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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 6, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Fiji’s Health Minister, Dr. Isimeli Cokanasiga, says the Government has set a goal of ensuring that the country’s population growth is compatible with sustained improvement in the national standard of living.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last week, Dr. Cokanasiga said this goal was reflected in the health policies and improving health status of the people of Fiji.

"The second goal is to equip the population with a range of skills to meet the demand of an expanding economy."

"Towards this end, my government in collaboration with the International Labor Organization, finalized the Integrated Human Resources Development Program for Employment Promotion," he said.

He said, while acquiring new skills was a positive sign, the number of skilled people leaving the country has exacerbated the problem.

"For developing countries like ours, the most pressing issue is addressing the needs of the people living below the poverty line, which is compounded by the level of unemployment generally encompassing the younger population.

"There is, therefore, an imbalance between the high unemployment causing poverty and the inability of the economy to generate additional jobs to accommodate those unemployed in the medium to long term," Dr. Cokanasiga said.

"My Government has initiated programs in the informal and agricultural sectors as alternatives for self employment for those who do not succeed in finding formal sector employment. This has been undertaken through the development of such schemes as micro-credit financing and small businesses under the responsibility and supervision of the appropriate government ministries and local financial institutions." the Minister told the UN General Assembly.

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