TOURISM KEY TO GROWTH, FIJI NATIONAL ECONOMIC SUMMIT HEARS

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By Ruci Mafi

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 13, 2002 - Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---Tourism is expected to boost Fiji's economy as the country's sugar industry declines, the National Economic Summit heard yesterday.

Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Savenaca Narube said that while the outlook this year was for growth of 4.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the State expected growth of close to 6 percent next year.

And the tourism sector would be instrumental in this.

"The tourism sector is expected to be the main driver of this growth, with positive flow-on effects to other sectors of the economy," Mr. Narube said.

"Growth this year is expected to be broad based, with the exception of the sugar sector, which is forecast to decline."

Mr. Narube said the major sectors seen strongly supporting the 4.4 percent growth were many and they were varied.

They include tourism, wholesale and retail, transport and storage, clothing and footwear and construction.

He said: "The growth of 6 percent for next year is expected to continue to be driven mainly by the flow-on effects from tourism with an added boost from the 2003 South Pacific Games."

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase told the summit the government is committed to spend 30 percent of next year¹s budget on infrastructure development and economic expansion.

This is five percent more than this year's allocation.

Speaking to 250 participants at the summit in Lami, across the harbor from Suva, Mr. Qarase said the investment was not for consumption but was important in the fight against poverty.

"It is about the government intervening decisively to accelerate activity in the economy," he said.

Mr. Qarase said that when high growth was pushed the poor needed to be considered.

"We will redistribute income and bring relief to the poor through a more activist approach and intervention by government," he said.

"We will follow the provisions of the Constitution to assist the disadvantaged with social justice programs."

Mr. Qarase said it was acknowledged that national measures adopted in the past had not provided the rate of growth needed to produce jobs and prosperity.

"We believe in faster growth and less poverty, even income inequalities are still there. This will level out as affluence spreads," he said.

"We believe in free enterprise and the market but we cannot always wait for the market to act. When private investment does not flow quickly enough, the government will step in as a catalyst and facilitator.

"We will invest in commercial ventures in the start up phase and work closely at all times with the private sector."

He appealed to critics to judge the government¹s Three Year Strategic Plan by its contents rather than its number of pages.

Reacting to recent criticisms, Mr. Qarase said the 20-year Affirmative Action Development Plan for Indigenous Fijians and Rotumans was thicker because of its number of years in comparison to the three-year plan of the strategic document.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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