The following is the full transcript of Fiji's interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama's speech to the nation on Wednesday, titled "A strategic framework for change"


Bula vinaka and a good morning.

My fellow citizens, your Excellencies, members of the diplomatic corp, members of the judiciary, employees, employers, NGOs, ladies and gentlemen.

After the abrogation of the 1997 constitution by his Excellency our president he mandated me and my Government to carry out and continue with the reforms as directed by him in 2007.

The mandate also requires my Government to ensure that true democratic, non-communal, equal suffrage based elections for parliamentary representation are held by September 2014.

From now until September 2014 a number of measures including reforms shall be implemented to give reality to the mandate of His Excellency our President and the Peoples Charter for Peace Change and Progress.

It is also imperative that our citizens, employees, investors, business houses, our trading and development partners, multilateral agencies and the international community at large are fully cognizant of what my Government shall focus on from now until 2014

This morning I appear before you to set out the strategic framework for Fiji and the objectives of my Government until 2014, within the context of the Presidential mandate and the World economy. Today I shall set out the key principles and certain time frames.

I am also here this morning to tell you that my Government shall be an agent of change for the betterment of Fiji and her people. My Government shall not shy away from making tough decisions, it shall not be hesitant to think outside the box and make paradigm shifts.

A key objective of my Government has been and shall continue to be the engagement and/or re-engagement with our neighbors and our development partners.

My appeal to the international community is that Fiji has and continues to seek engagement, not disengagement. The principles of internationalism and sovereign dignity require dialogue.

A new legal order exists, a new Government exists and September 2014 has been set out as the date at which elections must take place. This is the reality.

Lets work together to build bridges; lets work together to improve the lives of all Fijians and indeed the lives of all Pacific Islanders for a stable and an economically developed Pacific.

We thank those of our international friends who have shown fortitude and support; who have shown the willingness to listen and understand. We thank our international partners and multilateral agencies who have continued to engage or have reengaged to provide assistance to our objectives and facilitation of infrastructure development and reform.

In planning to implement our objectives for the next 5 years it is an imperative that we take into consideration and situate ourselves within the context of the global economy and the consequent impact on the Fijian economy.

The global economy is going through one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. World output is projected to decline by 1.3 percent this year. The economies of our trading partners are all expected to contract as well.

However, there are now tentative signs of a turnaround. According to the International Monetary Fund, the unprecedented monetary and fiscal policy responses are slowly bearing results. It is believed that the recession may be bottoming out and recovery could be possible late this year and into next year. A global recovery will assist our own economic recovery by boosting demand for our exports and services.

The Fijian economy given these global developments and the recent flooding is forecasted to decline marginally, by 0.3 percent in 2009.

In the tourism industry, visitor arrivals are recovering. Tourist numbers are expected to improve in coming months assisted by the devaluation of the Fijian dollar and strong marketing which have made Fiji a competitive destination.

Government's efforts in securing new air routes and an 'open sky policy' will be an added impetus to the industry.

The sugar cane crushing season has now commenced. This will engender more economic activity in the cane growing areas and is also expected to increase consumption. Again, the devaluation of the Fijian dollar will mean more income for the farmers.

Given the reduction in EU prices, Government is committed to a successful reform of the industry.

Exports of gold and fish have increased. However, performances of other industries, such as garments, timber and mineral water have been affected by the weak demand from our trading partner economies.

We remain optimistic that the recent devaluation will spur more demand from our trading partners for these products. We are also hopeful that as these economies recover next year, we will benefit further from higher exports.

On the major investment front, current developments include the construction of the Nadarivatu hydro dam. Work on this project started in April this year and is expected to be completed in mid-2011 contributing around 41.7 mega watts of electricity. The completion of the Laucala Island Resort and Natadola Bay Resort were important additions to Fiji's tourism industry. The Naisoso Island project is also progressing well.

Monetary and credit conditions improved significantly since April this year. Commercial banks lending rates have started to fall and the full impact of the policies on interest rates announced by the Reserve Bank of Fiji will be noticed in the coming months. Deposit rates have also started to rise after remaining very low in the past.

The banking system liquidity, that is, the amount of money available for banks to lend, has increased considerably from very low levels early in the year to around $150 million. This itself will see credit conditions easing up further in the coming months and will assist greatly in businesses being able to borrow additional amounts to grow their businesses and to start new projects.

In May the inflation rate was 0.8percent. Following the devaluation, we should expect an increase in the inflation rate in the coming months, with the year-end inflation forecast at 9.5 percent. However, prices are expected to start easing after April next year, towards an inflation of around 2 percent by the end of 2010.

While exports have fallen in the first four months of this year over the same period last year, imports also fell by 7 percent in the first four months of this year. This is a positive outcome for our balance of payments. It is however critical for us to lower our dependence on imports.

Since the devaluation in April, foreign reserves have steadily risen to around $660 million, from around $440 million before the devaluation. However, the foreign reserves position must be improved and meet the medium term target of raising reserves to 3-5 months of import cover.

FIRCA is undergoing changes in the manner in which it conducts its business. This has commenced with an additional allocation of $10 million a month for VAT refunds from last month. This allocation shall provide an extra stimulus to the domestic economy. Reforms to tax laws shall be introduced to make it less cumbersome and more explicit.

The current economic environment requires that Government operating expenditure be kept in check and if possible, reduced. Prudent management has resulted in a 190 million dollar reduction in Government expenditure in the first five months of this year.

It is with this economic background and projections that I now turn to various salient reforms and time frames which my Government shall implement, be focused on and oversee over the next 5 years.

Work on the new constitution under which the 2014 elections shall be held will commence by September 2012. The new constitution shall derive its impetus from the recommendations under the Charter.

As I have stated earlier the new constitution must include provisions that will entrench common and equal citizenry, it must not have ethnic based voting; the voting age shall be 18; and, it must have systems that hold Governments accountable with more checks and balances.

Consultations with the various stake holders for the drafting of the new constitution shall also commence in September 2012. These consultations shall be extensive and will not just be limited to political parties. It shall include civil society including NGOs and citizens of our country. Consultations shall include discussions on the size of the new parliament, the appropriateness of bi-cameral system, the length of the term of office of a Government and the systems of checks and balances.

I call upon the international community to provide their assistance and resources when this process begins by September 2012.

The new constitution must be in place at least a year before the September 2014 elections - in other words by September 2013. This will allow all Fijians and candidates for the elections ample time to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the constitution. The constitution shall be translated into the vernacular languages and pocket sizes shall be available.

The judiciary shall continue to be strengthened. We have already this year facilitated the allocation of an additional half a million dollars to strengthen the infrastructure and build capacities within the judiciary. I invite our international partners and relevant development agencies who are truly interested in facilitating the rule of law, creating transparency, facilitating access to justice and removing systemic corruption to work with our Chief Justice, the Independent Legal Services Commission, the Legal Aid Commission and the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) respectively.

Our commitment to the maintenance of law and order shall continue. The Police force shall be strengthened with upgrading of communication, transport and forensic tools. Government recognizes that policing is important to also instill public and investor confidence. As part of the reforms the archaic Penal Code shall also be revamped.

Let me also state today that the land ownership system will remain as it is. In other words the ownership of all lands shall not change.

What is important is that more land needs to be made available for productive use, whether it is native or state land.

We cannot realize our true potential in commercial agriculture or increase our exports or lift up the living standards, or improve the economic conditions of the i taukei, or provide sustained economic growth if land is not made available on a long term and secured basis.

My Government shall work with the i taukei land owners to ensure that they get a fair and market return on their land when they lease it; that they lease their lands for a tenure that will make it commercially attractive for the lessees; that the distribution of the lease monies is carried out on an equitable basis so that all i taukei benefit not just a select few. I plan to implement these land reforms by the beginning of 2010.

In the next three years the reform process shall also seek to empower the marginalized and address areas of neglect.

A major portion of this work shall include revamping archaic laws such as those that affect town and country planning, development processes and approvals. New laws and policies shall be introduced to address problems of underage marriage; domestic violence; discrimination and inequalities; accessibility to justice; and providing certainty to accessing the national asset of the sea and its resources.

The modernizing of our infrastructure and Governmental systems and organization is imperative. Some of these modernizing initiatives are already under way as they are part of the 2009 budget objectives. However, you shall see in the next three years an expedition of these projects.

These will include fast tracking of divestment of Government shares, the closure of non-performing entities and/or the amalgamation of different departments and entities. Outsourcing to the private sector shall also be pursued vigorously. Major road works including the rehabilitation of our highways and municipal roads and sealing of new roads shall be expedited. The objective here is to not only provide better and safe road conditions but to give accessibility to markets for and to our rural people.

Let me now categorically state that the focus of my Government for the next three years shall be on our economy. This will include, financial institutions to participate and partner with Government in initiatives that will be pro-growth and pro-poor. The role of the financial institutions is critical to facilitating economic development. Effective partnership between financial institutions, Government and the private sector will create the impetus and environment for a national approach to create better investment and savings opportunities.

Accordingly I am asking all those in the private sector to seize the opportunity to engage with my Government. It is the opportunity for you to seize the moment. My Government is a Government of change so this is your opportunity to contribute to modernize, seek incentives and contribute to the development of a sustainable economy and its growth.

You must actively engage, engage not just with Government but with your employees, in a partnership to put in place appropriate laws, processes and systems that will create a robust modern day economy which will be for the benefit of all and Fiji.

From now until 2014 and in particular from now until September 2012 will be a period of immense change for the betterment. It offers opportunities - opportunities to form partnerships, with employees, with investors, with our civil service, opportunities to for the international community and multilateral agencies to contribute to the changes that are to take place. It is in the interest of all parties including the Government that the expertise, skills and resources of all stakeholders are utilized to their maximum potential.

My fellow citizens, your Excellencies what I am saying is that I and my Government have a vision to make Fiji realize its true potential - a potential that can be realized through building a strong nation state, by empowering all our citizens, by fixing up the decades of neglected infrastructure, by providing actual adherence to the principles of the rule of law, by putting in place sustainable institutions and laws that will create accountability, transparency, justice, fair play and modernity; by improving living standards and alleviating poverty; by putting in place a liberalized and level playing field economy.

You and I are now armed with specific and definite time frames. These specifics and the objectives shall all be implemented vigor and transparency.

To reiterate, the focus for the first three years in particular shall be to improve the socio-economic and infrastructure conditions. This shall be followed by the formulation of a modern day constitution and then the holding of elections by September 2014.

My fellow citizens, your Excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen this is a journey that Fiji is on, a journey that we wish you all to participate on. You all have your different skill sets, strengths, expertise and resources which you can bring to and participate in this journey, a journey to build a better Fiji for all.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment