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Brushes off $202 million ‘carrot’ dangled by EU

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 8, 2009) – Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama will not call for elections this year even to secure $350 million [US$202.6 million] in EU funding and save the country’s ailing sugar industry.

"Whilst EU assistance would be of help, I am not prepared to compromise the vision which the interim Government has mapped out for building a peaceful, better and progressive Fiji just because some ‘carrots’ are being dangled at us," he said.

Bainimarama made the comment after ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said that Fiji needs to return to democratic rule this year if it is to have any chance of saving the sugar industry.

The EU has offered the grant as an aid package for the restructure of the industry given that the preferential pricing given Fiji’s sugar is slowly being removed.

However, it requires Fiji to hold elections before the funds can be accessed.

Bainimarama said his government will use its existing resources to save the sugar industry.

"The interim Government will do all it can through its determined leadership, political will and existing resources, to save the sugar industry," assured Bainimarama.

He adds that Qarase "should be the last person talking about saving the sugar industry as he did nothing in his six years to resolve the expiring land leases situation, the political interferences and the inefficiencies which plagued the industry".

Bainimarama said the interim Government has improved the ground rental which landowners received through implementation of a 4 per cent rental subsidy.

As a result, he said, $3.5 million was paid to landowners prior to Christmas.

"These are the types of benefits which landowners stand to gain if they agree to continue to renew expiring land leases."

With regards to bringing about improved efficiencies in the production of sugarcane, industry facilitation and milling operation he said plans are in place.


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