"FIJI IN DANGER OF BEING LEFT OUT GLOBALLY": U.S. AMBASSADOR

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SIDDIQUE

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 27, 2001 –Times Of India)---The United States Ambassador to Fiji has said the troubled South Pacific island nation must make an extraordinary commitment to stability and good governance if it wishes to join the global economy.

Osman Siddique, speaking at the Fiji Chamber of Commerce annual meeting in Suva, said political instability had wrecked Fiji's image and severely hampered its economic performance.

Fiji was performing well below its potential, the ambassador said, noting that the World Bank had concluded several years ago that the country could easily achieve five percent and higher growth a year.

"In the past 15 years, political volatility has made Fiji more famous than any other aspect of it. Fiji, known in the American mindset as a part of the romantic tropical paradise, has now become famous for changing governments, often without notice," he said.

He was referring to the racial and political tensions between indigenous Fijians, who comprise 53 percent of the population, and the large minority Indo-Fijians who make up 44 percent, leading to two coups -- in 1987 and 2000 by Sitiveni Rabuka, a former army colonel, and failed businessman George Speight, respectively. They claimed to be acting in the interest of indigenous Fijians against the growing political and economic clout of the Indians.

Siddique, who is of Bangladeshi origin, warned that Fiji risked being left behind. At present, Fiji-based garment factories have closed shop and fled overnight since the coup and continuing political uncertainty. Investment levels are at an all-time low, and economic growth forecast for the year is down from six percent before the coup to negative four percent.

Siddique said the United States was prepared to help Fiji provided it proved it was committed to democracy, the rule of law and fairness.

"Working together, the United States and Fiji can help lead the way to an Asia Pacific region in which economic success and greater freedom advance together and support one another, a region in which growing opportunity is matched and strengthened by increasing freedom, stability, security and the rule of law."

For additional reports from the Times of India, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Times of India: Asia-Pacific News.

ECONOMIST PRASAD SAYS FIJI ECONOMIC FUTURE BLEAK

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 27, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Leading Fiji economist Dr. Bimmam Prasad says even with an immediate resolution of the country's political problems, it will take up to six years for the economy to recover from the May 19, 2000 coup.

Dr. Prasad says national investment and confidence are low, while output and levels of employment are declining.

"More important I think is the issue of the foundation which we can build on (and) if we can bring about enough political stability in the immediate future.

"That is not to be seen on the horizon right now and as long as that remains we will continue to have declining levels of output in the economy, declining levels of investments and, of course, declining levels of employment in the economy," Dr. Prasad said.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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