Opinion

Good News On Our Economy From Minister For Economy

The following is the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s ministerial statement in Parliament on February 8.     Madam Speaker, I wish to present an update on the
10 Feb 2017 11:59
Good News On Our Economy From Minister For Economy
Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’

The following is the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s ministerial statement in Parliament on February 8.

 

 

  1. Madam Speaker, I wish to present an update on the performance of the Fijian economy in 2016 and 2017 including Government initiatives that support our growth momentum, and highlight prospects for 2017 and the medium term.

 

  1. Also Madam Speaker, as the philosophy of FijiFirst is– to empower ordinary Fijians, the wisdom of the FijiFirst Government lies not in making all the decisions for its people, but in creating the conditions that allow Fijians to seize those opportunities to improve themselves – to create, to grow, and to contribute to building a nation that is more prosperous, more just and more modern every day.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, we have repealed and revised our Fijian laws to promote inclusive development and support investor confidence. We are investing in education and working to close the skills gap through technical colleges. We are modernising the civil service to improve access to, and delivery of Government services. We continue to invest heavily in infrastructure – roads, bridges and jetties including footpaths and street lighting. We are charting new air links to increase connectivity to the world and visibility to investors. We are connecting Fijians to grid electricity. We have taken steps to further develop iTaukei land to benefit resource owners and ordinary Fijians. We are providing metered, safe drinking water to Fijians and empowering them with social protection programmes.

 

  1. We are also introducing new laws to improve workers’ rights and of course, securing our FNPF.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, Government is doing what it should do. Investing in the enablers that will support Fijians to fully participate in the economy and draw in genuine investors, both domestically and internationally, that share the Fijian Government’s vision for inclusive and sustained growth and development.

 

Outlook for Growth

  1. Madam Speaker, despite the destruction from Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston, the Fijian economy is estimated to have expanded by 2.0 per cent in 2016. This means that the Fijian economy has recorded seven years of consecutive economic growth, seen only once before in the post-independence era, which was in the 1970’s.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, 2018 and 2019 also look promising with the economy projected to grow by 3.0 per cent, and if achieved, Fiji will register 10 years of consecutive economic growth.

 

  1. This unprecedented growth trend, and particularly the strength of this growth, is clear evidence that our economic policies and the investments Government is undertaking are doing what we intended them to do, and that this is the right economic course for Fiji.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, the current economic expansion is driven by both public and private sector activities and we must sustain this growth momentum.

 

Sustaining the Fundamentals

  1. Madam Speaker, the Revised Edition of the Laws of Fiji was launched in December last year. The consolidation of the laws, which has not been done for over 30 years, provides clarity regarding the laws applicable in Fiji. This makes doing business easier and more transparent, which in turn boosts investor confidence and facilitates domestic and foreign investment.

The Government’s legislative programme is also focused on facilitating business in Fiji. We are currently working with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (‘UNCITRAL’) on the ratification of a number of Conventions including the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communication in International Contracts 2005 (the report for which was tabled yesterday in Parliament) and the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods.

 

  1. The ratification of these Conventions and their effect on our domestic laws will make it easier for Fijian businesses to transact internationally. Along with other initiatives, such as the National Switch, which will be debated in Parliament tomorrow, the reforms by the Government foster increased business confidence, which will have a flow on effect on the economy. It will make the cost of doing business a lot cheaper. It will also mean individual citizens will be able to access finance facilities at a much lower cost.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, modernising the civil service builds public trust and confidence in governance and service delivery. A modern public service is also essential for building and sustaining investor confidence. The introduction of new technology, and not just the introduction of technology as in the hardware but also the process of modernising the methodologies relating to the processing of applications.

 

Economic Performance

  1. Madam Speaker, there were a number of positives in 2016. All sectors expanded with the exception of the primary and manufacturing sectors, which declined due to the impact of TC Winston.

 

  1. The tourism sector continued to grow and reached a new milestone. Arrivals reached a new record of 792,320 persons which was 5 per cent higher than 2015. While visitors from one of our traditional sources, Australia dipped slightly, new highs were recorded for New Zealand (163,836) and China (49,083) which grew by 18.3 per cent and 22.2 per cent, respectively.

 

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  1. For the ‘visitor economy’ we introduced direct flights to Singapore in April last year. This year again, we have achieved yet another milestone with Fiji Airways announcing plans for a twice weekly direct flights from Adelaide to Nadi starting from 30th of June of this year. With the launch of the fourth Australian route, after Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, we will now see our expansion from the eastern seaboard of Australia into the centre of Australia which will provide a new catchment area.

 

  1. The new route will also be a gateway for flights to the United States, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, via Nadi. The new leg will connect South Australians with other South Pacific regions including Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, via Nadi, and comes as Fiji Airways announces its new B737 Max 8 aircraft which will start coming on stream from next year.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, the wholesale and retail sector is estimated to have contributed 0.5 percentage points to the 2016 growth. Feedback from RBF’s retail sales survey revealed that businesses expected retail sales to grow in excess of 8 per cent in 2016.

 

  1. The construction sector is estimated to have contributed approximately 0.4 percentage points to growth last year. This is supported by partial indicators such as double digit growth in both the value of work put-in-place and domestic cement sales.

 

  1. The mining sector also showed a turnaround with production increasing in 2016 and a pick-up in electricity production despite significant damages to related infrastructure.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, these sectoral performances reflect strong confidence in Government’s policies and the economy as a whole. This is evident in the results of the Reserve Bank of Fiji’s ‘Business Expectations Survey’ where almost 80 per cent of the respondents to the Survey said that they would invest in plant and machinery over the next 12 months while almost 70 per cent said they would invest in buildings.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, this is further supported by a number of partial indicators that are closely monitored by the Reserve Bank that show that both consumption and investment spending remained strong over 2016. This includes VAT collections adjusted for the 40 per cent reduction in VAT rate (from 15 per cent to 9 per cent), imports, new and second-hand vehicle sales, employment, PAYE collections and remittances. Although we believe there is still scope to have more VAT collections and there is still ‘VAT dodging’ occurring both at the border and within the border.

 

  1. On an annual basis, inward personal remittances rose by 10.2 per cent to a record $541.8 million in 2016 following the 28.3 per cent growth in 2015.

 

  1. Again Madam Speaker, spending remained high with private sector credit expanding by 12.9 per cent in the year to November 2016, demonstrating business confidence.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, inflation rose between the May and September 2016 period to above 5.0 per cent due to a shortage in supply of primarily fresh fruits, vegetables and Yaqona, but declined to 3.9 per cent at the end of the year.

 

  1. For 2017 Madam Speaker, the Reserve Bank forecasts inflation to decline further to around 2.5 per cent at the end of this year.

 

  1. At the end of December 2016, foreign reserves held by the Reserve Bank was $1.9 billion, sufficient to cover 5.4 months of retained imports. Currently, reserves are at a similar level, which is unprecedented.

 

Employment and Job Creation

  1. Madam Speaker, labour market conditions also remain favourable. The Reserve Bank of Fiji’s job advertisement survey showed a growth of 15.1 per cent for the whole of 2016 after an 18.7 per cent rise in 2015.

 

  1. In terms of job creation and micro and small enterprises development Madam Speaker, the Micro and Small Business Grant scheme under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has to date disbursed $5.5 million in grants to grassroots people. Total recipients since the launch of the initiative in July 2015 stands at 5853 people.

 

  1. Madam Speaker $6.4 million allocated in the 2016-2017 Budget will be used to rehabilitate businesses affected by TC Winston. $2.2 million will be disbursed to assist 2,508 affected grant recipients.

 

  1. A further $4.7 million grant by the Government of India will be used for assisting new applicants. So far 19,850 new applications are currently being considered by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, given that around 70 per cent of our population are below the age of 40, the Fijian Government will continue to provide the necessary tools to ensure that our youth are not only successful job seekers, but also become job creators themselves. We need to move away from that mindset which of course we appeal to the other side to think about also.

 

  1. To support this Madam Speaker, Government provided $18.8 million in the 2016-2017 Budget to fund the operations and establishment of Technical Colleges.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, to date 13 Technical Colleges have been established, the latest being the Ratu Mara College in Lakeba, Lau that was opened on Monday 6th of February 2017. Of course Madam Speaker, we expect these Technical Colleges to fill the huge trade skills gap that we have at the moment in the country and this is indeed one of our challenges. We are actually importing people at the moment, as we highlighted the other day, to fill in the trade skills gap.

 

  1. Courses undertaken in these colleges are modified training programmes and short courses specifically designed to enhance career development in workplace essentials in the disciplines of construction, engineering, tourism and hospitality and agriculture.

 

Infrastructure and Land Development

in Support of Growth

 

Street Lighting

  1. Madam Speaker, giving all Fijians a better life that is safe and secure is a paramount focus of Government. One of the many ways in which Government is creating a secure and productive society is through the street lighting programme, in particular the rural street lighting programme. The benefits of the programme go beyond improving visibility for drivers and reducing pedestrian accidents.

 

  1. Streetlights support streetscape enhancements and bring a new ambiance for our communities – it incentivises night time trading for small vendors and supports productivity and longer working hours as people feel safe travelling home at night.

 

  1. Having streetlights also supports healthier living as people feel safe to walk home or exercise at night which is an added benefit, considering our fight against non-communicable diseases. This is quite visible Madam Speaker with the new footpath that has been put from Nadi Airport all the way to Wailoaloa, the backroad to Denarau, you will actually see now dozens if not hundreds of people literally walking everyday using those footpaths. I have relatives who actually work at the Fijian Hotel who now walk home to their villages because of the streetlights; some of them of course losing weight as a result of that.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, the Fiji Roads Authority (‘FRA’) is installing streetlights in villages, settlements and peri-urban residential areas, along with improving existing streetlights. All new streetlights are now being installed with LED light bulbs because it projects the lumen output of the LED more efficiently, which allows for wider coverage of a consistent light pattern. Needless to say, LED lights are environmentally friendly because they consume so little energy. They are free from hazardous chemicals such as mercury and lead which release toxins.

 

  1. The Western Village Streetlight Programme, currently underway will see the installation of 122 new streetlights upon completion. The total cost of the project is around $1.6 million. Madam Speaker, the installations will cover the entire stretch from Korotogo Bypass Road to Nailaga Village. With this section, 100 per cent of trenching and pole foundation work has already been carried out in the Cuvu Section and the Korovuto section on the Queens Highway, with other pole installations. The other sites along this stretch will be completed by July/August this year. The section in front of the Nailaga Village will be installed completely with solar streetlights which will contribute to our commitments under the Paris Agreement. Also you will see in some of the villages which are very large villages, wherever there are existing poles we put what we call ‘outreach extensions’ from those poles to provide street lighting within the villages themselves.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, of course on the other side of the island too, tenders will go out by the end of February 2017 which will take care of the street lighting from Suva all the way to Korotogo Village going along the Queens Road and that preliminary cost estimate for the project is around $3.5m.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, installation of streetlights along the Kings Road stretch from Nailaga Village to Nausori Town is also planned with detailed scoping, concept approval and the detailed design of 181 sites currently underway. The project is estimated to cost around $3.9 million. Some of the areas that will benefit include:Nailaga Village to Ba Town, Wairuku Public School, Rakiraki Public School, Tanoa hotel plus inside village (Rakiraki Village), Malake Landing, Volivoli Road, Navolau Village, Naivuvuni Village, Narewa Village, RA Maternity hospital, Balata junction, Waimicia Shopping Centre, QVS, Lawaki, RKS, Lodoni Village, Verata to Nausori Town, etc. Those areas without FEA power will be connected once power lines are installed.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, the installation of streetlights in Vanua Levu from Labasa to Savusavu will be scoped in two weeks’ time. Tenders are expected to be advertised by early April this year and the project is anticipated to be completed by March 2018.

 

Urban and Peri-Urban Street Lighting

  1. Madam Speaker, work is currently underway to confirm and scope the requirement for other areas within town/city areas where streetlights are required. This includes areas within the Greater Suva Corridor where there are no streetlights, such as Nadera, Nadawa, surrounding areas in Nausori including Wainabokasi as well as areas such as Votualevu in Nadi. Scoping of the latter is almost complete.

 

  1. The scoping works for these areas will be carried out in two weeks’ time. Tenders are expected to go out by early April this year and the project is anticipated to be completed by March 2018.

 

Streetlight Maintenance

  1. In addition to the above Madam Speaker, to properly maintain the approximately 8,750 existing streetlights, the FRA has recently gone to market with seven Requests for Tender to select new streetlight maintenance contractors in the areas of: (i) Suva; (ii) Lautoka; (iii) Tavua, Ba and Rakiraki; (iv) Savusavu and Labasa; (v) Levuka, Nasinu and Nausori; (vi) Lami, Deuba and Navua; and (vii) Nadi and Sigatoka, seeking contractors to replace the current maintenance contractor, whose contract term ended on 31 December 2016. The work has been repackaged to give smaller local companies the opportunity to bid. The tenders have closed and are currently being evaluated. These contracts will be issued on an interim, 12-month basis.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, the FRA has also recently released an Expression of Interest for an Innovative Streetlight Proposal for Fiji. We are open to innovative financing and funding models including Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) solutions. In fact the State of Orissa in India has done it very successfully where in fact companies have come in and installed the streetlights at no cost to the Government but the electricity bill that they used to pay is what they get paid, depending on the efficiency of the lighting system. We are also talking to Osram and Phillips as a number of people are in fact interested in coming in to Fiji. In fact, we expect to almost double the number of streetlights that we have. We currently have about 8,750, some of them not working very well; we want to take them up to 20,000. 30 per cent of these streetlights will be solar and all lights will be LED. Provision will be made for the novation of the interim maintenance contracts across to the successful tenderer. We also, again want to provide an enabling environment for our people. To be able to incentivise them to be able to create commercial activity. We are also focussing on developing footpaths and that goes hand in hand with street lighting. These are the nuts and bolts of how people get confidence. When you have street lighting and footpaths you are able to do land developments such as, for example, the Honourable Prime Minister together with the Minister for Lands in Navua, where they gave out 68 leases for 99 years to people who had been living as squatters. The moment you give leases, street lights and footpaths they are able to feel good about themselves. They build their homes, they are able to participate in the mainstream financial sector, they are able to go to commercial banks and get loans. We also hope to have discussions with insurance companies and banks and we are currently working on various models in respect of that.

 

Footpath Development and Rural Roads

  1. Infrastructure development, Madam Speaker, provides further impetus for economic growth.

 

Footpaths

  1. Madam Speaker, the FRA has embarked on a large-scale footpaths development programme. A contract for construction of footpaths has already been awarded to Hotsprings Company Limited at a value of $953,000 to construct footpaths around 20 sites across Suva, Raiwaqa, Nabua, Raiwai, Nausori, Nasinu, Lami, Sigatoka, Lautoka and Ba. Some specific sites include: Ratu Dovi Road in Nasinu, Fletcher Road and Grantham Road in Suva, Lami Street and Nukuwatu Street in Lami, Nukudrala Road in Ba, Mission Road in Sigatoka and Nava Street and Vitogo Parade in Lautoka. The project is on schedule with sites in Nausori, Nabua and Nasinu already complete. The works on remaining sites are expected to be completed by October 2017. A contract for the construction of a 3.3km of footpath along Cunningham Road has recently been awarded to Reebihoth contractors at a value of $1.2 million. The expected completion timeline is December 2017.

 

  1. A further tender for the construction of footpaths in Votualevu, Nadi is currently being evaluated and expected to be awarded by the middle of this month. Specific areas where footpaths will be constructed in Votualevu include: Votualevu Road – (from New World IGA Supermarket to Votualevu College, Koroitamana Road, Legalega Road, Kontiki Road (Beverley Hills Estate Road) and Carreras Road.

 

  1. Scoping of further areas in Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, Rakiraki, Lami, Levuka, Nausori, Nasinu, Labasa, Savusavu and Suva is presently underway. Tenders will be released to market by May 2017 with works expected to be completed by April 2018.

 

Rural Roads

  1. Madam Speaker, works on the rural roads around the country have been expedited. Road projects that have been completed include: Matokana Road, Nukurua Road, Kilaka Road, Niurua Village Road in Kadavu, Namuavoivoi Road, Wailevu West Coast and Kubulau Road, Nabena Irish Crossing and Nadelei Crossing. Ninety-five per cent of work has been completed on Natewa Coast Road and Korotasere Road upgrade and Raravula Farm Road.

 

  1. Partially complete road projects are: Eastern Islands roads and bridges upgrades (30 per cent completed) and Rotuma farm roads (10 per cent completed).

 

  1. For Kadavu Island, the rural roads upgrade tender has been awarded and work is expected to begin soon.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, the scoping exercise for Dakunikoro Farm Access Road, Nakalawaca, Maumi and Cautata Roads, Wainivesi Road, Sevaci-Korotasere Road, Kavula-Banikea and Koroinosolo Road and Tilivalevu Village Access Road is now complete. Tenders for these projects will be advertised soon.

 

New Bridges, Crossings and Jetties Constructed

  1. Madam Speaker, bridge projects that are now complete include the $8.4 million Denarau Bridge. We also, as part of that, will have a bus bay built on the opposite Denarau Island site so ordinary transportation, people who run minibuses, people who run ordinary buses, people who come in their private cars can get dropped off there so people can walk onto the island. So these are the kind of long term opportunities we are looking at where private sector participants can also participate– because we are creating the right infrastructure.

 

  1. There are also four long bridges in Vunidilo, Vunivaivai, Lomawai 1 and Cogeloa 1 valued at $16.5 million. Short bridges that have been completed include: Vuma Box Culvert (Ovalau), Market Bridge (Ovalau), Naisogo (Ovalau) and Savu 4 (Naitisiri). This was done at a cost of $10.3 million. In addition, the Penang Mill bridge was repaired at a cost $0.7 million while the repairs to the Tamavua-i-wai bridge cost $1.5 million.

 

  1. Works are ongoing on the following bridges: Vatuwaqa Bridge, Stinson Parade Bridge, Nasese Bridge, Taveuni Bridges (Nalele Bridge, Navaca Bridge, Soqulu I and II Bridges, Balili Culvert Crossings).

 

  1. Completed crossings, Madam Speaker include: Nakosurele; Nabena; Nadelei; Wauosi; Waivaka; Waimari; Vanuakula; Vutuni 1 and Vutuni 2; and Nayawa. Works are underway for Matawale Replacement Crossing Solovi 1 and 2 Irish Crossing Rabaraba Crossing.

 

  1. Jetties in Qarani and Nabouwalu are now also complete, Madam Speaker. Works are also underway for Savusavu Jetty, Vunisea 2 Jetty, Makogai Jetty, Koro Jetty, Lomaloma Jetty, Nabukeru Jetty.

 

Rural Water Supply Projects

  1. Rural water supply projects that have been completed since July 2016 include: Serea Rural Water Project valued at $478,911.71; Naluwai Rural Water Project costing $108,792.15; Vanuakula Rural Water Project valued at $156,977.89; Tukavesi Rural Water Project costing $168,406; and Yarovudi Rural Water Project valued at $123,770.

                       

  1. Madam Speaker, in 2016 around 2,515 new water meters were connected. Of these 1,284 were in Central Division, 977 in Western Division and 252 in Northern Division. For 2017, in January, there have been 224 new water meter connections. Of these 118 were in Central Division, 88 in Western Division and 18 in Northern Division. Majority of new water connections were installed within the Suva/Nausori and Nadi/Lautoka corridors.

 

  1. In addition, there are 12 ongoing rural village and settlement water projects. An expected completion date for these projects is July 2017.

 

Rural Electrification

  1. Madam Speaker, rural electrification is very critical. When rural electrification expands, and the grid is expanded, you have villagers who can now have their own freezers and cooler boxes. They catch their fish and their ability to negotiate with third parties to be able to sell their fish, as long as it is not poisonous fish, they can of course Madam Speaker, be able to get better prices. But if they don’t have electricity, they don’t have freezers, they have to sell at a price that is not necessarily the right price they should be getting. I have a whole list of rural electrification projects Madam Speaker that have been put in place and they will be completed Madam Speaker in the next few months. A lot of these have been languishing within the system.

 

  1. Around 40 rural electrification projects have been completed since August 2016. Some of the areas include: Votua Village, Sigatoka; Belap Road Settlement, Nadi; Vunarewa Village, Sigatoka; Delainimasimasi Settlement, Lautoka; Navoka Settlement, Lautoka; Lavuci Settlement, Ba; Babriban Settlement, Ba; Nadrau and Naga Village, Tavua; Namotomoto Village, Nadi; Bocalevu Settlement, Labasa; Nakasa to Uluivalili, Savusavu; Tiri Settlement, Tabucola, Labasa; Bocalevu, Labasa; Nasasa Village and Settlement, Tabia, Labasa Lamini Village, Nasarata Village, Somosomo Village, Dreketi Village and Somosomo Primary School; Nasesara Settlement, Naduru, Tailevu; Vunibuco Settlement, Tacirua; Matamaivere Settlement, Namara, Tailevu; and Sauniwaqa Farming Community, Rewa.

 

 

  1. In addition Madam Speaker, works are ongoing for around 114 projects – 56 projects are in design stage, 6 projects are on tender stage, 10 projects are in contract stage, and 42 projects under construction. The projects are spread across the country – 49 are in the Western Division, 38 in the Central Division and 27 in the Northern Division. Some of the major projects are as follows:

  Supply to Navala Village, Ba

 Supply to Tokaimalo Stage 2 – Rakiraki, Phase 1

 Supply to Nausori Village and Settlements, Rakiraki

 Supply to Koronubu/Namau, Ba

 Supply to Vatubalavu Village and nearby settlements and Villages, Navosa

 Supply to Malake Village and Settlements, Malake Island

 Supply to Malabi, Naveicovatu, Nasautoka, Nabouva Wainibuka

 Supply to Burewai District School, Delaiyadua Village, Matainananu Village, Navaicoco Village and Nadogoloa Village Korovou

 Supply to Savua Settlement, Buiduna Road, Nausori

 Supply to Nasiriti and Nasoqo Village, Naitasiri

 Supply to Naitauvoli, Drauleba, Naseveve, Wainabua and Nuku Village and  Aravakawala District, Naitasiri

 Supply to Nacagilevu and Nabou Settlements, Vatulili Village, Waidina, Naitasiri

 Supply to Naivoco Village, Nalalau Settlement and Wainivesi Farm, Dawasamu, Tailevu

 Supply to Ketei Settlement, Saudrodro, Savusavu

 Supply to Lomaloma Settlement, Labasa

 Grid Extension from Nacavanacadi to Korotasere Government Station, Savusavu

 Supply to Daku/Naveria, Savusavu

 

 

Land Development

  1. We of course have the Wairabatia project, the Lawaki, Saweni project, Elevuka and Vuda, the Yada and Nadroga. These are the iTaukei development projects that we had announced earlier on. They are going ahead full swing Madam Speaker. There’s are a few more that have come online too and we will be revealing those details again.

 

Social Protection Programs

  1. Madam Speaker, Government’s social welfare programs, which play a positive redistributive role, now cover a little over 49,000 beneficiaries. In fact, the coverage of Government’s welfare assistance has increased following reforms.

 

  1. The Poverty Benefit Scheme benefits a total of around 22,700 households while the Care and Protection Allowance benefits around 3,300 children both in kinship and residential care. The Social Pension Scheme benefits close to 18,600 elderly while the Food Voucher for Rural Pregnant Mothers has benefitted around 4,000 mothers in the rural areas.

 

  1. In further reducing vulnerability and building resilience, Government encourages people to move from ‘welfare to workfare’ through the Welfare Graduation Programme. Identified recipients are provided such welfare assistance for a maximum period of 3-5 years, before they are graduated having acquired training and capital for their income generating projects. Some 291 welfare recipients have successfully graduated to date.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, the Gini Coefficient index, which is the most common inequality measure, shows Fiji’s income inequality trending downwards. In 2008/09, Fiji’s Gini index was 0.43, which by 2013/14 was 0.36—a reduction of 16.3 per cent.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, with a number of projects in place, and only yesterday the Honourable member for local government and housing, we had a meeting with some experts and consultants from overseas where we were looking to get some very quick solutions and long term solutions, partnering with the private sector to provide low cost housing both for rental purposes and also for ownership purposes. We are also looking at some long-term planning for our urban centres Madam Speaker.

 

  1. Madam Speaker, in respect of the update to be provided, we want to tell Parliament that a great deal of equalisation is actually taking place for rural development and the disadvantaged and to empower through resource and infrastructure. We of course will continue the development path and we will continue with the sustained economic growth driven by very, very positive figures.

Thank you Madam Speaker.



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