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EDITORIAL: Right Application Of Affirmative Action

Affirmative action has in the past been tagged to deliberate programmes by previous governments to justify the channeling of public funds for those purposes. The old iTaukei Affairs scholarship was
08 Jul 2015 13:26
EDITORIAL: Right Application Of Affirmative Action
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, handed over cheques to iTaukei landowners to help them start their own business ventures. Some would ask: Is this affirmative action? In a way it is. It is affirmative action applied in the right way.

Affirmative action has in the past been tagged to deliberate programmes by previous governments to justify the channeling of public funds for those purposes.

The old iTaukei Affairs scholarship was an example. In the absence of a proper audit to ascertain the success of that programme, it is hard to defend its continuation. Secondly, it is out of sync with the Constitutional provisions of equal citizenry, where everyone is treated equally. In the context of education, the new policies encourage iTaukei to lift their game and perform on a level playing field. Nationally, we lift the standards for all ethnic groups from secondary schools to tertiary level.

The resultant effect is this – over a period of time we will get top class graduates, who are the best in their fields.

When you are lying on an operating table, you will hope that a competent surgeon, who has come through the system with flying colours, will be performing the surgery.

In the classroom, you want the best teachers to teach your children. The same principle applies in other areas.

There has been a debate over scholarships and student loans. It all boils down to one question: Do we want excellence or mediocrity?

Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, handed over cheques to iTaukei landowners to help them start their own business ventures. Some would ask: Is this affirmative action?

In a way it is. It is affirmative action applied in the right way.

The recipients of this Government grant are members of a very special group of people in Fiji. While they communally own most of the land, it is not reflected in their economic status.

The Government in its wisdom has provided help in a tangible way to kick start commercial projects.

Since the inception of the iTaukei Land Trust Board, many landowners have leased out their land. If they had farmed the land themselves or used them for other commercial activities they would have received a higher return than the lease income.

But many of them are handicapped by a lack of working capital.

This is what this Government is trying to address, to provide the means that will enable people to start their own business and help stimulate economic growth.

The people of Ra Province, by their own admission, wonder why they are still poor when they have a lot of land.Other provinces can relate to the challenges facing Ra.

The Government’s $10 million grant is affirmative action. It will help landowners like those from Ra go into projects they have only dreamed of in the past.

There is an important element in this programme. It requires technical support, expert advice and constant monitoring to ensure the projects succeed.

Many iTaukei business ventures in the past had floundered because they lacked this basic support. They need to be reminded that business and culture do not mix.

For some of the grant recipients, this may be the first time they are trying their hands on running a business. They will therefore need a certain degree of nurturing before they are strong enough to run on their own.

But the idea behind the grant is great. It is a bold and positive move that will transform lives in the rural areas. This is affirmative action.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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