EU’s 4 Million Euro Sugar Aid Concerns Fiji’s Bainimarama

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EU’s 4 Million Euro Sugar Aid Concerns Fiji’s Bainimarama PM unhappy aid to be channeled through Australian college

By Felix Chaudhary

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct.17, 2013) – Fiji Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says he is gravely concerned about the European Union's decision to assist the sugar industry by channelling 4 million Euro (FJ$9,852,630, or US$5,409,520) through a Fiji-based Australian training institution.

Commodore Bainimarama said the decision demonstrated a unilateral approach towards development assistance rather than a partnership approach.

The EU and Australian government this week signed an agreement on upskilling farmers to prepare for the end of preferential sugar quotas to the EU in 2017.

The funds provided by the EU are to facilitate programs provided by the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC). Under the preferential arrangement, the EU was buying all of Fiji sugar at a rate significantly higher than the world sugar price.

The EU was part of the 13th African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) sugar ministerial conference held over four days at Shangri-La's Fijian Resort and Spa in Sigatoka.

Commodore Bainimarama said if the European Commission was genuine about development and assistance, it would reconsider its association with APTC and work with organisations such as the Fiji National University (FNU), "which was resourced by local personnel and the government to achieve the best results for all Fijians."

"This approach is highly irregular. It is also unclear as to how this training through the APTC will complement government's revival of the sugarcane industry or, conversely, how it will tie in with the national policies on targeted development and creating sustained livelihoods," Commodore Bainimarama said.

A government statement said it understood the funds were being allocated under the Accompanying Measures Support Program (AMSP).

Yesterday the European Commission deputy director general for development co-operation, Marcus Cornaro, said given the absence of a formal government to government relationship he believed the arrangement with APTC "is the best and most efficient way in the current circumstances to provide a major impact to the improved viability of the industry."

"With all of our projects and programs we monitor and should for some reason we do see problems with APTC, which I do not anticipate of course like with any other projects, this can be subject for review," he said.

Mr. Cornaro said the EU was looking forward to normalising relationships after the 2014 election.

"And then evidently once that is done we can formalise a government to government program under the next program which is the 11th European Development Fund, we could very happily discuss and revisit that aspect of the co-operation."

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