A-G Clarifies: No Expense In $7 Bill

The following if the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s ministerial statement on the Fijian Rugby Rio Sevens Olympics gold medal commemorative banknote and coin in Parliament on April
28 Apr 2017 11:00
A-G Clarifies: No Expense In $7 Bill
The New 7 dollar note. Photo:Ruck

The following if the Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s ministerial statement on the Fijian Rugby Rio Sevens Olympics gold medal commemorative banknote and coin in Parliament on April 27, 2017.


Madam Speaker, on 20th April 2017, the Hon Prime Minister officiated at an event that marked the immortalisation of an achievement that epitomises our aspirations as a nation.

Last year when our Fijian Men’s Rugby Sevens team won Gold at the Rio Olympics Madam Speaker, we demonstrated to the world the dedication, commitment and resilience of the Fijian people. In the words of the Hon Prime Minister “we may be small but we are strong and when we work together we are unbeatable”.

Madam Speaker, let me first thank the Reserve Bank of Fiji (‘RBF’) Board and management for this great initiative to issue a commemorative circulation $7 banknote and 50 cent coin.  We have received very positive feedback on the designs and portraits used and the fact that our Rio Olympians have been honoured on our own currency.

Madam Speaker, let me also take this opportunity to thank you and the Honourable Leader of Opposition for attending the launch last week as it is an event that brought pride to all Fijians.

Madam Speaker, I also wish to remind Members that the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics took place a few, short months after Tropical Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm to hit our shores to date and one that brought our beloved nation to its knees. Following the cyclone, while we were down, we most certainly were not out.

At the Olympics we grabbed the opportunity to assert ourselves on a global stage, much like we are currently doing for the important challenge of climate change. With our Gold medal win, we united our people and brought home the much needed encouragement and motivation to forge ahead with our country’s recovery.


A nation’s currency

Madam Speaker, a nation’s currency typically illustrates what its people hold ‘near and dear’. Frequently, as is the case with Fiji, the colour and images chosen tell a story about the nation’s character, uniqueness and development journey. Images of multiculturalism, historic occasions, endemic and indigenous flora and fauna, artefacts and important industries have adorned our currency banknotes and coins over the years. Our notes and coins have a history of being vibrant, attractive and the subject of international acclaim many times. All finalised banknotes and coins are recorded in the history of the nation. These same designs are noted by currency experts, collectors and enthusiasts the world over.


Commemorative coin

Immediately after our Olympics win last year, the RBF Board approved the management’s recommendation to recognise the Rio Gold achievement on our nation’s currency. Government was only too happy to concur. Initially, the plan was to have a commemorative painted or coloured coin. Unfortunately, due to technical limitations, the coin was produced as normal or unpainted.

Madam Speaker, this is not the first time the RBF has issued a commemorative coin to honour our Olympians.  The RBF celebrated Hon Iliesa Delana’s gold medal win in the F42 High Jump event in the London Para-Olympics in 2012 with a 50 cent circulation coin.

Madam Speaker, again in this initiative the 50 cent denomination was chosen because it would be readily accessible to all citizens especially our young children. The commemorative coins were minted by our current suppliers, Royal Canadian Mint. This was because the RBF retained the overall shape and measurements of the current 50 cent coin and substituted the new Rio design in place of the existing flora and fauna design. In addition, the metallic content of the Rio commemorative 50 cent coin is the same as the flora and fauna 50 cent coin.

In doing the above, the RBF retained its existing 1 million coin supply order with the Canadian Mint, to meet currency demand, but switched the design to the new Rio Gold format.

  1. Madam Speaker, this ultimately meant that no additional cost was incurred in minting the new Rio Gold design 50 cent coin. I repeat, there were no additional costs for minting the 50 cent coin.


Commemorative Banknote

Madam Speaker, while the commemorative 50 cent coin was in process, the RBF Board of Directors also approved a commemorative banknote project and a selective tender was initiated by inviting tenders from our current banknote printer and printer for the past 103 years, De La Rue Currency and renowned French banknote printer, Oberthur Fiduciaire.

After thorough consideration of a number of factors including the design, technical and security features, price and ability to deliver the final product within the timeframe required, the RBF Board approved the tender by Oberthur Fiduciaire in October 2016.

Madam Speaker, it is important to note that the unit cost of producing one $7 banknote is in fact lower than the cost of printing an existing $5 note which is approximately $0.30 per note.

Madam Speaker, the cost of producing the two million commemorative banknotes was borne by the RBF.  Let me highlight here that Government and the tax payers did not bear this cost.

The RBF is confident that the cost will be fully recovered from the sale of special uncut sheets of the $7 banknote. Uncut banknote sheets are a popular collectors’ item and the highest numismatic revenue earner for the RBF in recent years.

The RBF has printed 10,000 uncut sheets which has 32 notes per sheet (total notes in uncut sheet is 320,000 notes) and estimates sales from this numismatic item to generate around $3 – $4 million.

Madam Speaker, the special features of the $7 note include:

The use of Optically Variable Ink (OVI) in a gold colour representing the gold medal, which also contains embossed features in the shape of RBF’s logo, the tagaga.  This effect can be felt by gradually moving one’s fingers over it.  This embossing gives depth and lends itself perfectly to the depiction of a gold medal;

When placed under an ultra violet light source, as a security feature, the gold medals around the necks of each player depicted on the note are revealed, as well as a set of goal posts with a try being converted;

The serial numbers are also laid out in a unique manner – one set in horizontal and one set in vertical format.  All serial numbers have their prefix as AU, the chemical symbol for gold; and

There is also a 2 millimeter security thread with words dedicated to our gold Olympians.


Iconic designs

Madam Speaker, the commemorative $7 banknote and 50 cent coin both feature the mastermind behind our Rio Gold win, national sevens coach Ben Ryan, in his iconic pose on the world renowned Sigatoka Sand Dunes.

Let me also add Madam Speaker, that we have been reliably informed that this is now the only $7 banknote in circulation in the world. Also for the first time, Fiji has a banknote with an obverse (front) vertically orientated. The reverse (back) remains in the traditional horizontal orientation. This orientation complements the selected designs.

Madam Speaker, the image chosen for the reverse side of the banknote was the best high resolution photograph that captured the entire team and the officials behind the team. This, of course, includes Head Coach Ben Ryan, Section Manager Ropate Kauvesi, Strength and Conditioning Coach Nacanieli Cawanibuka, Physiotherapist William Koong, Trainer Nacanieli Cawanibula and Assistance Coach Chris Cracknell.

It is also extremely fitting that the Honourable Prime Minister and President of the Fiji Rugby Union features in the image. The Bainimarama Government was instrumental in reorganising and refocusing the Fiji Rugby Union, which eventually led to the recruitment of Ben Ryan that set us on the road to Rio Gold.

Likewise Madam Speaker, the other image on the 50 cent coin features the Sevens team’s famous bonding pose.

Typically, the designing, production and delivery of banknotes or coins ranges between 12-18 months. The RBF with its partners, banknote printer, Oberthur Fiduciare and coin mint, Royal Canadian Mint took only eight (8) months to produce the commemorative currency. This is a remarkable achievement and we commend the efforts of the parties involved.


Currency in Circulation

Madam Speaker, the $7 bank note and 50 cent coin have been gazetted as legal tender and are part of currency in circulation with effect from 21 April 2017.  The RBF entered almost 600,000 $7 notes and around 700,000 50 cent coins into circulation.  This means the commemorative banknote and coin is redeemable at face value and can be used to purchase goods and services or for payment of account.

This was a conscious decision to ensure that both the banknote and coin was as affordable and accessible as possible. If the RBF were to issue very limited uncirculated banknotes or coins, it would have attracted a premium which would limit accessibility to the general public. We do however expect that these banknotes and coins will be kept by Fijians and currency enthusiasts for its novelty and sentimental value.


Flora & Fauna Notes & Coins

Madam Speaker it is important that any country keeps its currency – banknotes and coins – relevant. There are many technical aspects to this relevance but broadly these encompass structure, security, durability, and design. The RBF keeps a constant tab on the relevance of our nation’s currency and at least every seven years a comprehensive review of all technical aspects is typically commissioned.

Madam Speaker, the review exercise includes a public survey and an invitation to tender process that is made to all leading banknote producers and coin minters globally.

Madam Speaker, the public survey feedback and tenders are analysed and decisions made based expected benefits weighed against costs. These decisions include security features that need to be updated to keep abreast of technology available to counterfeiters. Changes to banknote substrate can enhance durability and longevity of banknotes when in circulation. Metallic composition of coins can also be changed to improve convenience and deter counterfeiting. Altering denominations may also make economic sense from a convenience and cost perspective.

Madam Speaker, during the review the opportunity is also taken to refresh and revitalise images on our currency.  Prior to this the last change in currency design was done in 2012 for the flora and fauna banknotes and coins.

Madam Speaker, let me briefly mention that the currency designs launched in 2012 by His Excellency, the former President, replaced the long-serving currency designs with the Queen of England’s image.

Madam Speaker, you will note that in the 2012 currency change – the $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5 banknotes depicted flora and fauna indigenous to Fiji.  The $100 banknote features Fiji’s cicada or Nanai which is of striking appearance and is extremely well known to the inland communities of Viti Levu.  The $50 banknote has the Tagimoucia, Fiji’s best known flower and the $20 features the Kacau ni Gau (Fiji Petrel) known to nest only on Gau Island and is one of the world’s most rare birds.  The $10 and $5 banknotes feature the Beli (Lever’s Goby) which is endemic to Fiji and is one of Fiji’s few true freshwater residents and the Kulawai (Red-throated Lorikeet) the smallest member of the parrot family, also endemic to Fiji and has only been recorded from Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Ovalau.  Likewise the coin designs ($2, $1, 50 and 20 cents) introduced in 2012 also features indigenous flora and fauna.

Madam Speaker, these notes and coins have since been accepted by one and all.  There were of course people in some quarters who felt that our currency would lose its value if we removed the Queen’s portrait.  Madam Speaker, the reality also is that the value of the Fijian currency is not determined by the picture on the notes and coins but rather, the two-way trades between Fiji and our major trading partners.

The point to note here Madam Speaker is that indigeneity should not only be emphasised through politics, as the Opposition seems to think and favour, but by mainstreaming and celebrating it in our everyday activities and way of life.

Madam Speaker, I wish to highlight that the RBF was awarded the “Regional Banknote of the year” award for Fiji’s flora and fauna banknote series at the Asian, Middle East and African High Security Printing Conference that took place in Thailand in October 2013.



Madam Speaker, finally to acknowledge the teams at Oberthur Fiduciare, Royal Canadian Mint and the RBF that worked directly on this initiative, and of course – our Sevens Rugby team: Captain Osea Kolinisau, Apisai Domolailai, Jasa Veremalua, Josua Tuisova, Kitione Dawai (Taliga), Leone Nakarawa, Samisoni Nasagavesi (Viriviri), Savenaca Rawaca, Semi Kunatani, Jerrry Tuwai, Vatemo Ravouvou, Viliame Mata and Masivesi Dakuwaqa.

The nation salutes you and is proud to celebrate your golden achievement on our national currency.

Thank you Madam Speaker.


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