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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Mar. 31) - Land security concerns have been cited as the major barrier for investment in the country, a study conducted by the Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau last year found.

Bureau chief executive Lailun Khan told participants of the Fiji Indigenous Business Council meeting yesterday that lack of markets, bureaucracy and regulations, political instability and delays in receiving approvals from relevant agencies were the other reasons. The Bureau conducted the study with the assistance of the World Bank after it found that only 12 to 15 percent of $1 billion (US$598 million) worth of projects registered with them since 2000 had been implemented.

However, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who was also at the event said land issues and concerns being an impediment to foreign investment was only a perception.

Qarase said there were three categories of land in Fiji - native, State and freehold and the guidelines on leasing these types of land were clear.

"I do not know how the study arrived at that," he said.

"There may be a little bit of confusion with the agricultural land."

Qarase added he had spoken to a number of investors who said they did not care which type of land they were leasing as long as the acquisition was clear.

Mrs. Khan replied that the FTIB board was also of the same view as the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, a travel agent from Yasawa asked Qarase if he could put in place mechanisms to prevent another political upheaval.

The participant who raised his concern said whenever there was political instability; tourist operators were the ones who suffered the most.

Another participant asked Qarase to elaborate on the affirmative action programs and what was available to indigenous Fijians.

Qarase said one of the things Fijians lacked and also their greatest weakness was that they were not proactive enough to look for information.

He said Fijians should go to the relevant ministries and ask about the different programs of the Affirmative Action.

Qarase said the Fiji Development Bank was providing funding for businesses.

April 1, 2005

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