FIJI CENTRAL BANK GIVES MIXED FOURTH QUARTER ECONOMIC REPORT CARD

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 7, 2002 – Radio Australia)---The Reserve Bank of Fiji's review of the country's economy in the fourth quarter of last year is a mixed bag of good and bad news.

Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports the details.

"While the September 11th terrorist attacks in the U.S. severely affected growth in trade with the U.S., Europe and Japan, local economic developments cushioned the negative impact of the attacks -- to ensure growth last year.

"Reserve Bank Governor Savenaca Narube sees a silver lining in the clouds of international trade and economic gloom, even though trade with Fiji's biggest trade partners -- Australia and New Zealand -- has also dropped. Narube sees hope in tourism, mining, timber production, fresh fish production, non-sugar agricultural produce, retail sales -- and more activity in building and construction.

"The industries hardest hit and still down are sugar and garments.

"Narube says there's optimism in the labor market, although several garment factories were forced to close.

"However, he notes the continued increase in professional emigrant workers joining Fiji’s labor force.

"Various monetary policies aimed at encouraging demand, stimulating spending and helping economic recovery succeeded in fluffing up the cushion protecting Fiji against global negative trends.

"The Reserve Bank Governor also explains that strong fundamentals like a decline in inflation, healthy foreign reserves at 836 million dollars (US$ 366,711,400), which is equivalent to four point four months of imports, and a competitive exchange rate point to a healthy economy.

"Ofa Kaukimoce, Radio Australia, Suva."

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

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