Current Economic Growth and Future Forecast Remarkable Given Climate Change Challenges
It is no mean feat that the Fijian economy is estimated to have expanded by two per cent last year despite Tropical Cyclone Winston.
While the cyclone devastated parts of Fiji, it spared tourism, industrial and business centres in our urban centres.
Millions of dollars of losses were recorded in infrastructure, schools, housing and the rural and maritime economy. But we have bounced back in our rehabilitation and rebuilding programme.
Granted there are people still living in tents and some schools holding classes in makeshift shelters, this does not mean that they have been forgotten.
They just happen to be in that state because of the way the assistance has been rolled out. It has been made clear that the Government wants to make sure that it does not want to rebuild for the sake of rebuilding.
It has taken longer than expected because Government wants the new structures to have the strength and capacity to withstand future cyclones.
So the rebuilding will have to comply with the new building specifications designed to stand up to cyclone force winds.
The other challenge, of course, is to source the right material. This may have contributed to the delay.
But when every house or school has been rebuilt it will have been worth the wait because the beneficiaries will realise that they are now in buildings that are much stronger and safer.
It gives them a peace of mind. The destruction by TC Winston showed that many of the buildings destroyed failed to measure up to the nationally and internationally recognised building standards.
Some may wonder how the Government continues to move forward despite climate change events like TC Winston which was followed by TD04F in December and this week by TD09F.
These weather events chip away at economic gains we make. In the current wet weather, infrastructure, roads, bridges and agriculture, got the big hit in the West. We will get to hear the cost of damage soon.They are a concern because they act as bumpers and slow our progress.
Prudent financial management has enabled the Government to keep pushing forward, despite the effects of climate change.
The Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says for 2017, the economy is forecasted to accelerate to 3.6 per cent growth.
If positive growth for the economy is again achieved, this will become the longest period of sustained economic growth since Independence, he adds.
He says 2018 and 2019 also look promising with the economy projected to grow by three per cent, and if achieved, Fiji will register 10 years of consecutive economic growth.
It means more people are participants in economic activities because of an enabling environment created by Government policies. Financial markets react to economic activities.
In Fiji’s case our economic resilience in the wake of natural disasters instill confidence in investors to invest. Through the Government’s popular small business grants, ordinary people in the rural areas are now having a go at operating small businesses.
It is empowering and generating economic activities in the rural areas.
But, as we have been reminded several times, the economy is at the mercy of wild weather patterns because of climate change. But we must be prepared for any disaster. As we battle climate change on the home front, our presidency of COP23 underlines our commitment to reducing global warming and helping small island states threatened by rising sea level.
The Government appears to be on the right track as it continues to build the economy and at the same time build defences to protect it against climate change.
It is remarkable the way it has done it.