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Expat Expertise Vital: PM

It is vital that smaller nations realise that major improvements in infrastructure require outside involvement – partnerships with foreign companies capable of providing the required expertise, says Prime Minister Voreqe
27 Nov 2015 09:33
Expat Expertise Vital: PM
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

It is vital that smaller nations realise that major improvements in infrastructure require outside involvement – partnerships with foreign companies capable of providing the required expertise, says Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

This was the gist of Prime Minister ’s keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Malta with the theme – ‘Investing in Infrastructure: Building for the Long Term’.

“So to upgrade our roads, we issued contracts to road building specialists from New Zealand, China and Malaysia,” Mr Bainimarama said.

Some critics he said had said “Why can’t we use our own people?”

He said the simple truth was that during the years of decline in Fiji, we progressively lost the ability to build decent roads. In fact, he said, Fiji’s Public Works Department had become so inefficient and corrupt that his Government shut it down altogether.

Now the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) – which commissions roadworks – he said worked with their foreign partners and experts, who used local workers and they were passing on their expertise.

“In doing so, we are rebuilding our own road-building skills and also learning how to better maintain road surfaces in our harsh tropical conditions.”

But the lesson from this, he said, was that xenophobia was the enemy of efficiency and infrastructure development.

“If you can’t do it properly yourself, get someone else from outside who can. And ride them hard to produce the best possible result and to ensure that skill sets are passed down to the best qualified locals.”

This public-private partnership, this foreign–domestic partnership, he said, was the model Fiji had adopted and was contributing to its success.

Government, he said, had a vision of Fiji exploiting its position at the crossroads of the Pacific to establish itself as a genuine trading hub.

“So the reform programme in our ports is another key component of our infrastructure development. Before these reforms, some shipping companies either bypassed Fiji altogether because of slow turnaround times or charged exporters a surcharge to cover the extra cost caused by these delays. Fiji’s main ports were clogged and government desperately needed to unclog them.”

He said Government looked overseas for a partner with world class expertise to assist Fiji with the reform process.

“And again, our Fiji Ports Corporation entered into a successful partnership with the Sri Lankan company, Atkins Spence – a “top 200” Forbes company.”

With a brief to urgently address the bottlenecks at the two main ports of Suva and Lautoka, Atkins Spence has helped Fiji increase productivity by 30 per cent, he said.

“There has been a marked improvement in vessel turnaround times, thanks to new work practices and new machinery, with consequent falls in the cost of doing business for our importers and exporters. To enhance efficiency even more, Government recently divested 59 per cent of its shares in the Fiji Ports Corporation and raised more than 100-million Fijian dollars.

Government’s concept of Fiji as a Pacific hub extends to aviation.

He said Airports Fiji Limited would spend $250m in the next five years to upgrade Nadi International Airport – Fiji’s main point of entry – and other airports to bring them up to international standards.

“This is on top of the major investment we have made in our national airline – Fiji Airways – equipping it with three state-of-the-art A330-200s plus a fourth A330-300 that I will be taking delivery of from the Airbus Company on the 14th of next month.”

He said this investment in new, fuel efficient aircraft had been a major contributor to Fiji Airways announcing its biggest ever pre-tax profit last year of $60m.

Mr Bainimarama said from next April, Fiji Airways would start direct flights to Singapore.

He said this would mean the Fijian national carrier would fly to every single continent that bordered the Pacific Ocean except South America.

Feedback:  maikab@fijisun.com.fj

 

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