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A-G: We Should Work Collaboratively

A-G: We Should Work Collaboratively
Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
September 03
10:54 2018

There were a lot of eco­nomic activities dis­cussed at the success­ful Business 2025 Forum last Saturday at Suva’s Grand Pacific Hotel.

It was obvious that ease of doing business, our in­frastructure such as hotels, roads and ports of entry were the highlights along with commercial banks changing their mind-sets about the ag­riculture sector.

The Business 2025 forum or­ganised by the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry was an opportunity to hear from Government and key stakeholders on their vision for the Fijian business com­munity by 2025.

Hotels

During the forum’s panel discussion a question was posed to Fiji Airways man­aging director and chief ex­ecutive Andre Viljoen about the demand in hotel rooms because passengers are in­creasing every year.

Q:Also are we going to see more five star hotels in the future?

Q: Are you happy with Gov­ernment incentive for the ho­tel sector?

“Yes we have communicat­ed it not only to the Minister but also to the hotel indus­try,” Mr Viljoen said.

“We are currently working with them and sharing infor­mation and we recently had a tourism talanoa where it was discussed as well.”

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said they can be very innovative.

He said the reality is that many of these hotels don’t necessarily partner with Fiji Airways well.

And they are very unilat­eral in their approach.

He noted that they need to work together collaborative­ly.

He noted the other issue was of course incentives.

He said they believe they have enough incentives for new operators coming into the market to incentivise them.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stressed that five star hotels are not the only category they should be in because there is also good market for three and half stars and four stars.

He said: “We need to spread our risk and not be complete­ly dependent on one secured perspective of the market.”

He noted they also need to be able to broaden their tour­ism sector.

He highlighted the shop­ping experience could devel­op and mature more.

He noted we are still soft in the MICE (Meetings, incen­tives, conferences and exhi­bitions market.

He gave an example when he visited India a few years ago and met a couple of these companies who actually run the filmfare awards etc were very keen to come to Fiji.

He noted the setback for these companies to come was because we don’t have a con­vention centre that can host four and a half thousand peo­ple so we miss out big time on that.

He noted that the Fiji Na­tional Provident Fund are interested and hopefully will come up with a convention centre large enough to cater for such numbers.

He said that was another scope of this segment in the market that we are missing out from and there is a lot of work to be done. He stressed that everybody needs to have a collaborative approach.

Traffic

In terms of road traffic in 2025, he said we really need a mind shift change.

He said Government had said they can construct a four lane road between Nadi and Lautoka.

But you can imagine the cost to Fiji Roads Author­ity to develop it when people have encroachments.

He said people wanted to be­come like Singapore, but he noted that it was an anomaly or oxymoron actually.

He noted that business peo­ple want to circumvent the laws.

They want to bypass the law and are the ones creating corruption too.

Corruption he stressed, works both ways, where he gave an example of people working for the private sec­tor bribing Government offi­cials. He said of course some Government officials are willing to accept some bribe money.

He said there is need to sig­nificantly change the mind-set, strengthen the law and of course remove a lot dis­cretionary powers that exist with certain office holders too.

The same way he said they had been done with Immigra­tion in this country.

He noted a few years ago there was a minister who had discretionary powers to give citizenship to all sorts of people and they had to re­move the minister.

Banking and Agriculture sector

A question was posed on the banking and agriculture sec­tor.

What are some of the things that Government can do to make the banks lend to the agriculture sector especially for the growth of Small Me­dium Enterprises?

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there were two things:

  1. First is to make agri­culture leases longer, for 99 years, because obviously you can understand mainstream commercial banks not will­ing to participate in that space because of the fact that they did not have long term leases.

We now have expanded the definition of crop lease be­cause it was restricted to sugar because they could not use the land as collateral so now they can because of the have 99 year leases.

Hopefully the banks would be able to get into that space.

Because when you get that term of lease then people who are serious about com­mercial farming will actu­ally invest.

  1. Requires a change of at­titude by the banks them­selves.

The banks whilst they may not be used to lending to the agriculture sector they need a change of mindset them­selves.

They are telling people to adopt technology.

They need to also adopt the agriculture sector them­selves, he said.

We should not only be com­pletely dependent on Fiji De­velopment Bank.

With long term leases there should not be any excuses.

maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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