Together, We Can Be the New Singapore, A-G Tells Workers

The Bainimarama Government is seeking a partnership with the country’s workers to improve productivity and efficiency and use the resulting benefits to improve their terms and conditions of employment.

The Attorney General and Minister for Public Enterprises, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum raised the spectre of Fiji being a new Singapore if workers join employers and Government in a collaborative effort to improve Fiji’s overall economic position.

He was speaking at the launch in Suva of the new public-private partnership agreement between the Fiji Ports Corporation and the Aitken Spence company of Sri Lanka. Under the agreement, Aitken Spence is taking over the management of the FPC subsidiary, Ports Terminal Limited, to introduce global best practice at the nation’s main ports in Suva and Lautoka.

The Minister urged workers at the ports to see the partnership as the dawn of a new era in which they could personally contribute to making Fiji’s ports more efficient and improve their own conditions and skills sets.

Aitken Spence has said that it is aiming to create more jobs by making the ports more efficient and increasing the volume of trade through Fiji with larger ships and quicker turnaround times. At present, international shipping companies are either bypassing Fiji because of slow turnaround times or charging heavy levies and surcharges that are passed on to every Fijian consumer.

The AG said a better performance on the wharves would lead to the removal of these extra costs and every Fijian would benefit through lower prices for imported goods.

“ We have a wonderful opportunity to position Fiji in a practical sense as a truly geographical hub in the South Pacific. We are also positioning ourselves as an exporting country, whether it is for agricultural products or manufactured goods. We will be able to make our exports a lot more attractive because of the reduction of shipping costs and the increase in volume”, he said.

The AG said shipping companies already had confidence that Aitken Spence and its Fijian workers at PTL would be able to raise performance on the wharves and expand business in the region. Aitken Spence had been operating for 130 years, was a Fortune 200 company outside the United States and had a respected maritime school that also offered opportunities for Fijian workers.

“We are very much privileged to have them as a partner and the they are also privileged to have the Fijian Government as a partner because it provides them with the footprint to expand their business in this part of the world”, he said.

The AG spoke of the opportunity to eventually make Fiji the Singapore of the South Pacific if workers joined management and the Government to improve productivity and overall living standards.

“In the late 1960’s, Singapore used to look up to Fiji as a role model. We now look to Singapore as somewhere that is highly unachievable but we can also do it”, he said.

The AG said that as well as its reform program on the wharves, the Bainimarama Government was also working on a private public partnership agreement to improve the running of Fiji’s airports.

“We are actually at the moment looking at Expressions of Interest for our airports and are very pleasantly surprised at the number of international players who have shown a very keen interest. So there are wonderful opportunities there too”, the Minister added.

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