Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (August 5, 2009) – When Pacific Islands Forum members meet in Cairns, they must consider the implications of the current global economic crisis on their small states.

For this region does not live in isolation.

Whether we like it or not, the Pacific is affected by the actions — or in some cases inaction — of the larger states with whom we live in a global world.

Smaller island nations like Tuvalu, Krkibati, and to a smaller extent Tonga and Samoa, are immediately affected by what happens in Fiji.

Any devaluation of the Fiji dollar has an impact on these nations which import so much from their bigger neighbour.

In the same way, financial fluctuations in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore — our major sources of imports — have an immediate effect on Fiji.

That is why regional leaders have an important task ahead of them as they discuss issues in Australia.

One of the greatest tasks ahead of them is the implementation of a bulk fuel buying program mooted more than two years ago.

Consumption of petroleum products in the Pacific is small — relative to the neighbouring economies to the immediate West.

For this reason, suppliers can and do demand higher prices from regional nations because of the volume of purchases.

It is possible, however, for the region to decide whether it can buy bulk fuel at a volume which drives prices down and impacts the lives of the people in a positive manner.

Fiji is one of the few regional nations which uses hydro-electric power to supply electricity to consumers.

Most of our neighbours continue to rely heavily on diesel fuel to maintain power supply.

The cost of fuel has an impact on the lives of ordinary consumers as well as State-run institutions such as hospitals and schools and on the small industries and commercial ventures which ultimately drive employment.

Ultimately, the cost of fuel has a tremendous impact on the cost of doing business within the region.

With common sense and a unified front, it will be possible for the region's leaders to make a decision which will have ramifications on the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Lower fuel costs will mean cheaper fares, goods and services which will have the ability to drive the tourism industry upon which the region relies so heavily.

Pacificf Islands Forum Secretary-General Neroni Tuiloma-Slade has admitted that fuel bulk buying is matter of regional concern.

It is up to the leaders to make the issue a priority for the sake of the people.

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