Caption: His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Sir Michael Somare at Government House today. Photo: MINFO.
1 NEW TELECENTRE TO BOOST EDUCATION REFORMS IN BA PROVINCE
One Hundred and sixty students of Ba Methodist High School in Nailaga, Ba will now have access to internet thanks to the opening of a new telecentre by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama today.
While officiating at the opening of the new telecentre, the Prime Minister reiterated government?s commitment towards providing information technology services and resources in rural and isolated communities in the country.
?What I find equally exciting is that you don?t have to travel at all these days to be connected to the world. You can be connected right here on a computer via the Internet.? And you can broaden your horizons without leaving Ba at all?.
The Prime Minister said today?s opening signifies government?s commitment to raise the standard of living of ordinary Fijians.
?I?m personally very proud of these Telecentres. They are a key element of my Government?s promise to provide a world of difference for ordinary Fijians. Why? Because we are providing free access for the first time to one of the great advances of the modern age?.
?It wasn?t long ago that computers and the Internet were only for wealthier people in our town and cities. The opportunity to benefit from the information revolution was for them, not for ordinary people?.
The head of government encouraged students to make full use of this opportunity to enhance their learning and their education.
?To the school children here today I say make the most of this opportunity to gain knowledge and broaden your horizon. You can immediately be part of a bigger world,? PM Bainimarama said.
Ba Methodist High School principal Ms Aralai Gavidi thanked the Prime Minister for giving them this ?golden education opportunity?.
?On behalf of the Marama Na Tui Ba and management of the school I would like to convey our deepest appreciation to you Sir. Thank you very much for taking this time to honor us with your visit,? Ms Gavidi told the Prime Minister.
She said today?s event is a milestone achievement and one that will always be remembered by students and the community of Nailaga.
?The children will certainly remember this great moment in the history of their school when their country?s leader is gracing them with his presence,? she said.
?We would like also to thank the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and his Ministry of Communication who made it possible to have this centre at Nailaga,? she said.
Divisional Education Officer Eastern Lorima Voravora commended the reforms delivered by Government towards making education more accessible.
?On behalf of the Ministry of Education we are most thankful to government for setting up yet another telecentre in Fiji here in Nailaga because it will not only cater for students but also for ordinary people in the area,? Mr Voravora said.
?The centres will benefit students especially in carrying out their projects for internal assessments from class 1 to form 7. It will also help them in doing their research using the internet,? Mr Voravora said.
The telecenter at Ba Methodist is the seventh in the country and Government has put in place plans to open twenty more telecentres around the country.
From today, this centre will provide free internet and data access for hundreds of people in the surrounding areas. It will be used by students during school hours and for the rest of the community after hours.
Ba Methodist High School was established in 1964 and today caters for students from form 3 to 7.
2 PNG GRAND CHIEF MEETS WITH PRESIDENT
Papua New Guinea?s Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare paid a courtesy visit to His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau at Government House today.
Sir Michael who is in the country as chief guest for the week ? long Silver Jubilee celebrations for the Melanesian Spearhead Group took the opportunity to meet with His Excellency and to wish him good health.
The two also discussed the long journey of the MSG which has brought solidarity to the regional sub ? grouping including member countries of the bloc namely Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu, PNG and the Front de Lib?ration Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) of New Caledonia.
Accompanied by PNG?s High Commissioner to Fiji His Excellency Peter Eafeare, the former Prime Minister of PNG and Ratu Epeli also discussed the strong bilateral relations enjoyed by the people of the two countries.
Sir Michael also expressed his appreciation for the reforms undertaken by the Fijian Government adding that he was personally looking forward to seeing the fruits of the hard yards put in by the Bainimarama Government.
He also conveyed his congratulations for the arrival of the new Fiji Airways airbus saying that it has certainly added to the celebrations which has gripped all Fijians.
Ratu Epeli thanked Sir Michael for accepting Fiji?s invitation to be the chief guest at the event in Fiji and was happy to see Sir Michael in good health.
3 HOUSING AUTHORITY LEADS WITH UPSKILLING
A landmark 25 percent of Housing Authority staff members are now pursuing higher education at local universities and abroad.
Housing Authority chief executive officer Alipate Naiorosui said, ?In line with our training policy, we are investing in our people to go out and study as they will in turn bring in fresh ideas and strategies to improve our customer services, land and housing productivity and overall performance?.
39 sponsored staff members are undertaking various programs relative to our organisational needs at Diploma, Bachelor?s Degree, Post Graduate Diploma and Master?s Degree level.
Naiorosui continued, ?Of the sponsored staff, women make up 44 percent of those staff members who are returning to further their education?.
In addition to sponsored tuition fees and texts, Housing Authority ensures that sponsored staff are supported by providing some company resources towards research & programme study requirements.
?Apart from bonding our graduates to contribute to our organisation, the trickle on effects of up skilling our people will be felt in the medium to long term with more experienced graduates in the area of Land Management, Construction management, Architectural technology, Real estate, Finance, Management, Law, Information technology and Business Administration?, Naiorosui added.
The structured programmes supplement the on-going in house trainings that is provided to staff members on customer service, process mapping and land use planning.
In the past, the Housing Authority has sent its staff members to India, Pakistan, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Malaysia on training courses.
4 AGRO AUTHORITY PUSHES FOR INCREASE IN SEAWEED EXPORTS
The Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA) has proposed an increase in seaweed exports to China and the Philippines this year.
The Authority?s Sales and Marketing manager, Alivereti Yaya said they began exporting seaweed to the two international markets in 2008 and since then, the demand for the produce has been high.
Mr Yaya said they exported two containers of dried seaweed two weeks ago, which fetches more than $35,000.
?The current demand for dried seaweed is 40 tonnes a month. On an annual basis, we would need about 480 tonnes. For us to send a 20 tonne container overseas, we?ll be earning about $35,000?, Mr Yaya said.
He also highlighted the problem of shortage of supply, however he pointed out that the authority is working in close collaboration with farmers to address this.
?It is good money for us and the farmers because the product has a huge demand. We have orders pending with us. Last year we had an order for four containers but we only managed to send one.
?This year the buyers in China and Philippines are demanding 12 containers. We started filling the containers from last October and we managed to ship it through two weeks ago. We never have a problem of rejects from these markets,? Mr Yaya added.
He said seaweed does not need to be processed and incurs minimal costs for the authority.
?The biggest earner for AMA is seaweed. In 2012, we sent only one container but it was worth $35,000.?
The AMA receives an annual funding of $900,000 from the Government.
5 HOUSING AUTHORITY COLLECTS $50K IN TWO WEEKS
700 homeowners nationwide have taken advantage of Housing Authority?s 10 percent ground rent discount offered for March, 2013.
Housing Authority chief executive officer, Alipate Naiorosui said, ?We are pleased with the positive response from our ground rent customers toward the discount program?
Since the introduction of the discount this month, approximately $53,000 has been collected with lending executives actively writing and calling homeowners to utilize the discount.
The 10 percent discount is applicable for the month of March and homeowners that pay their ground rent account in April, 2013 will receive a 7 percent discount.
?If homeowners settle their outstanding balance on their ground rent account, all interest charges will be waived?, Naiorosui added.
Housing Authority is encouraging its homeowners to prioritise their ground rent payments to avoid legal action to recover outstanding ground rent, cancellation of lease by re-entry and their name being entered to the Data Bureau which will hamper the ability to access credit facilities from other credit providers.
6? MINISTER FOR LABOUR VISITS TAVEUNI
The Minister for Labour Mr Jone Usamate visited the Taveuni District reiterating government?s commitment towards an open door policy in bringing its services to the public.
It was an opportunity for the Minister to meet with the public in the north and discuss issues pertaining to labour and employment. The Minister held his second public consultation with the general public of Taveuni at the Holy Cross Hall this week and addresses issues raised from concerned citizens.
?The purpose of my visitation is to fulfil the vision of the Bainimarama Government which is Building a Better Fiji for all,? the Minister said
?Building a better Fiji in terms of providing decent wage, decent working conditions and decent working environment that leads to decent living standards?.
?He emphasised that his ministry is responsible in ensuring social justice, good faith employment relations and safe and productivity driven workplace for all?.
Two new cases were registered from these consultations and other queries were mainly on the clarification of labour laws on areas of unfair dismissal, holiday pay, wage rates, hours of work, annual leave, maternity leave entitlements, contracts of service, jobs classification, FNPF Deductions and workers covered in the informal sector whose terms and conditions are not covered under the ten wages regulation orders.
The Minister addressed all issues on the clarifications of labour laws accordingly whereas the two new cases will undergo investigation and responses will be provided to the complainant within two months.
Also part of this road show was the visitation to Father McVerry who has carried out various projects with youth in Taveuni.
?I greatly appreciate and thank Fr McVerry and his visionary leadership towards the unemployed people here in Taveuni?, Minister Usamate said.
?The principle of self employment that Fr McVerry is currently adopting with the unemployed youth here in Taveuni has raked in thousands of dollars into their savings? accounts.
?These youth are trained with survival skills and provided with working tools until when they believe they can survive by themselves rather than being dependent, which I believe is a great principle to adopt not only to the unemployed but also to our children, and future generation as well,? Minister Usamate said.
?Self employment is also one of the areas that my Ministry looks into under the National Employment Centre and we wish to encourage locals to utilise the resources they have such as land which can be a steady source of income.
The Minister highlighted that as committed under Pillar 8 of the Peoples Charter for Change, Peace and Progress ? Reducing Poverty to a Negligible level by 2015; his Ministry is currently working towards a national minimum wage across all work sectors. He pointed out the establishment of the National Employment Centre for the unemployed to tackle poverty alleviation and at the same time to enhance national productivity.
Minister Usamate also met with Business Owners of Naqara in Taveuni today followed by a separate public consultation both of which were held at the LDS Hall.