. He claimed he was distributing the DVD on behalf of the Naloto vanua (clan) of Naloto to which he belongs.

Not so,  said Naloto spokesman Tevita Tamanisau. The people of Naloto were embarrassed by Tikoinasau's comments. At a meeting last week the chiefs of Naloto unanimously agreed to sack Tikonisau as chairman and trustee of the Dritabua Dairy Farmers Co-operative which is owned by the people of Naloto.

The meeting, which was attended by the Tui Naloto and all heads of the landowning units from the villages of Nasau, Naveicovatu and Naivicula, disagreed with the comments by Tikoinasau which were posted on the Internet.

Tamanisau said the people of Naloto had sought forgiveness from PM Bainimarama about the events of 2000 and they supported the current administration.

N0266. THE JAPANESE DISASTERS. The President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, accompanied by First Lady Adi Koila Nailatikau, signed the earthquake and tsunami condolence book at the Japanese Embassy in Suva on Friday. At least 8,000 people are believed to have died and another 12,000 remain missing. The disaster also damaged a nuclear power plant, leading to fears of a radiation leak. Earlier in the day,the PM also signed the condolence book. -- Based on Fiji Times.

 N0267. ASIAN INVESTMENT, TOURISM AND THE SEVENS. The PM, the A-G and  tourist officials were in Hong Kong last week for further discussions on the global bonds and also to attend the Hong Kong leg of Tourism Fiji’s Road show, which shows the importance Government is attaching to Asian investment and tourism.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2011 projections for Fiji tourism provides employment directly and indirectly for approximately 63,000 people, or 25% of total employment.  It involves an investment of approximately F$233 million and will have a total contribution to GDP of 28% this year. In 10 years time, tourism’s contribution to GDP could approach 40%. The PM will also be cheering for Fiji at the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong Sevens tournament. -- Based on No.0731/MOI.

[Fiji was beaten by NZ 19-14 in the semi-finals, having come from 14 down. Cama and Raikabula were part of the winning NZ team that beat England to win the Cup so there was a Fiji presence at the end.]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

WEEKEND READING   ♦ Rudd Takes His Eye off Pacific Islands ♦ People's Charter, Pillar 4 Public Service Efficiency: for Discussion ♦ Father Arms Corrects Me on the Charter's Proposed Voting System ♦ Kevin Rudd Takes His Eye off Pacific Islands.  I had hoped to publish " Two Viewpoints on the Alleged Torture of Detainees"   but this will now be deferred for two weeks due to  the Amnesty International NZ CEO being temporarily unavailable.
 
Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And  it's good to know that.


Fuel Quality

We drove to Suva from Lautoka on the weekend and left at 5 am. The tank was empty so we filled $50 fuel at  a service station in Lautoka. When we reached Walu Bay in Suva we had to fill $20 again because the needle was sitting right  on the “E” portion of the meter. We could not risk it.

Rudd Takes His Eye off Pacific Islands

By Jenny Hayward-Jones
Director of The Myer Foundation Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute. 
In The Australian, 22 March, 2011.The article first appeared on the blog www.lowyinterpreter.org
 N0264.
While Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has been busy pursuing Australian foreign policy interests in North Africa and managing the consular response to the earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, he is unlikely to have had time to keep an eye on the neighbourhood.

This is probably not helping to counter perceptions of gradual erosion of Australian diplomatic influence in the Pacific Islands region (despite very generous aid spending and a successful hosting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns in August 2009). Even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has found time to worry about the Pacific in the past month.

People's Charter, Pillar 4, Public Sector Efficienccy, and Chapter 7 State of the Nation paper: For Discussion

P4.
PILLAR 4. ENHANCING PUBLIC SECTOR EFFICIENCY,
PERFORMANCE EFFECTIVENESS, AND SERVICE DELIVERY

[For the detailed recommendations and proposed implementation actions, see the Report on the State of the Nation and the Economy, at the end of this posting.]

Readers' comments on what has been done and is being done on the proposed reforms 
are especially welcome.
N0263. 

Critical Problems and Issues:
  • Our Public Sector which includes the Civil Service is inefficient and ineffective in terms of both its capacity and performance.
  • In its service delivery role, our Public Sector often fails to meet the expectations of the people of Fiji; and this adversely affects the peoples lives, in particular the poor in our communities.
  • The Public Sector is characterized by a lack of established service standards,\ ineffective work systems, ineffectual leadership, lack of transparency and accountability, and low productivity.
  • The Civil Service is too large for a small nation.
The Way Forward:
The following key measures and actions must be taken with due priority and urgency :

Father Arms Corrects Me on an Election Posting

N0262.
For much of last year a number of readers persisted in saying that the Government Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development (RDSSED) 2009 to 2014 did not exist as a document because it had not been published. In June Pacific Island leaders at the Engaging with the Pacific meeting at Natadola had been informed in sufficient detail of the Roadmap and the Strategic Framework for Change to support them. My understanding was that the Roadmap did exist but only in draft, and it main provisions seemed reasonably clear from what Government was actually doing, but none of this satisfied the critics.

So, in January and early February I published a three-part article showing the linkages from the People's Charter to the Strategic Framework for Change to the elusive Roadmap. Links to the postings are: Part 1 (22 January), Part II (29 January) and Part III (5 February).

Last week I received an email from Father David Arms, a Columban priest who has served in Fiji for many years. A qualified linguist and an authority on the Fijian language, a regular commentator on the Fiji body politic, he took an active part in the discussions that resulted in the draft People's Charter and he is a member of the Citizens' Constitutional Forum. He has some kind — and some kindly critical — comments on Part III of my paper, some parts of which he said  were incorrect, to which I shamefully agree.  Fr Arms would particularly welcome comments on the Open List system recommended in the Charter draft.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fiji 'Playing Politics' at MSG? Pacific Islands Trade, Disabilities, Gays have Human Rights

WEEKEND READING ♦ Allen Lockington Column  ♦ People's Charter  Pillar 4 Public Service Efficiency: for Discussion   ♦ Father Arms Corrects Me on the Charter's Proposed Voting System   
♦ Kevin Rudd Takes His Eye off Pacific Islands

I had hoped to publish " Two Viewpoints on the Alleged Torture of Detainees"   but this will now be deferred for two weeks due to  the Amnesty International NZ CEO being temporarily unavailable. 
 

Photo: A comment on last year's Engaging the Pacific meeting that was held when the MSG meeting was cancelled by then Vanuatu PM Edward Natapei, some say due to Australian pressure.

N0258. SNIPING FROM THE SIDELINES. The  Melanesian Spearhead Group is meeting in Suva this week and next. Last year's meeting was abandoned because the then MSG chairman, Vanuatu PM Edward Natapei, refused to hand over his chairmanship to Fiji whose turn it was to host the meeting. Natapei denies he was influenced by Australia and NZ in his decision. This year, no longer chairman and no longer PM, he tells Radio NZ International that Vanuatu should reconsider its membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group because the MSG is now — and for one brief term only — "chaired by a non-democratically elected government.”

Thank you, RNZI, what would we do without you to keep us informed on what we should think about Fiji? Having obtained Natapei's statement RNZI journalists ferreted out another negative comment on the MSG meeting, this time from Auckland University's (and formerly USP's) Dr Steven Ratuva who is usually not known for negative comments.

Steve warns the MSG not to become "a tool of geopolitics."  He says (or is reported to have said) Fiji's chairmanship of the MSG meeting "consolidates Commodore Bainimarama’s power in his scrap with Australia and New Zealand, and he may feel he’s now the new regional leader to be reckoned with."

“Perhaps in the long run that kind of thinking may be counter productive to the MSG which really needs to be focused more on economics and trade rather than in terms of fighting the political battle. So if [Commodore] Bainimarama uses the MSG as a means by which it can leverage politically then it might not be in the future interests of the MSG.”

But, Steve,  since all politicians play politics (that's what they do), why can't Fiji join the game? Fiji did not kick itself out of the Pacific Islands Forum, or the PACER talks (it wanted to participate). Australia and NZ influenced the Pacific's Forum members to make that political decision. Fiji did not ask the Commonwealth to be excluded from the Delhi Games. Australia and NZ urged the Commonwealth to take that political decision. Fiji did not ask the EU to suspend aid to its sugar industry. Australia and NZ were at it again. And Fiji has not placed travel bans on Australian and NZ sportsmen and women. That's Australia and NZ again. So if Australia and NZ are playing politics, is this also not the "the future interests of the MSG — and the Forum? As the saying goes, "If it's good bad for the goose, it's good bad for the gander."

Perhaps we can now get some worthwhile coverage of the MSG meeting by Radio NZ International — or any other media news source for that matter.  It's not often we get so many Pacific leaders together.  They should merit some mention.


N0259. MSG TRADING PARTNERS. The Director of Trade and Investment at the MSG Secretariat, Mere Falemaka, has told MSG delegates that while there has been an increase in trading among the MSG countries, there's a long way to go before the trade potential is fully realized. She urged all MSG countries to explore areas outside their traditional trading boundaries.

Australia continues to be the Region's biggest trading partner in both imports and exports followed by Asian countries (China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea and others) with whom trade it rapidly increasing. New Zealand comes next.-- based on No:0722/MOI.

N0260. FIRST LADY LAUNCHES DISABILITIES WORKSHOP. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) two-day workshop on empowering the deaf was launched by the First Lady Adi Koila Nailatikau on Thursday. The workshop was by the Fiji Association of the Deaf. The association has received $38,000 funding from the European Union for a one year period. The workshop focused on issues relating to employment and health. -- Based on No:0717/MOI.

N0261. FIJI AGAINST GAY DISCRIMINATION.
Fiji joined 84 other countries recently in released a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council in  Geneva on "Ending Acts on Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender  Identity." Local NGO, Women's Action for Change director Peni Moore said her organisation was pleased with the action taken by the Government.

"For those of us who've been working in this area for a long time, it gave us great pride to see what the Government has done," said Mrs Moore. She said she was honoured to be a member of one of the first Pacific island countries that was a signatory to the statement.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said the event stressed a commitment by the US to human rights through dialogue, open discussion and frank conversation, according to a statement yesterday. "Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights," Mrs Clinton said.

Monitoring Charter Progress, Racism and Coups, NZ Earthquake, MSG Trade and Police Meetings

N253. CHARTER ADVISORY COMMITTEE.  The 9th meeting of the National People’s Charter Advisory Council met on Wednesday to finalise its report on the implementation of the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress that will be presented to the PM.

Council chairman Josefa Serulagilagi  said the meeting was a time for council members to relook at the work and critical areas of concern for the eleven pillars of the charter.

“We have been going through the progress that has come through on the eleven  pillars of the charter, how they have been implemented by government ministries and statutory organisations,” he said. “As far as we are concerned I think things are going well in terms of the various ministries’ roles.

“Some areas we are looking at [are the] constitution and electoral reforms among other issues ... that must be carried out within a time frame and so that everything is in place [for elections in] 2014.”

The committee has 15 members who were appointed by the President in 2010. Most are either former members of the National Committee for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) or have been involved in the work on the Charter. Government Ministries are required to regularly report to the Committee on the steps they have taken to apply Charter provisions as they apply to their work. The Committee then reports to the PM.

N254. CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE. Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Inoke Kubuabola presented  a cheque for $36,000 to assist Christchurch Earthquake relief to NZ High Commission's Phillip Taula at the Foreign Affairs office on Wednesday. Ratu Inoke said the cheque was a token of solidarity of the Government and people of Fiji with the government and people of New Zealand.

In accepting the cheque, Phillip Taula thanked the Fijian Government for their timely donation saying that it is a sign of true Pacific brotherhood.“We are very thankful to the Fijian Government and this is a sign of our already strong ties with Fiji,” he said. Fiji had earlier sent its condolences and offer of help to Japan following its disastrous earthquake.


N255. THE CHARTER, RACISM  AND COUPS.  Speaking to Tailevu villagers on Monday the PM repeated the message he has been taking to other villages over the past few months. The People's Charter spells out the direction of consitutional and electoral reforms, and will "strongly facilitate the removal of racism" that the military will not allow to return because it creates the instability that has led to Fiji's "coup culture." Race has been used by some "church leaders and chiefs involved in dirty politics." He also assured the villagers that the Charter and the constitution will ensure that no one can take away the i-taukei land and fishing grounds.

N256. MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP. Meetings on regional trade and police cooperation took place this week and other meetings of senior official will be held prior to the Foreign Minister's meeting next Tuesday,  bilateral meetings next Wednesday and the 18th Leaders' Summit meeting next Thursday that will be chaired by the Fiji PM.

The trade meeting focused on ways to improve trade both internally and externally. The MSG Trade Agreement was signed in 1993 with a few products and was extended in 1998 before a major review of the agreement was initiated in 2005, necessitated by the emergence of other trade agreements.  Fiji said it welcomed the revised agreement but required more detailed analysis of trade possibilities. It was, however, ready to implement zero tariffs and quarantine requirements. Solomon Islands confirmed that they begun with processes to implement the agreement.

The meeting of Police Commissioners and senior officers discussed a wide range of issues and ways the MSG countries could work together to improve regional and national security through bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Security issues of most concern were:
  • Natural Disasters -  Cyclones, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides, rising sea levels, tsunami, famines etc.
  • Law and Order – Civil unrest, general lawlessness, ethnic tensions, land disputes etc.
  • Transnational Crimes – drug trafficking, guns or small arms smuggling, crimes perpetrated by third country nationals, and illegal immigration issues.
  • Sovereignty  – border incursions, illegal and unreported fishing and poaching, terrorism, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and passage of radioactive substances through our waters, all of which pose significant threats to our island countries. Sources: Fiji Times and No:0700/MOI.
Note: By putting Fiji in limbo in some areas of regional co-operation, Australia and NZ are leaving a big gap in many areas of regional security that could backfire on them. Fiji's geographic location and airline and marine hubs  make it an ideal transit point for the transnational crimes and sovereignty issues discussed by the MSG Commisssioners. 

However, cooperation between Australian Federal Police and Customs and Fiji Police resulted in the arrest of cocaine smugglers this week.

N257. FIJI CAN PROVIDE POLICE DOG TRAINING. Fiji's Commissioner of Police, BrigGeneral Iowane Naivalurua,  told his MSG counterparts that Fiji is now ready to provide police dog training for its regional neighbours.

Fiji has had a dog unit since 1961 but until 2006 dog handlers went to the US, Australia and NZ for specialist training.  Since 2006 they have been providing their own training and each Division now has its own unit that specializes in bomb, drug and narcotic detection and search and rescue operations.

The Police Commissioners visited Suva's dog unit and Police community centres in the Central Division.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuilaepa's Women; Bizarre Asylum Appeal; Xinhua in Fiji; Waste and Solar Energy Projects

N249.GOOD OL' TUILAEPA.  Samoa's PM  thinks he's got the right gender balance in his newly appointed cabinet. “We have two female members and 34 male members [in Parliament, and one woman in the 13-member cabinet]...That’s more than enough,” he said.

Meanwhile in the Fiji he so often criticises, the Minister of Women has confirmed that government departments will now be required to supply gender information in all personnel statistical data in order to better monitor progress towards gender equality.

N250. BIZARRE ASYLUM APPEAL. A Fiji Muslim applied for political asylum in the US in 1989 following the 1987 Rabuka coup. The case was deferred for 14 years when a court ordered his deportation on the grounds that conditions in Fiji had improved. That takes us to 2004.

He appealed, and last Friday, some eight years later, a federal judge said immigration officials hadn't considered evidence of the treatment of minorities since the 2006 coup. They had looked only at general conditions in Fiji, not the situation of someone who had been persecuted under a previous military regime. If they had conducted an up-to-date analysis, said the judge, there is a "reasonable likelihood" they would conclude that Ali would face persecution in Fiji. His case has been referred back to the immigration courts for further review.

Jannif Ali, the applicant, said the military forces that overthrew Fiji's government in 1987 had dealt harshly with Fijians of Indian descent.  He testified that a soldier had beaten him with a gun, military forces had vandalized and dynamited his home, and that ethnic Fijians had regularly thrown rocks at his family and car and threatened to rape his wife.

The court was told persecution of Indo-Fijians resumed after the 2000 coup but then receded but "the human rights situation deteriorated greatly" after the 2006 coup.

This should tell us something about how little American courts know about Fiji and how some emigrants use the appeal system to indefinitely extend their stay on false grounds. It is unlikely to be any different with most of those who have applied for political asylum in Australia.

N251. XINHUA, CHINA'S
official press agency, now has  a press agency in Suva. The bureau will cover Fiji and nearby South Pacific island countries.  [The North is getting closer!]

N252.WASTE AND SOLAR ENERGY EFFICIENCIES. Two new energy developments will soon bring economic, environmental and social benefits.

The first, the waste-to-energy power plant under construction in Sigatoka will employ about 600 people in the construction phase and about 200 permanent positions in the factory and 4,000 indirectly when it is complete in three years time. "We are talking about rubbish pickers all around Fiji, in the outer islands and resorts. The whole of Fiji will feel the impact as we try and rid Fiji of this problem – rubbish,"  said i-Viti Disenergy Renewable Power Plant Company president Ratu Enesi Yavala.

The other is at Tavua where in three months time solar street lights will replace existing lighting. Fiji's first town, Levuka on the island of Ovalau, is likely to be next on the list. -- Based on No:0673/MOI.

PM on Racism and Elections; Graham Southwick on the EU's 'Never-ending' Story

N247. THE PM ON RACE AND ELECTIONS. Fostering racism should be stamped out so that the country can move forward, the PM told Nakalawaca Villagers in Tailevu last week.

“Na veivakaduiduitaki vakamatatamata e vakadukadukalitaka na noda vanua (Racism corrupts our country).“E kune e loma ni politiki, ka kauta mai na veilecayaki e na noda vanua. E teteva na veimata tamata kei na lotu. E dodonu me vakawabokotaki. E vakataotaka na toso. (It is rife in politics and creates uncertainty among people. Racism is found in religious societies also. It should be stamped out. It affects growth and progress).

He said the People’s Charter was built on removing racial differences.

“This Government wants to remove racial discrimination so that we can live together peacefully. This is the charter — one country and one people. We should learn to love each other and appreciate each other’s race. This is your country and this is your land. No one can take them away from you but what this Government wants is to shape a Fiji every citizen will enjoy living in.We are working on these grounds to pave a way for the 2014 elections.”

He said citizens of this country should elect good politicians for the 2014 elections. “Select politicians who can move the country forward so that we gain prosperity. Don’t just elect anyone. We want a Fiji for everyone.” 

He said the voting age should be dropped to 18 to allow youths to raise their choices and voices in the formation of their government. “Soldiers go to war at the age of 18. They fight and die for our country but they are not given the freedom to have a say in how to run their country.”

“That is why we are working hard to make changes before the elections. This Government is for you the people, but you should also change for the better. Watch what is happening around you; the prices of food you buy, the state of frozen foods in the shops and supermarkets, the cost of hardware prices and so many things. Be alert so that you can also change and move forward."

Bainimarama is the first Prime Minister to visit Nakalawaca and Namara. His next visit will be to Kadavu island to inspect the progress of Government-funded projects and meet the people.

N248. EU'S 'NEVER-ENDING LIST.' Fiji Fish Company head Graham Southwick  says the recent EU audit may pave the way for fish exports to the EU but he wonders whether it’s worth meeting the EU's remaining conditions. The EU still needs to clear fisheries exporters and it’s asked them to fulfill an extensive list of conditions.

“Now they’re talking about having to upgrade not only the factories, they want to upgrade the boats and then they want to upgrade the trucks ... Where is the thing going to end really, upgrading the airport or the aircraft? ...We don’t have any finite list that we can say, ’OK if we do these 10 things that we can go to Europe’. At the moment the list seems to be never-ending.”

Southwick says Fiji exporters have asked for a final list of conditions so that they can work out how much it’ll cost to come up to EU standard.
 
[Sounds a bit like the battle to get Australia to accept NZ apples! All's fair in love and war "free" trade.]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Qoliqoli Tabu, Land Sharks, Fruit Vege Distribution Centre, Pacific Media Watch Announcement

This morning's posting was about the Travel Bans. Scroll down.

N0243. TWO FISH BUT NO FIVE LOAVES. With most of Fiji's population living in coast areas and with many people and communities reliant on marine resources for their livelihood, many inshore areas are overfished.

A two fish and five loaves miracle cannot be expected but USP marine scientists are beginning to make a difference.  They are helping people manage and restore the productivity of some of the 300-odd customary fishing grounds (qoliqoli) set up as tabu or locally-managed areas, and many communities are beginning to witness the benefits. Elsewhere, in the 70% of the inshore area that is not managed, destructive fishing methods continue to be used. Some government intervention may be necessary.

N0244. MISUSE OF LEASE LAND. Government intends to closely monitor the use of land leased by the 17,000 leaseholders on State land. This follows concerns about land being taken out of agricultural use; some $20m outstanding in unpaid rents; and breached lease conditions that could amount to $100m.
 
Unscrupulous practices include obtaining bank mortgages on the pretext of land development and the subsequent sale of leases for a quick profit; the misuse of foreshore development leases  by making claims to significantly higher development costs than have been undertaken, and irregularities in subleasing and lease transfers.

Government is particularly concerned about the conversion of agricultural because this could affect  agricultural exports, food security and the size of the country's food import bill.

The Ministry of Lands will now thoroughly scrutinise all consents for mortgages and land transfers, devise — in consultation with other stakeholders —  a strategy to better manage and protect the remaining agricultural land, and possibly impose a moratorium to help protect agricultural lands and also allow Government to consider on a case-by-case basis the need to convert agricultural land for other purposes like tourism, commercial and residential development. -- Based on Fiji Times.

N0245. TURNERS AND GROWERS. The NZ fresh produce company  will open a distribution centre with cool chain facilities for both imported and exported produce in Suva next week. The facility will improve the supply chain for suppliers and customers.  The Fiji fruit and vegetable market is worth about $25 million a year to NZ. One hopes the Fiji authorities will made full use of the new facility to increase Fiji's fruit and vegetable exports to NZ and have them arrive in good condition.

N0246. ANNOUNCEMENT. The PACIFIC MEDIA CENTRE/Watch elist will be ending later this month when the Association of Progressive Communications (APC) server is discontinued. Make sure you add the Pacific Media Centre RSS niusfeeds to your Google Live Bookmarks:

Full PMC niusfeed: http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/rss.xml
Pacific Media Watch only: http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/feeds/pmw_article/rss.xml

Go to the PMC website for full special reports, new publications and media research outputs: http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz
For general Pacific news on our other website, see Pacific Scoop: http://www.pacific.scoop.co.nz

Pacific Media Centre news and Pacific Journalism Review fulltext is also available at the New Zealand-based Pacific subscription database Niustext: http://www.knowledge-basket.ws/databases/niustext.html

Watch for the new PMC Facebook Page which is soon replacing the PMW Group Page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=48624011152

We have established a new Mailman list for Pacific Media Watch at AUT University, but this will only be used for some news alerts, notices and special reports in future. All existing PMW subscribers have been added to that list: Pacific_media_watch_list@aut.ac.nz

Revise Travel Ban List, MSG Meeting this Week, Corrupt Lawyer, Women Leaders, Rural Electricity and Roadmap, Tourism Record

Scroll down to Weekend Reading and see new Quote for the Week and a link to 
the latest CCF newsletter in the right sidebar

 N0236. TRAVEL BANS, RUGBY SEVENS AND NETBALL. Three members of Fiji Rugby Sevens team are unlikely to obtain visas to take part in the Adelaide Sevens  because they are in the army, and four members of the Fiji Netball team are still waiting for news on their visa applications.  The PM said if Fiji cannot send its best team, it shouldn't send a team at all. His comment follows the Fiji Rugby Union saying it will probably drop its top players after the Hong Kong 7s next weekend because the three are unlikely to get visas to go to the Adelaide tournament. The PM said the FRU  should stop playing politics and fight for the right to send the best team to the IRB-approved tournaments.

In this writer's opinion, if Australia and NZ insist on maintaining the travel bans,they should be targeted at those at the top end of the Fiji government and military services, not at their families, career public servants and the lower ranks of the military. Jobs are not easy to come by in Fiji. If the three Sevens players left the army, they would probably be unemployed, with not even money to look for employment in Australia.  If it would have them.


N0237. TRAVEL BANS AND CAREER CIVILIAN CIVIL SERVANTS. The new Permanent Secretary for I'Taukei Affairs, Savenaca Kaunisela, joined the public service in 1977. He was promoted to Public Service Commission deputy secretary in 2001, and made Commissioner Western in April 2006, under the Qarase government.  He served as High Commissioner to India from December 2007 to December 2010.

Photos: Savenaca Kaunisela (top), Filimoni Kau (bottom)

The new Permanent Secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources, Filimone Kau, joined the public service in 1989. He was promoted to principal information Officer in 1997, senior executive service director in 2000, and human resource management director in 2000. He served as Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2003 to 2006. All this took place under the Chaudhry and Qarase governments.

In 2007, after the Bainimarama Coup, he was made Director of Information. In 2008, he was head of the public relations and media team of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji and became acting deputy secretary Ministry of National Planning in January 2009. By November 2010 he was the acting permanent secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources. 

Both three-year positions were widely advertised and both appointees seem to be deserving of their appointments.  -- Based on No.0631/PSC.

Both men are clearly veteran career public servants who had nothing to do with the Bainimarama Coup. And both men — and their families — are on the Australian and NZ travel ban list.

When the Bainimarama government appoints military men to civil service positions (often because qualified civilians, fearful of the travel bans, do not apply) its critics cry foul. When it appoints civilians, they are treated no differently than if they personally had ousted the Qarase government at gun point. Australian and NZ civil servants do not resign when there is a change in government because they are administrators, not political appointees. So also are these Fiji civil servants. They should not be on the travel ban list.

N0238. THE MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP will meet this week and next under Fiji's chairmanship and with two new observers, Timor Leste and Indonesia, and with Luxembourg as a special guest.  Fiji was due to host the summit last July but the then chair Vanuatu’s prime minister, Edward Natapei, cancelled the meeting, raising concerns about an unelected leader assuming the chairmanship. Some say Australia was involved in Natapei's decision but this was denied by both parties.  Since then, Natapei has been voted out of office clearing the path for Fiji's chairmanship. Meetings at the Vale ni Bose complex in Suva will start this Wednesday with trade and economic officials, followed by senior officials, and the country leaders meetings will start on Thursday 31st.

N0239. CORRUPT LAWYER. Government will soon have a special team to assist prospective investors when they visit Fiji.  This follows an incident where http://www.radiofiji.com.fj/fullstory.php?id=35237 a corrupt lawyer told three Chinese investors who were considering investing in a ship-building and slipway business that he knew the Prime Minister personally and would be able to process investment papers quickly if they were paid $US20,000 dollars. When he asked for a further $US200,000 the investors became suspicious.

N0240.  ELECTRICITY NOT FOR YAQONA DRINKERS. After five years of effort, Naikalawaca village in Namara, Tailevu, now has electricity that will enable the villagers to make ice to preserve their fish and later to build an ice plant, explore micro-business opportunities. and provide better lighting for children's study than benzene and kerosene lights.

In opening the new $100,000 installation (to which villagers contributed $6,000) the PM challenged villagers to use the electricity for the education of their children, to refrain from using it too much for yaqona consumption and to look at ways of improving their economic well being. Rural electrification, improved water supply and road projects are essential parts of Government's infrastructural reforms.-- Based on No.0675/MOI.

N0241. THIRTY PERCENT OF THE SKY. Governmment is aiming to have women occupy 30% of positions on decision-making bodies, up from the present 17%. Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Dr Jiko Luveni told a  Consultation on UN Women’s Global Strategic Plan 2012-13 on Saturday. She said this is the vision; to gain greater respect in society, to strengthen the capacity of women in decision-making and leadership positions,to show they can perform just as well as men, and so gain support for our efforts to increase representation. The Minister noted that Fiji already has a significant number of highly qualified women in academic fields and young women now outnumber young men enrolled in tertiary institutions. -- Based on No.0676/MSWWPA.

N0242. TOURISM RECORD. The latest figures show 631,000 international visitors went to Fiji in 2010, a 16% rise on  the previous year.  Australia still accounts for the about one-half of all foreign visits. Numbers from China, India and Russia are small but growing.

Visitor numbers for January were up from all countries other than Japan, Korea and the UK that showed small decreases. Of the countries with the largest number of visitors, NZ was up 2.7% and Australia 11.4%. On average visitors stayed for 10.9 days.(No:0667/MOI)

In other travel and tourist related news, Continental Airlines will cancel its service to Nadi from Guam and Honolulu from September 25th. The airline blames rising fuel prices.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

WEEKEND READING.  Scroll down to  
♦ The CCF's Suggested Way Forward
♦ People's Charter, For Discussion: Pillar 3 and Chapt 8 State of the Nation paper  ♦ Friday's and last week's posting and comments


 Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Living on an Island

I have some good friends who live in the Yasawa’s who have lived the way they are living for about eighteen years. They live about $70 from Lautoka. Tourists pay $120 for the same trip. I wonder why we have tourist and local prices. But that’s another story.

The CCF's Suggested Way Forward

N235. WHY SO FEW COMMENTS ON AKUILA'S POSTING?  Part II of Critical Engagement and Future Scenarios was published  last Saturday (N205). Few people took the opportunity to comment.  I republish the conclusion to the Rev. Akuila Yabaki's paper and urge you to read it, comment, and read the full document.

People's Charter, Pillar 3, and Chapter 8, State of the Nation paper: For Discussion

N234. The Charter deals with principles that are discussed in more detail in the relevant chapter(s) of the State of the Nation and the Economy paper that I have copied under the Charter chapter. 

For earlier chapters of the Charter and State of the Nation paper, use the Search facility in the left column by writing Pillar 1, etc.  Readers' comments on what has been done and is being done on the proposed reforms are especially welcome.

 
Ensuring Effective, Enlightened and Accountable Leadership

Critical Problems and Issues:

Our people have suffered the type of “leadership” that has been elitist, parochial, divisive, extremist and self-centred. This has done little to advance the interests of our ordinary people.
Our leaders in most cases have failed to involve us in making the major decisions that affect our well-being and our daily lives.
We need leaders who are positive, visionary, transformative and constructive.
We need leaders with a progressive vision for Fiji, a vision that is uplifting, motivating, unifying, and inspiring.

The Way Forward:
The following key measures and actions must be taken with due priority and urgency : 
 
Enact, and effectively enforce, a Code of Conduct for public servants, public and independent constitutional office holders, Municipal Councils, Members of Parliament and persons who hold statutory appointments or governing or executive positions in statutory authorities.
Develop a leadership model and vision which clarifies the legitimate roles of elected and non-elected leaders in a democratic Fiji, with emphasis on honesty, integrity, professional ethics, and service to communities.
(For the detailed recommendations and proposed implementation actions, see the Report on the State of the Nation and the Economy.)
Step up and enhance training and development of public leaders including parliamentarians, traditional, civic and community as well as youth and women leaders.
Increase public awareness, including civic education at school level, on key leadership principles.

Vision for Effective Leadership Guiding Principles

RECOGNISING the different types of public leadership that exist in Fiji at all levels of society and that such leadership is ultimately about service to the people of Fiji, the communities they belong to, and what is in their best interests;

ACKNOWLEDGING the conduct standards that are set out under subsection 156(2) of the Constitution for holders of high public office, and the measures thatneed to be taken under law to enforce these standards and the Key Principles for Good Leadership adopted by Pacific Island Forum Leaders as being relevant for Fiji’s national leaders; The People, through this Charter, identify the following qualities as being the most desirable of any person who seeks and exercises a public leadership role in Fiji:

Visionary
Integrity
Honesty
Selflessness
Competence
Openness
Communication
Unity
Accountability

FIJI: THE STATE OF THE NATION AND THE ECONOMY
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Chapter 8: Effective Leadership in Fiji

The previous pages summarise the change agenda facing Fiji. Clearly, there is a lot to be done to restore good governance, end the ‘coup culture’, forge a new agreement on national identity and the national interest, get the economy growing robustly again, eradicate poverty, and deal with all of the related issues. This is not a short term or easy task: it will take much perseverance over many years in following a steady course. Who is to plan and organise all of this work and keep all those involved strongly motivated and on course to finish the task?

This is the role of Fiji’s leaders, not only politicians but also traditional, civic, religious, community, professional, and business leaders right across the nation. Leadership is the ‘magic’ ingredient that unites the diverse talents of many different people by communicating an inclusive vision for the future in which all want to join as followers, and which motivates, empowers and uplifts them, so that they are fully engaged in pursuing the vision until it is realised.

Leadership occurs at many levels, both within Government and outside of it. Public leadership roles encompass the political level, the private sector, civil society and the churches and religious organisations, and also other levels of leadership including the traditional chiefly leadership at community level.

Fiji is standing at a crossroad in terms of how leaders might best contribute to taking Fiji forward. Although there is no longer a clearly accepted view of the way that leaders should behave within Fiji society, the effectiveness of leadership is crucial at every level of that society.

The NCBBF (National Committee for Building a Better Fiji)  believes political leadership at the national level to be one area of real weakness in Fiji. It is time to develop a leadership model that puts the national interest before self interest, or before the interest of a specific single community. We need to establish a national vision through the Peoples Charter and work to build national unity.

All too often in the past the style of leadership in Fiji has been transactional i.e. ‘what is in it for me?’ What Fiji desperately needs is a transformational style of leadership — to transform societal attitudes and move Fiji in the completely new direction represented by the Peoples Charter.

This is not to forget also that the lives of ordinary people are most affected by leadership at the local level, where people live as families and communities. The leadership role of women also needs particular consideration. While changes in leadership styles are really dependent on changes in attitudes, there are measures which can be taken to encourage this change. Public education needs to be part of that.

A Code of Conduct for holders of high public office (as required by the Constitution), including local government office holders, is badly needed to regulate the conduct of national leaders. So is training for leaders at all levels. Increased dialogue and measures that reward good leadership also require further examination.

Leaders at every level of society must be equally adept in three quite different skills.

First, they must have a clear intellectual understanding of the job that needs to be done. The vision and goals that they articulate must be well grounded in evidence-based theory and empirical research and clearly thought through, to ensure that the policies they advocate are compatible with each other, consistent over time and credible. A leader maintains his or her credibility by only promising what he or she can do and then by always doing what was promised.

Second, a leader must also learn to be a good manager. Leaders must know how to raise funds, manage money and resources and above all, be good at managing people in sensitive but directed ways. Leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King spent a lot of their time managing the movements they led.

Third, a leader must learn how to behave as a good leader should. There are both moral and psychological dimensions to this aspect of leadership. To attract and keep followers, a leader must be capable of securing and holding their trust. This means that a leader must be trustworthy.

A leader must also maintain personal integrity, which implies complete honesty, openness and a consistent moral stance. And, because it is expected that a leader will always ‘go first’, a leader must become accustomed to disclosing his or her values and thoughts, before anyone else does. ‘Self disclosure’, to use the psychological term, can be risky because a leader may expose himself or herself to ridicule and scorn. So a leader must have the moral courage to reveal and defend his or her convictions.

Because the work agenda is so long, a leader in Fiji must also learn how to prioritise tasks and the leader’s own time in a sensible way. When it is impossible to achieve everything simultaneously, the sequencing of tasks becomes very important. It is sometimes necessary to balance objectives against each other, achieving a little bit in several areas at once rather than everything in one area but nothing anywhere else.

And to the extent that a leader is operating in a political environment it will also be important to learn how to manage other people’s expectations about the speed with which progress can be achieved. Arriving at the right balance between setting targets that are ambitious but realisable, and targets that are inspirational but probably not realistic, may be the most difficult challenge of all.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Legacy of Corruption, Bankers and Consumers, Lifting Part of PER, Wainivesi Mine Worth Millions

WEEKEND READING. ♦ Allen Lockinton Column ♦ People's Charter, For Discussion: Pillar 3 and Chapt 8 State of the Nation paper  ♦ The CCF's Suggested Way Forward

N230. AGRICULTURAL SCAMMERS JAILED. Following the Speight Coup and in the year of the 2001 Elections, SDL politicians in the Qarase government, senior civil servants and leading businessmen colluded to use public money for their personal gain and political advantage.  Some were jailed when the Qarase Government was in power; others who should have been were not.

The court case concluding yesterday that saw Suncourt Hardware director (and former Suva mayor) Dhansukh Lal Bhika  and Principal Accounts Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture Suliasi Sorovakatini sentenced to 5 years and 4½ years was the latest in this sick story that had earlier implicated the SDL Minister of Agriculture Apisai Tora and many others in what came to be know as the Agricultural scam.

Some $20 million of taxpayers' money —set aside for the Farming Assistance Scheme aimed at helping ordinary ethnic Fijians (itaukei)— were skimmed off to provide equipment and labour for the farms of the Fiji elite. The Minister, for example, had diggers and tractors prepare his land at  Sabeto costing some $25,000. The Assistant Minister Marieta Rigamoto was given farming implements and chemicals worth around $15,000 for her farm in Navua. Boats and engines, hoes, caneknives and fertilisers were supplied to villagers for political gain. Some $50,000 worth of equipment went to Baulevu where Tora told the villagers this had  never been done before by any government [that's for sure!], and Qarase himself went to Rotuma to distribute $300,000 worth of farming implements.

All this was approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance and the "democratically elected government" of Laisenia Qarase.

N231. BANKERS AND CONSUMERS. Following complaints by the Consumer Council, the Reserve Bank has announced that it will now require  commercial banks to publicly disclose any increases in interest rate spreads beyond the previously regulated limit of 4% for any given quarter. In addition to disclosing the actual interest rate spread, the banks will also be required to disclose the specific reasons, including management’s stance and justifications for the increase.

N232. BUYING PAPERS A WASTE OF MONEY: LIFT PART OF PER. This is what one reader wrote on posting N224:

Thanks Croz, Most thinking people would like to see the PER relating to the media lifted.  So many agree with your correspondent that buying newspapers is a worthless exercise.  Only the cartoons and sports section are of value.  Currently there is little or no debate on national issues.
 
I would be interested to know from someone with insider information of Government who is opposed to lifting the PER, and who may support a partial lift.

N233. MINING: PART OF THE FUTURE.  On Tuesday Government received its first cheque for royalty payments and export taxes from Fiji’s second operating mine in Wainivesi, Waimaro in Tailevu. The Wainivesi mine produces copper, lead, zinc, silver and  gold and is expected to deliver more than $72m in tax and royalties — and spend more than $150m locally on operation and reinvestment in Fiji, during the next four years. The mine has an expected 20-year life.

The Wainivesi area was first explored in the 1930s and the mine opened briefly but was closed in 1955 due in part to to environmental problems.Exploration area resumed in 1999 and the present mine construction began four years ago and is still expanding. The company has already invested more than F$65m in its development. -- Based on No.0633/MOI.

A mining symposium to be held next month will be the first ever for Fiji with all mining stakeholders making presentations on mining issues.

The Big Loan Company, IMF Recommendations

N227. THE BIG LOAN, ITS CRITICS, AND STOKING THE FIRE. Critics were never going to let Fiji's huge US$250m loan pass without comment. It provided much too good an opportunity to put the needle in.

Foremost among the more qualified critics is USP Economics professor Wadan Narsey whose primary criticism is not so much with the need for a loan (some US$150m will be used to pay off the pre-coup government's 2005 loan, made that much more expensive due to Fiji's dollar devaluation) but with its 9% interest rate and the amount being borrowed. He thinks a cheaper loan could have been obtained from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if Fiji had agreed to certain budgetary conditions.

Wadan said, “There is very strong conditionality attached to it [the IMF loan] and I suspect that the Banimarama government did not want to abide by the conditionality rules, I presume they would have had to cut back on their budget deficit which means they would have had to cut government expenditure, recurrent expenditure and especially I suspect on the military budget.”

Wadan's one presumption and two suspicions could be correct, but even without IMF prompting government has been taking steps to reduce spending and downsize government. No one outside Government and the IMF knows what the conditions were but the IMF team that visited Fiji in February last year when a $1 billion loan was being talked about, noted with approval the improved foreign exchange position, greater bank liquidity, and they seemed to approve Fiji's monetary and fiscal policies.

In April Government was waiting for a decision from the IMF on a US$459m loan that obviously did not eventuate, but it was nearly double the loan whose size is now criticized by Prof. Narsey.

Fiji's ability to repay its loans (much of which is for capital developments although Wadan claims it is for recurrent expenditure), generate employment and improve living standards rests heavily on growing its economy, and this in large part depends on business confidence and foreign and domestic investment. The 9% interest rate criticized by Wadan (and bewailed by the anti-government blogs that claim future generations will be left to pay for today's debts) is higher than may be expected because there is some risk in investing in Fiji, and the higher the perceived risk, the higher the interest rate.

Fiji is considered risky because of the coup, the military government and the delayed elections, but it is also considered risky because people like Wadan,  former politicians and others in Fiji, and  the overseas anti-government bloggers have , to a greater or lesser degree, done their level best to discredit all Government policies and actions and to obstruct those they can.  They are  part-owners of "the Big Loan Company."

They have spread biased, misleading, alarmist and untrue reports, urged Fiji citizens not to cooperate with Government in taking the country forward, and urged the international community not to change its stance on Fiji.

They have stoked the fires that makes loans, reforms and economic recovery more difficult, and in doing so they have played their part in making the loans their children will repay just that much more costly.

Australia and New Zealand must also, of course, share the responsibility. Their policies aimed at Fiji's "return to democracy" must by now be seen to have failed, but they have had a detrimental effect on Fiji's economy and the cost of its loans. 

No one would expect those opposing the Bainimarama government to change their fundamental position but reasonable people would expect other reasonable people to support some of the things it is doing, and to refrain from activities that harm the living of the people they claim they wish to support. -- Crosbie Walsh.


N228.  IMF SAYS STRUCTURAL REFORMS NECESSARY. The IMF's Executive Board  said structural reforms are necessary in Fiji to spur growth and help protect macroeconomic stability.

Following its latest consultations  the Board said:
(1) Fiji needed well designed land reform and the removal of price controls should support investment and the diversification of economic activity;
(2) Civil service reform and adjusting tariffs for public services will help contain contingent liabilities and should increase efficiency;
(3) Retraining programmes and additional targeted social assistance to soften the social impact of redundancies and higher tariffs; and
(4) Help Fiji  from development partners, including technical and expert advice, to help design and implement these important structural reforms which are critical to improving the overall business environment. [This is where Australia and New Zealand really could help.]

The IMF noted that fiscal deficit (government expenditure exceeds revenue) is estimated to have fallen to 3.6% of GDP in 2010 from 3.9% in 2009. The improvement is due to Government's  freeze in hiring in the public service, lower-than-budgeted capital spending and stronger-than-projected VAT receipts but losses and mismanagement of the Fiji Sugar Corporation  have to led to pressures on the budget.

The deficit was financed mostly by the Fiji National Provident Fund as commercial banks remained near their sovereign lending limits. Central government debt at the end of 2010 is estimated at close to 56%  of GDP. Contingent fiscal liabilities are estimated at 17.6 percent of GDP at the end of 2010 and includeguarantees on bonds issued by the Fiji Development Bank.

N229. SUGAR:  THE IMF HAS ADVISED GOVERNMENT to quickly finalise the restructuring of the Sugar Corporation and then divest the troubled Fiji Sugar Corporation within three years,to bolster the economy The FSC was delisted from the South Pacific Stock Exchange last month after a profit loss of $US175 million last financial year. The IMF statement also suggested reforms to the Fiji National Provident Fund to increase economic sustainability.