NEWS

Prime Minister: Financial Opportunities For Squatters

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made the remark at the Fifth Urban Forum at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi yesterday .
03 Jul 2019 13:38
Prime Minister: Financial Opportunities For Squatters
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama (left) with Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Local Government, Housing and Community Development Premila Kumar at the Fifth Urban Pacific Forum at the Tanoa International in Nadi on July 2, 2019. Photo: Mereleki Nai

People who were living in squatter settlements who have 99-year leases given by the Government will now be able to step into the financial sector.

With land as collateral they can access loans from mainstream banks.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made the remark at the Fifth Urban Forum at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi yesterday .

In his keynote address, he said that these loans could be used to build better, stronger and more resilient homes, business and communal buildings.

He said these people had lived for decades in these informal settlements called home by these squatters who did not own the land on which they lived.

“For these families, security is tenuous and life difficult; their lack of tenure has left them shackled by uncertainty and isolated from mainstream development, and planning for the future is all but impossible.

“Like many other Pacific countries, these informal settlements – plagued by underinvestment – are the least equipped to deal with worsening climate impacts.

“In Fiji today, we’re righting that historic injustice by handing over 99-year leases to squatter families on land they’ve called home for decades.

“I’ve officiated at several of these title handovers. I’ve met personally with many of those families.”

“I’ve seen the tears of joy; I’ve heard – first-hand – how their lives have been changed for the better. But what has stayed with me most vividly, is hearing the dreams these families now aspire to achieve after finally being granted a level of ownership over their communities.”

He said with the long-term tenure, these families see the world through a new lens.

“Oftentimes, these communities understand their own adaptation needs better than anyone else can, and when they’re able to think 99 years into the future, they can plan better and they can build better.

“And when climate impacts bear down on our country, the adaptive investments they are making today will spare future suffering and literally save lives.

“The stories of these Fijian families are top of mind for me this morning, because I believe they get to the heart of our mission at this Fifth Pacific Urban Forum, as we discuss the critical issue of urban resilience and climate change.”

Mr Bainimarama said Fiji was now seeing some of the most rapid rates of urbanisation on the planet where families were moving to cities looking for work or to further their education, sometimes escaping climate impacts and other times seeking the conveniences of city living.

“The impact of our actions, the boldness of our decisions and the strength of our co-operation at this Forum and beyond will determine whether those urban centres emerge as engines of sustainable development, or bastions of inequity and climate vulnerability.”

Mr Bainimarama said this was not a Pacific but was being felt worldwide.

“Urban regions in developed countries have historically been the most damaging sources of harmful carbon emissions that cause climate change.”

He said this climate change affected person on earth and for every nation, the sobering truth remained that in urban areas, those who were most disadvantaged were those who were most vulnerable.

“As we’re seeing through the regularisation of our informal settlements in Fiji, ownership, dignity and community engagement are among the most effective tools we wield in building climate resilience, in urban and rural areas alike.

“I mention rural areas as well, because rural regions must be considered as part of a more holistic approach to national development.

“It is almost never any family’s first option to pack up their entire lives and make the costly and risky move from their rural home to an urban area.

“In Fiji, that is why we’re bringing the security and conveniences of city life directly to our rural areas, extending services, high quality infrastructure and opportunity to these communities that allow their residents to lead safe and fulfilling lives where they already live, and where they’d generally prefer to remain.”

Mr Bainimarama said urban areas were projected to grow faster, consuming greater swaths of rural areas as part of towns and cities.

“We need to cater for that development by considering all development under national master plans that not only address our urgent challenges today but that consider long-term trends within our economies.”

Edited by Susana Tuilau

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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