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Fiji Times Suva, Fiji Islands

April 2, 2002

Transport and communication links to and within the outlying islands are important for development programs to move forward.

The absence of one or both greatly slows down progress and limits the movement of the people on their islands, many of which are hilly and rocky inland.

Roads are either non-existent or poorly maintained and therefore unusable as evident in the bigger islands such as Kadavu, Koro, Gau, Moala and Vanuabalavu.

The islanders therefore have to pay exorbitant costs, something normally beyond their reach, to travel by punt from village to village or to the government station where public amenities such as hospitals, schools and police stations are located.

To even get to the islands by sea from Suva -- a service that's often irregular and unreliable -- or by plane is expensive by the islanders' own standards.

Kadavu, one of the three largest outlying islands is a case in point. By air, the only access is at Vunisea in the center, where the only airport is.

From there, people then have to travel by sea to the villages in the south and north unreachable by the limited road network.

One is lucky to pay less than F$ 100 (about US$ 45) hiring a punt from Vunisea to Nabukelevuira on the southern tip, or Kavala on the northern most part of the island.

Road transport covers only parts of the island and many portions are accessible only by large and four-wheel drive vehicles.

The major focus of development therefore for the islanders is transport and communication. Without road transport, people cannot get to the medical center or the police and get the children to school. Without ships or planes, they cannot get to the islands.

With no communication links, the people are literally cut out from the rest of the nation, let alone the world.

We often get to hear about these problems at provincial council meetings and in Parliament. Yet the problems have existed for ages. Past governments have done little to improve the lives of the people in this regard.

It is good to see provincial councils such as Kadavu taking on the challenge to improve the infrastructure without waiting for the government's initiative.

There is so much potential for growth in industries such as tourism and agriculture in the islands. Yet they are not fully exploited because of the transport problem.

They can create hundreds of jobs and generate income for the people who cannot find employment in urban centers.

The islanders deserve as much government help as anyone else in this nation. It should fully support the initiative taken by provinces such as Kadavu.

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

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