FIJI: TOO MUCH WASTAGE

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EDITORIAL COMMENT

Fiji Times Suva, Fiji Islands

February 7, 2002

Not for the first time, Savenaca Siwatibau has given voice to what many have been thinking. And, also not for the first time, he's right.

As successive governments have paid cynical lip service to transparency and accountability the core elements of good governance the country has continued to suffer.

Good governance means governing fairly and openly in the public's interest.

Every Fiji government since independence, however, has governed in its own interest. Their aim has been to achieve and then retain power. And if the public has to suffer in the process, then so be it. That can always be covered up later.

Mr. Siwatibau estimates that poor governance has cost Fiji $500 million (US$ 219,325,000).

He's being overly conservative, though a true figure would be hard to guess at. However, if we consider all the money siphoned off into private companies, hare-brained schemes, doomed enterprises, inefficient businesses and, of course, affirmative action programs, it would amount to a very impressive sum indeed.

And all of this happened and continues to happen as a result of poor governance.

It's what happens when political expedience is allowed to override public duty. Mr. Siwatibau didn't say so, but it is sobering to consider that the overwhelming majority of those scams have been perpetrated by those indigenous Fijians who have had their hands on the levers of power for most of the time since independence.

Those who looked the other way are just as guilty as those who did the deeds. The question now is: what can be done about it?

The unpalatable fact is that it would require an effort of superhuman integrity by any government to restore at least a semblance of good governance.

Faced with an electorate weaned on handouts that it has come to expect as its right, no aspiring politician in his or her right mind would attempt to persuade voters that it was time to turn off the tap.

People, for example, who received goodies in the agricultural assistance scheme, not unnaturally, want the scheme restored so that they can continue to receive goodies.

And they won't vote for a politician who tells them that's a wrong attitude.

But that's what will have to happen if we are to avoid the traps that lie ahead.

More than ever before, Fiji now needs a leader who can inspire rather than buy the voters.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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