Bullish about his government’s record describing its performance as the “best years in Fiji’s history” Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the country has been transformed for the better including the Tailevu province, thanks to his administration’s investment, amounting to nearly $300 million, over the last eight years.
He made the comments whilst opening the Tailevu Provincial Council meeting at Naiusausa village in Namara yesterday.
Located about an hour’s drive from the capital city Suva and 15 minutes off Logani along the King’s Road, the governing party’s FijiFirst flags was planted in almost all of the villages enroute to the host village, in an area where SODELPA candidate, the late Ratu Jone Seniloli amassed the most votes at the nearest polling venue at Namara District School in the 2018 election.
Mr Bainimarama told the nearly 200 people gathered there including the province’s 22 district reps, that the standard of living in the Tailevu province are “higher and better” because of government’s investment in the province, worth over $276 million since 2014.
“I can go on all day and point out all we have invested in the Province. But the point is that Tailevu has benefited from this Government. The formula is simple: action speaks louder than words. That is my mantra –– and it is a promise that has remained firm every year of my service as your Prime Minister,” Mr Bainimarama said in his opening speech which was followed by a ‘talanoa’ session.
The talanoa session lasted more than five hours during which he instructed government and statutory reps in attendance to move with haste in addressing concerns raised from the floor including a request from the District of Nayavu rep that they be allowed to extract gravel and sand for household use. In a public advisory that was issued in September last year, the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources put a stop to the practise, requiring everyone to be licenced following an increase in such extractions since the first COVID-19 lockdown in April that year.
Investments into Tailevu Province
Social and disability programmes made up the majority of the government’s investment at $79.4 million followed by Education at $61.3 million, $51 million for the renovation of the Nausori Airport, $32.9 million for the upgrade of rural water schemes, an issue that was widely discussed during the meeting about having access to clean water by some of the villages in the province including the host village which is reliant on harvested rainwater.
On infrastructure development including the upgrade of the Waidalice Bridge, government spent $31.5 million, $6.5 million was spent in rural electrification projects through rural grid extension scheme ensuring that villages like Naivoco and Naqiriqirilali settlement have electricity 24/7. A further $2.5 million was spent in coastal protection works, drainage and irrigation ensuring farmlands in Dravuni Village and parts of Tailevu South are protected, as well as $2 million spent in other agricultural developments enabling the commissioning of the Nayavu Agriculture Station in 2019 and the recent Nameka Agriculture Station.
Border Reopening One Year Annivessary
Such projects, he said stem from decisions and delievered promises by his government including the reopening of Fiji’s international borders post COVID-19, the one-year-annivessary of which will be marked in less than a week.
“That milestone was made possible through our preparation as a Government and with the co-operation of virtually every Fijian.We vaccinated our population. We removed restrictions and resumed our way of life, and we opened our border ahead of the region. Since we have returned over 100,000 people to their jobs and every Province is now feeling the benefits of our COVID economic come-back and the record-breaking 15.6 percent economic growth that we will achieve this year. I don’t say that as a boast –– that is our shared national victory. We should all be proud that our Tourism Industry is back operating at full gearalongside the rest of our economy. Our farms are growing more produce than ever, our forestry sector is breaking records, our fisheries are expanding, and new sectors, like business process outsourcing are beginning to thrive.
“Some people say we should not rely on Tourism. These folkshave no clue how to build a strong economy. The question facing the Fijian economy is not a simple one of tourism, or farming, or manufacturing, or forestry. A strong Fijian economy is built on tourism AND farming, AND manufacturing, AND forestry, AND financial services, AND telecommunications, AND business process outsourcing, AND other resource sectors, AND other cutting-edge industries. And under my Government, all these sectors have achieved record strength and our wider national economy has achieved record growth.
“And we have ensured the benefits are widely felt because we have listened to you and your needs. We have never been deaf to your pleas.”
Mr. Bainimarama was accompanied by Minister for Land Jone Usamate and Minister for Health Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete along with civil servants from various ministries and statutory organisations including environment, Legal Aid, FCCC, Waterways, and Telecom who were on hand to respond and address concerns raised by the floor.
In his speech he echoed sentiments about land security provided under the 2013 Constitution and justified the need for the establishment of FICAC, two issues that have been discussed as well in opposition parties’ 2022 General Election campaign meetings and rallies.
“Now let me talk about a burning issue that you are no doubt hearing about from political parties – that is land. It will always come up because opposition parties know this is the only way to unsettle the iTaukei. iTaukei land ownership is safe. No land has been taken under this Government because it is protected underthe Fijian Constitution. In fact, iTaukei land has never been more secure and more useful to its owners than it is today. At present we are finding ways to increase its value and to ensure that all community members –– including women and young people – enjoy an equitable share of the benefits of land leasing.”
On FICAC, Mr Bainimarama said that Fiji had become the least corrupt it has ever been since the body’s establishment in 2008, having successfully prosecuted 166 cases since and skyrocketed the country’s standings on the global corruption ranking as a result.
He also laid out future plans his government has for the province including urging landowners to make productive use of their land and form partnerships with his administration to realise its cash-generating potential.
On the issue of inflation, he told attendees that more support would be given if needed.
There was also reference made to the vacant chiefly and customary titles in the province – 530 out of 878 – and the need to fill all of them.
The provincial council meeting, which is also the last of the 14 provincial meetings to be held this year, closes today.