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Address by Commissioner Northern LT.COL.INIA SERUIRATU at the opening of FDB Taveuni branch on 18 May 2011
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25 May 2011

          

 

(Salutations)

Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed my pleasure to be here today to officially opening FDB’s Taveuni Branch.

For 2011, Government allocated $31.5million dollars for Social
Welfare programmes. This amount is 11% more than the $28.2 million dollars allocated for 2010.
In Fiji it is estimated that approximately 260,0001 live below the poverty line. That is they have a weekly income of less than $1302.

While the poverty index has decreased from 35% in 2002/2003 to
31% for 2008/20093, we still have a long way to go to reducing this to the 5% set out in Cabinet’s 10-point economic plan to be achieved by the year 2020.

To get a grip on the poverty situation, Government is
strengthening its assistance from civil society organizations and non-government organizations in accordance with government’s programmes and efforts. Social welfare assistance will also be
based on a means test. This way, assistance is rationalized and targeted directly to those who are affected.

The nature of poverty varies from region to region but generally,
the five major factors contributing to poverty are Disease, Ignorance, Apathy, Dependency and Dishonesty.

Disease
In reducing the impact of disease, Government has directed considerable resources towards reducing non-communicable
diseases through education and awareness; ensuring appropriate levels of medical professionals are trained and retained; and making the public health system more efficient by out-sourcing all non-essential services.
Health is critical to productivity. If people are continuously ill, they miss work and production declines. With declining productivity, comes declining income. I am sure that every person here who runs a business whether for himself or someone else, will appreciate the costs associated with declining productivity.

Ignorance
Ignorance can be countered through empowerment. Economic, intellectual and social empowerment are critical to overcoming poverty.
In this regard, Government has set on its agenda, the goal of Making Fiji a Knowledge based Society by improving access to quality and affordable education for all; improving education infrastructure and facilities, establishment of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) competency based curriculum piloted at secondary schools, the establishment of the National Employment Centre and the establishment of the National Qualification Framework.

At this juncture, I would like to also commend the Fiji
Development Bank for the work that it has done to improve
financial literacy amongst the community through the Money Smart programme in all third forms in Fiji secondary schools since 2007. I congratulate the Bank for also taking a step further to finance the expansion of this programme to include form four in 2011 through Invest Smart.
The Reserve Bank of Fiji is currently heading the national financial inclusion programme to implement financial literacy throughout primary and secondary schools in Fiji.

Apathy
Apathy should be regarded as a mortal sin. When people stop caring about things that matter and each other, we have a serious problem. Social cohesion is important in the ongoing battle against poverty. Developing a Common National Identity and Building Social Cohesion is also a part of Government’s socialcultural development strategy for the medium term. Strategies to achieve this will centre on building a peaceful, non-racial, inclusive and united society.

Ladies and gentlemen, steps towards this has already been taken
by the changing of school names to reflect a more inclusive community as well as the use of Fijian to mean all persons born in Fiji irrespective of ethnicity. The term iTaukei is now reserved for the indigenous section of the population.

Additionally, efforts are being made through our educational
institutions to implement Civic Multi-cultural Education, the
teaching of vernacular language alongside English, studies on religion and culture as well as the flag raising ceremony and the singing of the national anthem in schools.

Dependency
To curb Dependency, Government has taken decisive steps towards setting realistic and achievable economic development
goals. These include:

1. Maintaining Macroeconomic Stability to facilitate social and
economic development;
2. Export promotion by raising the level of exports through the implementation of the National Export Strategy. Let me make
special mention here of two key initiatives of Government here – the Export Credit Facility and the Import Substitution and Export Finance Facility both of which can be accessed through the Fiji Development Bank.
3. Supporting food security and income generation initiatives to improve self-reliance and reduce imports. I note here also that the FDB’s primary lending focus is towards small and medium enterprises particularly in the resource-based sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forests;
4. Raising investment levels to 25% of GDP through the creation of an enabling environment;
5. Making more land available for productive and social purposes.The establishment of the Land Use Bank, ensuring equitable returns for land owners and security of tenure for leasees and increasing land rentals from Unimproved Capital Value rates to market rates, are but a few ways through which is being achieved; and
6. Enhancing global integration and international relations by reengaging with bilateral and multilateral partners; establishing
bilateral relations with Asian countries as well as South America and the Middle East to enhance investment and trade opportunities.

Dishonesty
To ensure that Dishonesty is done away with, Government has set in place a number of strategies to strengthen Good Governance which includes:
1. the formulation of a new constitution as set out under the People’s Charter (2012 -2013);
2. Electoral and Parliamentary reforms;
3. Strengthening law and justice through accountability of the judiciary, improving community policing and reducing repeat offenders and the extension of Legal Aid services to all major centres;
4. Ensuring effective, enlightened and accountable leadership;
5. Enhancing public sector efficiency, effectiveness and service delivery including reducing the size of the public service and
reforming all iTaukei institutions to meet the needs of the iTaukei communities; and
6. Developing an integrated development structure at divisional level in line with the integrated rural development framework.

Ladies and gentlemen, each of these factors are not independent of
each other and on close observation we can see that if we start to make progress in one area, it impacts others – all for the better.

The development of infrastructure such as better sea and air links,
better roads, water, electricity and telecommunication links are high on Government’s agenda because it realizes and recognizes that unless these basic services are in place, social and economic development is not possible.

In opening a branch office here in Taveuni, the Fiji Development
Bank has shown that it takes its role as a key development partner of Government to heart. The Mission of the Bank is to provide finance, financial and advisory services to assist in the economic development of Fiji and in particular the development of agriculture, commerce and industry.

Inaccessibility to financial assistance has always been a deterrent
to business. You now have no excuse. By bringing their service directly to your doorstep, FDB offers the people of Taveuni, Kioa, Yanuca and Qamea the opportunity to improve livelihoods and eradicate poverty.
On this note ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I declare the FDB Taveuni Branch officially open.
Vinaka.

 

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