Analysis | Politics

SODELPA Leadership: Environment Ranks High in Tabaiwalu’s Vision In His Bid To Become Party Leader

Analysis: Pio Tabaiwalu, a top candidate for party leader,  has unveiled his vision in the SODELPA contest. Environment ranks high “My vision and personal conviction is our economic growth must
16 Aug 2020 10:18
SODELPA Leadership: Environment Ranks High in Tabaiwalu’s Vision In His Bid To Become Party Leader
Pio Tabaiwalu

Analysis:

Pio Tabaiwalu, a top candidate for party leader,  has unveiled his vision in the SODELPA contest.

Environment ranks high

“My vision and personal conviction is our economic growth must be environmentally sustainable,” he says.

Mr Tabaiwalu is one of three strong candidates, hoping to stop incumbent Sitiveni Rabuka from leading the party for a second term after he lost the 2018 election. The others are MPs Viliame Gavoka and Aseri Radrodro.

Mr Rabuka’s bid is seen with apprehension because he has used a perceived anomaly in the party constitution. It is silent on whether a failed party leader can stand for a second term after resigning following an election loss. Mr Rabuka’s predecessor, Ro Teimumu Kepa, did not seek a second term after she lost the 2014 election.

Mr Tabaiwalu’s vision;

“Our-development must recognise that our smallness, geographic isolation and vulnerability to the ravages of natural disasters and the onset of the devastating effects of climate make it absolutely essential that our economic growth must be consistent with the protection of our fragile environment. We must not rush headlong into economic growth to the detriment of our environment.

“It is our oceans, coral reefs, forests, mountains, rivers and our biodiversity that had sustained our forefathers when they first arrived here and we owe it to the future generation to pass on to them these beautiful and bountiful islands which could also sustain them. All development policies must be predicated on this fundamental premise

“I am a firm believer that we should move away from solely measuring economic development, by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and shift to a new developmental model and place the well-being of people at the centre of sustainable development. There is a need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of all people.

Diversifying our Productive Sectors

“The present COVID-19 crisis clearly showed how our economy was predominantly based on tourism contributing to almost 50 per cent to our GDP if we consider its multiplier effects on the economy. Thousands of our people are now unemployed and many hotels are now closed not to mention the closure of many businesses that were linked to the tourism industry. We must not make the same mistake again. I would promote a more sustainable low-volume, high yielding and green eco-tourism to protect and preserve the Pacific’s highly sensitive biodiversity.

“It is essential that we improve our other productive sectors to diversify our economy such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and improve the efficiency of our manufacturing sector through government incentives.

In agriculture, I would dedicate more resources to the use of mechanisation to improve production. I have personally seen the efficiency of using a digger in planting dalo, cassava, ginger and vegetables. Why not place one in every province with subsidised cost by the government as it can be used not only for farm preparation but to build farm roads for efficient access. This is a simple affordable solution to increase production for food security and reduce food costs at this critical time.

“I would reduce taxes on farm machinery and implements to make them more affordable and implement an import substitution policy and increase taxes on goods that could be produced here. This would save us much-needed money at these critical times and assist our local producers and ensure food security.

“There is also a lot of potential in venturing into niche markets such as vanilla, coffee, cocoa, spices, honey, traditional medicine, we have already seen the success of Juice Fiji and in the last few weeks  I read of a business lady exporting bottled “layalaya” to the US, there are examples of traditional based oils and beauty products such as the success of Pure Fiji, there is a company processing “dilo oil” there is local chocolate already in the market. All these must be encouraged by government and incentives provided in terms of tax exemption, technical assistance or seed funding. At these difficult times, individuals and the country must learn to be innovative and the government must encourage entrepreneurship and creativity. The country could be self-sufficient in so many things such as milk, beef, pork, goat and some vegetables which we are still importing.

Remittances

“My other emphasis would be on remittances which has become a very significant contributor to our national income, economic growth and much needed foreign exchange. I would look at enhancing the impact of remittances.

“I would look at putting in place policies for the efficiency of money transfers and the use of remittances not only to improve individuals but for investment purposes. A more targeted approach is required in terms of financial literacy for those who send money here. Our soldiers, nurses, rugby players need to know how to invest their money and the Government must assist them in this regard by putting in place a dedicated Department for Financial Literacy training. There are many sad stories of rugby players who have squandered their money and are penniless after the rugby days are over.

“I would also introduce Budgeting and Financial Literacy as compulsory subjects in secondary schools.

“As a Trade negotiator and specialist, I have always been of the view that we have not done enough to train our people for the world labour market, especially to our two nearest neighbours, Australia and New Zealand. There is so much trade imbalance due to geographical factors and economies of scale that we cannot compete with our major trading partners in terms of goods..

“But we certainly have a distinct advantage in exporting our nurses, rugby players, and teachers. I would focus on developing skilled human capital to cater to the needs of wealthier neighbours. We can be suppliers of skilled labour in blue-collar work such as plumbers, carpenters, electricians and technicians. These people would become invaluable contributors to our foreign exchange through remittances.

“I will put in an education policy where all accreditation is also acceptable in Australia New Zealand and other developed countries. There has already been work on the Pacific Regional Qualifications Register (PRQR) and National Qualifications Accreditation Authorities have commenced along with the establishment of regional and international networks. Once fully implemented, the Register will enable greater portability of qualifications and better facilitate labour mobility giving the initiative’s particular importance when viewed against regional trade initiatives such as PICTAand PACER Plus.

Trade for Sustainable Growth

“Our huge debt would require us to trade more efficiently.  I would address technical barriers to trade—including customs, quarantine, and registration procedures—to decrease the costs of doing business. We have fallen badly in terms of our world ranking on the ease of doing business.

“I will ensure that we improve in our ranking. Trade liberalisation, however, must be managed proactively to minimise its impact on our environment. Since most of our exports, consist of natural resource-based products, are extractive in nature, I will ensure we stringently regulate industries that could adversely affect the environment.

“I would look at the full implementation of our trade obligations under the PICTA PACER Plus, EPA and the WTO. Implementing these agreements would inevitably improve our business and trade facilitation systems.

Health

“Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are at crisis levels in Fiji. We have one of the highest rates of Non-Communicable Diseases and account for in some cases up to 70 per cent of deaths. Obesity and diabetes rates are among the highest worldwide.

“I would look at increased taxes and enforcement measures on tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages; improved nutrient labelling on foods and improve NCD screening and management. I would increase resourcing for enforcement of policies and legislation and promote nutrition and the use of local fresh food.

“I would upgrade the qualifications of village nurses to address the early detection intervention and awareness programmes in relation to NCDs.

Environmental Sustainability at the Core of Development Policies

“Climate change is a critical development challenge for Fiji. Some of the greatest concerns are sea-level rise, the saltwater intrusion of freshwater lenses, water and food security; livelihoods; and our rich biodiversity and culture.

“The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, climate change impacts and increasing land and ocean pollution and contamination are already impacting us severely. The recent cyclones have caused significant damage to people’s homes, livelihoods and set back national development by a few years. Our budget allocation should reflect this growing threat. I would put in place more community and village-based programmes for climate change mitigation. There are already several initiatives in place we just need to put in more resources and Government incentives.

“Fiji’s biodiversity is also under intense pressure from natural and human-induced disturbance, invasive species, population growth and other threats. I would put in pace a more coordinated, integrated and ecosystem-based sustainable development approaches are to improve resource management practices and ensure food security and better livelihoods.

“There is so much rubbish discarded in our rivers and roadside that waste management is becoming a real challenge, We see daily pictures of rubbish piles in our urban housing areas. I would implement a pre-paid waste collection bag systems, A rigorous programme of protecting our environment must be promoted through public education and awareness activities,

I would put in place Government policies for recycling initiatives and ban the use of plastics

Women

“There has been some progress towards women’s empowerment and participation in decision making but we need to do more. I would put in place policies that would increase the opportunities and rights of women in areas such as employment, social protection, sexual harassment in the workplace, decision making, land ownership, social, health and family status and education. I would ensure they are fairly represented in the boards and in the civil services especially in higher echelons of decision making.

Youths

“Youths now constitute a large number of our population and we need to address their needs in terms of education and employment opportunities.

“In the context of the COVID crisis, I would put in more programmes for self-employment and entrepreneurship. Youths need to be creative early in life and must be encouraged to do so. Formal employment may not be as sustainable to many so ventures into agriculture, small businesses, arts and culture must be nurtured.

“And I would like the party to finance and support our youth candidates to get to Parliament as many may not have the financial resources to do so.“

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