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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 7, 2002 - Pasifik Nius)--Daily newspapers today praised University of the South Pacific Vice Chancellor Savenaca Siwatibau over a warning that Fiji had lost about F$ 500 million (US$ 219,325,00) as a result of bad governance.

The former Reserve Bank governor said this included the current farming assistance scam and the past F$ 200 million (US$ 87,730,000) National Bank of Fiji corruption scandal.

Siwatibau said the fact that Fiji had high reserve levels was not a good sign for the country.

"It's not a sign of strength in the economy. It's a sign of weakness in Fiji," he told a Forum Secretariat social development seminar yesterday.

"If you look at the banking system now, there are hundreds of millions of dollars lying idle.

"Our financial system is unwilling to lend money because of uncertainty in our country and investors themselves will not want to invest because we don't have the confidence."

The Daily Post said in an editorial that Siwatibau's warning about more money going down the drain through scams unless leaders did their jobs honestly and efficiently came from "someone we should listen to."

"Mr. Siwatibau is no politician thinking more about getting your vote into his pocket, [he is] pointing out in measured, disinterested and yet compelling language the danger that lies ahead of the nation," the paper said.

"Fiji has lost F$ 500 million through scams in the last decade, he said, and the sad thing is the rot will get worse."

The Fiji Times said every government since independence had governed Fiji in its own interest.

It said Siwatibau's figure of F$ 500 million lost was "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 this happened -- and continues to happen -- as a result of poor governance."

Title -- 3510 ECONOMY: USP chief praised over corruption warning Date -- 7 February 2002 Byline -- None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Daily Post, Fiji Times, 7/2/2 Copyright -- PN Status -- Unabridged

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