Archive for the Press Release Category

Korean International Cooperation Agency to Open Regional Office in Fiji

The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is establishing a regional office in Suva set to open in March 2016 to promote development cooperation between Korea and Fiji, along with other Pacific Islands countries. The Vice President of KOICA, Mr. Kim In and other representatives of the group met with Attorney General, Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to discuss the new regional office and the expansion of collaboration between Fiji and Korea.
“Many international organisations have seen the value in creating regional offices in Fiji to service the Pacific region. The decision to open this KOICA regional office is a recognition not only of our effectiveness as the hub of the Pacific, but also of how much progress Fiji has made as a country,” said Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum.
Mr. Kim In pointed to Fiji’s ideal location as a point of service to the region and looks forward to the opening of the new KOICA regional office.

INCREASES IN PORT CHARGES WILL HAVE INSIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON PRICES

Recent increases to ports tariffs will have little or no impact on the price of goods, according to the Attorney General and Minister for Finance Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. He was responding to claims by the Fiji Ship Owners Association (FSOA), which he said had misrepresented the impact of the tariff increases and failed to acknowledge the Government’s efforts to involve FSOA in the decision-making process.

“There is no validity to the negative claims made by FSOA. The Fiji Commerce Commission (FCC) – before recommending new fees and charges – wrote to FSOA inviting their comments and also met face-to-face to discuss the proposed increases,” said the AG.

Per an assessment conducted by the FCC, ports charges and fees constitute only one per cent of total import costs for goods and the recent increases will have an insignificant impact on Fijian consumers.

“There have been zero increases in ports fees and charges over the past six years despite increases in operating costs for Fiji Ports Corporation Limited (FPCL). Additionally, we have undertaken a detailed assessment that has determined these increases are an accurate reflection of economic and market conditions and will have a negligible impact on the prices of goods,” said the AG.

The AG went on to describe the achievements of the FPCL and Fiji Ports Terminal Limited (FPTL) in optimising ports services in 2013 and 2014. The FPCL and FPTL have reduced waiting times, increased average container movement and improved cargo handling – resulting in the removal of port congestion charges.

“Has FSOA actually passed these savings on to consumers? Indeed many businesses in Fiji tend not to pass on such savings. They need to do so as it could have an actual impact on the welfare of Fijian consumers,” said the AG.

The AG explained that the lack of increases in ports fees and charges over the past six years left the FPCL with limited resources to improve port facilities and meet the increasing needs of importers and exporters.

“We need to ensure that Fiji’s goods transportation hub status is enhanced significantly by having the best port facilities that will enable fast clearance of goods. The price determination by the FCC will allow them to work with FPCL to further improve their ports services and enhance Fiji’s position as an attractive trading partner,” said the AG.

Under the current system, FSOA bundles all ports charges and fees on their invoices — failing to distinguish between ports tariffs and agency and liner fees.

“This lack of transparency does a disservice to consumers and hides the fact that FSOA’s terminal handling charges nearly double the final ports charges for shipping containers. The burden is on FSOA to itemize these charges so that it is clear that ports tariffs are only a small part of total shipping costs,” said the AG.

Under the Commerce (Control of Prices for Ports and Marina Management Services) Order 2015, the FCC can regulate and control prices for ports and marina management services. Prior to these recent reforms, the last review of the ports fees and charges occurred in September 2009.

ARTISANS GENERATE MORE THAN $300,000 IN SALES AT 2015 NATIONAL WOMEN’S EXPO

The 600 participating artisans at the 2015 National Women’s Expo generated more than $300,000 in sales in just two days, announced the Attorney-General and Minister for Finance Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum closed the Expo Friday, describing the event as an exemplary platform for enhancing economic opportunities for women artisans and applauding the artisans for their financial success.

“Now, if that can happen at the Expo, imagine the opportunities we have to connect you to the people who can buy your products. There are wonderful artisans in Fiji. One of the reasons we started the Fijian Made Fijian crafted campaign is that we wanted people to keep their indigenous skills and pass them on to younger generations,” said the AG.

The Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Rosy Akbar, emphasized the importance of women in the Fijian economy, in their families and in their communities and assured participants of the continued support of the Fijian Government.

“The Fijian Government has continued to support women through income-generating projects, the adoption of Zero-Tolerance Violence-Free communities and awareness on various topics ranging from gender issues to entrepreneurship. The Department of Women will continue to deliver its promise of connecting women to markets,” said Minister Akbar.

The 600 women artisans are the champions of the Divisional Mini Expos staged throughout all four divisions earlier this year. Additionally, 43 women artisans were awarded Fijian Crafted Certificates by the Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, during the Expo this week.

The National Women’s Expo 2015 was held at Vodafone Arena in Suva from Wednesday 14th to Friday 16th October. The event was organised by the Ministry of Women with a funding of $500,000 allocated by the Fijian Government.

The first two days of the expo generated a total of $334,619.60. The figures for the final day’s sales will be published Monday.

-ENDS-

MEDIA RELEASE: STATEMENT FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL ON DAMAGE TO CANE CROPS IN THE VICINITY OF THE YAQARA PASTORAL COMPANY LIMITED

The Government has put in place a series of measures to deal with the issue of stray cattle damaging sugar farms in the vicinity of the Yaqara Pastoral Company Limited (YPCL) in northern Viti Levu.
Contrary to claims being made by the leader of the National Federation Party, Biman Prasad, that the Government has failed to adequately address the complaints of local farmers, a comprehensive program has, in fact, been underway since last week to resolve the issue.
The Ministry of Public Enterprises sent a team of investigators to the Yaqara area on 3 September 2015 to examine complaints by farmers that stray cattle had caused damage to their sugar cane crops. This team recorded the complaints of farmers and also spoke with representatives of the YPCL.
A report was produced which upheld the complaints of some farmers that stray cattle from the YPCL had damaged their crops and the company has been directed to compensate those affected for any losses.
In other cases, it has been found that damage was caused by wild cattle, which have been prevalent in the area for some time. The report concluded that the problem has been exacerbated by the scarcity of pasture and water caused by the current drought that has gripped the region and is forcing cattle to seek whatever food they can find.
While the drought persists, YPCL has undertaken to reduce its stock from 4,500 head of cattle to 3,000 and to make provision for adequate feed and water within its boundaries. In relation to damage caused by YPCL cattle to surrounding farms, the Ministry of Public Enterprises is currently assessing the extent of that damage and is working with the Ministry of Sugar and the Fiji Sugar Corporation to determine the level of compensation.
The Ministry spoke to all 11 farmers who are claiming compensation. Six have lodged claims while the remaining five are still to provide the Ministry with details.
The Government’s response to this issue has been timely, comprehensive and designed to address the concerns of local farmers in the fairest possible manner. And we again stress that compensation will be paid wherever it can be conclusively established that cattle from YPCL caused destruction to surrounding sugar cane farms.
The compensation process will commence in the next few days and in the meantime a number of initiatives have been instituted to tackle the underlying issues. Apart from reducing its stock numbers, work has begun to repair any broken fences and this will be completed by the end of the week.
In addition, YPCL has employed an additional 5-10 night riders in the problem areas of Vitivanua, Rabulu, Dramasi, Balata, Nanuku, Wailevu and Vatukacevaceva to control any cattle straying at night. YPCL has also assisted the affected farmers with fencing material and last week constructed 300 metres of fencing around crop gardens at Draunivi Village. This work is ongoing.
So by any reasonable standard, this is an effective Government response to the problems these farmers are facing and the suggestion by the NFP leader that we have somehow been negligent is completely false and unwarranted.
Instead of responsibly trying to establish the truth, Biman Prasad has – not for the first time – chosen to try to make cheap political capital out of the legitimate concerns of these farmers, which the Government is already addressing.
It is yet another example that while the Government continually responds to the needs of ordinary Fijians, the Opposition is reduced to merely trying to exploit whatever challenges they face for its own political purposes.

MEDIA RELEASE: FIJI’S ANNUAL ECONOMIC GROWTH SOARS PAST 5 PER CENT

Fiji’s longest running period of economic expansion has seen the economy break through the 5 per cent barrier.
The economy grew by 5.3 per cent in 2014, according to provisional figures on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) released by the Bureau of Statistics.
The biggest driver of growth was the transport sector (up 1.9 per cent for the year) and there were solid gains in the financial and insurance sector (1.2 per cent), public administration and defence (0.7 per cent) manufacturing ( 0.3 per cent) and education ( 0.3 per cent ). However, agriculture was down 2.4 per cent because of falling production of taro, yam and coconuts. And the mining sector recorded zero growth in 2014.
The figures were welcomed by the Attorney General and Minister of Finance, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, who said breaking the five per cent mark was an important psychological boost.
“Fiji is clearly in the throes of a golden age. For the economy to grow by 5.3 per cent last year exceeds all expectations and is a remarkable achievement considering the stagnant conditions in much of the region and especially larger economies like Australia. It shows that Fiji is powering ahead and confidence in the country is high, largely because of the sound economic policies and decisive leadership of the FijiFirst Government and confidence in our new democracy,” he said.
The AG said Fijians could look forward to an even better performance this year, with increasing stability and confidence in Fiji’s future.
“All indications are that, if anything, the economy has picked up speed in 2015. Can we break the six per cent barrier? We believe it’s a strong possibility with more opportunities and conditions for growth to occur. We need to remain focussed on managing the economy to the highest possible standard and also ensure that the benefits of prosperity filter through the community to those who need it most.
“If we can achieve such strong growth in such a short period of time, imagine the possibilities we have as a nation if we remain focussed on working together under the strong leadership of the Prime Minister, whose Government is providing the environment for growth for the benefit of all Fijians,” the AG said.

MEDIA RELEASE: MINISTRY OF FINANCE KICKS OFF 2016 BUDGET CONSULTATIONS

The Attorney General and Minister for Finance, Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum led Round 1 of the 2016 Budget Consultations over the past five days, meeting with all the government ministries and a number of associations and independent institutions.

The meetings, which covered ministry submissions for the 2016 National Budget, follow the AG’s recent unprecedented public consultations on the budget in Suva, Lautoka, and Labasa.

The AG said that the 2016 Budget Consultations are designed to boost ministry involvement in the formulation of the 2016 National Budget and increase intra-government communication, coordination and transparency.

“These consultations are designed to make formulation of the 2016 National Budget as participatory as possible. We want to give every Ministry the opportunity to advocate the merit of their submissions directly to the Ministry of Finance. This week, we will hear submissions from all ministries to assist in the formulation of the 2016 National Budget,” the AG said.

The AG also highlighted that the Ministry of Finance team will meet directly with various NGO and private sector organizations in the upcoming weeks.

FIJI AND ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK PLAN FIJIAN WATER FACILITIES UPGRADE

Fiji and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have engaged in talks to finance the upgrading of Fijian water and sewage systems. Attorney General Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum met with ADB President, Mr. Takehito Nakao, Friday morning to discuss how ADB can become more involved in Fijian development projects.

Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum said that Fiji’s recent reforms to spur the Fijian economy will enable ADB to assist with Fiji’s economic development.
“The Asian Development Bank is interested in the strong economic climate and stability we have created in Fiji through our Government’s comprehensive economic reforms. I believe that a strategic partnership with ADB will help further develop Fijian infrastructure and open up more economic opportunities for Fijians,” said Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum.

MEDIA RELEASE: FIJI AND THE NETHERLANDS DISCUSS ISSUE OF ‘CLIMATE REFUGEES’

Climate change and infrastructure development have dominated a meeting in Suva between the acting Prime Minster Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum and the new Netherlands ambassador to Fiji H.E. Rob Zaagman. Ambassador Zaagman – who is based in Wellington – paid a courtesy call on the acting PM as part of a list of engagements which also included a presentation of his credentials to his Excellency the President.
The acting PM said Fiji wanted a broader international discussion on the legal implications of what might happen to the citizens of those Pacific countries threatened by rising sea levels. “If as expected, the citizens of countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands effectively become climate refugees, then we need to establish new international laws to confront this issue. The Netherlands shares our concerns in this area and the ambassador agreed with me on the importance of creating such a framework,” the acting PM said.

NEW ZEALAND BAN ON FIJIAN PRODUCE ON THE WAY TO RESOLUTION

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) New Zealand has acknowledged to Fijian authorities that its broad suspension of agricultural imports from Fiji is inappropriate and out of step with the Bilateral Quarantine Agreement (BQA) and international standards, and has asked to meet with Fijian officials to resolve the issue.

In a letter to the MPI, the Fijian government had objected to the suspension of trade of the four affected commodities: eggplants, breadfruit, mangoes and papaya.

In response, the New Zealand MPI has agreed that there have been no documented cases of a fruit fly outbreak caused by Fijian products. Additionally, the Chief Technical Officer at the Ministry of Primary Industries, Dr. Stephen Butcher, has requested a meeting with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism and the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji.

The request was relayed to the Fijian Government by the New Zealand High Commission.

“The meeting will be held in Fiji this week, and Fiji will make a formal request for the suspension to be lifted,” said the Minister for Public Enterprises, Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

“We are pleased that the New Zealand authorities have moved quickly and want to work with us to bring this matter to an end,” he said. “Given Fiji’s stringent adherence to international biosecurity standards for both imports and exports, we have every reason to believe that this matter will be settled quickly and that the suspended Fijian produce will be once again on its way to New Zealand.

The Minister pointed out that Fiji imports a wide variety of agricultural products from New Zealand and that those products occasionally do not meet Fiji’s import requirements.

“However, we have maintained a flexible posture to account for occasional anomalies in New Zealand’s treatment of its produce as long as those anomalies fall within a tolerable range,” he said.

The New Zealand authorities have asked the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) to undertake an audit of the Nature’s Way Cooperatives high-temperature forced-air (HTFA) facility and pathway certification to meet all requirements under the BQA. New Zealand has raised concerns with regards to the lack of repair and maintenance of the HTFA facility.

Five consignments were accepted by the New Zealand MPI on 5 August 2015, despite the suspension coming into effect on 2 August 2015.

“To ensure that the established Bilateral Quarantine Agreement exports pathway is sustained, BAF is auditing the Nature’s Way Cooperatives HTFA facility’s operational and technical specifications and further auditing of the pack-houses to meet the international phytosanitary requirements.” said the Minister.

“The BAF has implemented additional stringent measures that include pre- and post-inspection of Nature’s Way Cooperatives HTFA treatment to ensure that all consignments out of Fiji are within the standards required by New Zealand,” he said.

The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism and BAF met with the Deputy High Commissioner of Australia to ensure that Australian imports of Fijian Papaya would continue normally despite the New Zealand action. The Australian government has assured the Fijian government that Australia is taking no action to restrict imports from Fiji.

“The Australian authorities have reviewed the import requirements for Fijian papaya treated through the same HTFA pathway and are satisfied with the additional measures implemented by BAF to ensure that all exports comply with Australian requirements, so our exports of papaya to Australia have continued unaffected. Furthermore, the Deputy High Commissioner has offered assistance through PHAMA programme for BAF to carry out an audit and for Nature’s Way to undertake repair and maintenance of the HTFA chamber,” stated the Minister.

“BAF and Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism are very mindful of Fiji’s international trade obligations and will ensure that pathways remain open without any impediments and that Fijian exports have optimal market access. All additional measures required are in place,” said the Minister.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MEETS WITH CHINESE DELEGATION TO DISCUSS INCREASED COOPERATION IN VITAL SECTORS

Fiji and China explored options on Monday for cooperation to improve Fiji’s health, agriculture and education sectors and to further develop the nation’s infrastructure.

Attorney General Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum met with a Chinese delegation from the Hubei Province led by Mr. Lee Hongzong, Party Secretary of the CPC Hubei Provincial Committee and Chairman of the Standing Committee of Hubei Provincial People’s Congress. The Chinese delegation requested the meeting to see how Fijian and Chinese national priorities align and discuss possibilities for ways that Fiji and China can assist each other in meeting common national objectives.

The Chinese delegation included representatives from China’s Hubei Province in the Provincial Development and Reform Commission, Department of Education, Department of Finance, Foreign Affairs Office and Department of Agriculture.

“Fiji and China have a long history of economic cooperation and strong diplomatic relations. As we look forward, it is important that this history of cooperation be maintained,” said Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum.

Health and agriculture were discussed as two promising areas for cooperation. China’s Hubei province has a 5,000-year legacy in medicine and boasts the best medical resources in China. The full delegation included a team of medical professionals with medical equipment. The team will assist Fijian medical doctors and treat patients in several areas of the country.

“The areas in which China can provide aid and expertise are of critical importance to our government and will help us reach our goal of improving these sectors in a sustainable manner,” said Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum.

Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum and the Chinese delegation also discussed how to enrich Fiji’s education sector by increasing the number of Fijians students who are able to study in China. This will include education in agriculture-related subjects, where Fiji would like to provide stronger technical education.

This visit follows Hon. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s recent trip to China, which included a meeting with Fijian students studying abroad in Beijing, China.

“The assistance China offers in the education sector complements Fiji’s ambitious plans to improve the quality and access of our education,” said Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum.