1.?????MINISTER KUBUABOLA MEETS WITH INDIA?S FOREIGN MINISTER IN DELHI?-?At the invitation of India?s Minister for External Affairs, Shri Salman Khurshid, Fiji?s Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola paid an official visit to India from 10 ? 12 February for their biennial India-Fiji Foreign Office Consultations.
2.?????JAPANESE YOUTH DELEGATION ARRIVES FOR EXCHANGE PROGRAM?-?The Ministry of Youth and Sports this evening will welcome a delegation of 24 Japanese youth into Fiji for a week-long Global Leaders Development Program.
3.?????PREPARATORY WORK ON NEW BA HOSPITAL UNDERWAY?- Government will ensure that the best possible arrangements are pursued to have the new Ba Hospital constructed within the set timeframe and budget.
4.?????DUTY CONCESSION TASKFORCE TO CONDUCT SPOT CHECKS?- The taskforce set to monitor the trickle-down effect of benefits of duty concessions to consumers as announced in the 2014 National Budget has been activated and retailers can expect spot checks.
5.?????WEST YOUTHS TARGETTED TO PARTNER WITH DEVELOPMENT STAKEHOLDERS?-?Government will move towards a targeted approach this year towards youths especially those selected youth groups based on merit to provide training and other up-skilling programmes in partnership with other stakeholders.
6.?????FIJI AND JAPAN MEET TO DISCUSS RECONSTRUCTION WORK ON NADI RIVER?- Discussions recently took place between the Fijian Government and the Government of Japan on the planning for the flood management study in the Nadi River Basin to assist in addressing flooding in the town and homes in recent years.
7.?????EDUCATION MINISTRY CALLS ON SCHOOLS TO FOLLOW DENGUE ADVISORIES?- The Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma met with the Minister for Education Filipe Bole this week to provide an update on the current dengue situation in the country.
1?MINISTER KUBUABOLA MEETS WITH INDIA?S FOREIGN MINISTER IN DELHI
At the invitation of India?s Minister for External Affairs, Shri Salman Khurshid, Fiji?s Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola paid an official visit to India from 10 ? 12 February for their biennial India-Fiji Foreign Office Consultations.
The series of meetings came to a close this week with high level talks between the two ministers?on Wednesday?afternoon in which they had wide ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues of common interests to the two countries.
During the ministerial meeting, Minister Kubuabola provided an update on the political developments in Fiji in its preparations for democratic elections that will take place by September and also discussed the positive reforms that Government has put in place since in came into power in its efforts to build a better Fiji for all.
There was appreciation by both ministers on the importance that this year holds since both countries will be holding national elections.
Minister Kubuabola expressed that Fiji?s commitment to its bilateral relations with?India?as a long-term one,?which is underpinned by historical cultural ties and enriched through good understanding and mutual respect.
?We share common interests and there are a lot of opportunities for cooperation and partnerships which ought to be explored fully to maximise the benefit of our relations.?
?Fiji has benefitted a lot from India through its bilateral assistance programmes and projects and we look forward to further enhancing our relations in the future,? Kubuabola said.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the signing of three MOUs on renewed development cooperation, water resource management and trade measurements and standards, which will foster greater cooperation between the two governments in these respective areas.
?The signing of these MOUs is a welcomed addition to the signing of the Double Taxation Agreement between Fiji?s Attorney General and Minister for Industry and Trade, Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and the Indian Finance Minister,?Shri P. Chidambram?last week?.
?There are other areas of cooperation which Fiji hopes to advance this year including sugar, youth and sports, reciprocal visa on arrival arrangements, capacity building programs, modern technological advances in agricultural productivity, defence, women and pharmaceuticals,? he added.
Progress has also been achieved on foreign office issues such as the land lease arrangements for the establishment of new chanceries for both countries in Suva and New Delhi respectively.
Minister Kubuabola thanked the Government of India for a successful outcome of the consultations and expressed the Fijian government?s continued support and commitment to deepen the bilateral relations between the two countries.
The Minister was accompanied by his Permanent Secretary, Mr Amena Yauvoli, Fiji?s High Commissioner to India, H.E Yogesh Karan and members of the Fijian delegation.
The next Fiji-India Foreign Office Consultation will be hosted by Fiji in 2016.
2?JAPANESE YOUTH DELEGATION ARRIVES FOR EXCHANGE PROGRAM
The Ministry of Youth and Sports this evening will welcome a delegation of 24 Japanese youth into Fiji for a week-long Global Leaders Development Program.
The GLD program begins today and will end?Wednesday 19th February?and will include institutional visits, cultural exchanges and homestays.
Director for Youth and Sports Mr William Naisara said: ?The GLD Program is an inherited program from the Ship for World Youth Program [SWY] and it wishes to foster international co-operation and promotes friendship between the young people of Japan and participating countries.?
?A total of 164 youths from nine countries  participated in this year?s GLD 25 program, which include Japan, Bahrain, Brazil, India, United Mexican States, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey and Fiji.?
?Fiji sent its nine-member delegation to Japan last three weeks for the same program and we will be hosting the Japanese for a week here at home,? Mr Naisara added.
The theme for this year is Sustainable societies: Creating a community-based affluent life and it is envisaged that participating young people will at the end of this year?s program will have a deeper understanding of the environmental problems that arise from mass consumption and waste production.
At the end of this GLD program, young people from participating countries are encouraged to establish an international network among participating youth for possible action on a larger scale.
Naisara will welcome the Japanese youth delegation at the Nadi International Airport this evening and will accompany them to Suva for a traditional ceremony of welcome by the Government of Fiji and the Minister for Youth and Sports Mr Viliame Naupoto?tomorrow?afternoon.
He added; ?The Japanese youths will be visiting some government institutions from?Saturday?to?Monday?and will also be hosted by local Fijian families from?Saturday?afternoon to?Sunday?afternoon.?
?They will later travel down to the Coral Coast and will be hosted by several villages and will get to witness some cultural activities before they leave again for Japan?on Wednesday,? Mr Naisara said.
3?PREPARATORY WORK ON NEW BA HOSPITAL UNDERWAY
Government will ensure that the best possible arrangements are pursued to have the new Ba Hospital constructed within the set timeframe and budget.
These are the words of Dr Neil Sharma, Minister for Health as he addressed the Ba Hospital Projects Committee Meeting this morning.
Dr Sharma confirmed that an amount of $7.3 million is in the 2014 National Budget and the Hospital should be ready by mid of next year.? He extended his appreciation to the Ba Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has entered into a partnership with Government to facilitate the planning, design, award of tenders and overall oversight on successful completion of the construction and fitout works for the Hospital.
He further noted that work is in progress on geo-tech survey, environmental inspect assessment, award of design contract and appointment of a Project Manager.
The new Ba Hospital will be a 55 bed facility, will have all the amenities and operations for a full and modern Hospital and will be constructed in Clopcott Street, within the Ba Township.
The Ba Hospital Projects Committee is an interdepartmental Committee and also comprises representatives of the Ba Hospital Board of Visitors, Ba Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Special Administrator for Ba.? It is chaired by the Permanent Secretary for Public Service, Mr Parmesh Chand.
4?DUTY CONCESSION TASKFORCE TO CONDUCT SPOT CHECKS
The taskforce set to monitor the trickle-down effect of benefits of duty concessions to consumers as announced in the 2014 National Budget has been activated and retailers can expect spot checks.
Ministry of Finance permanent secretary, Filimoni Waqabaca said two separate committees had been formed including a technical team comprising of senior officers who have ?done the plan on how to pursue the monitoring exercise?.
Retailers can expect spot checks as it will form one component of the monitoring, he said.
?Spot checks would be part of the monitoring that we will be doing. Random checks on traders who receive such concessions and seeing whether the benefits have been passed through to the customers or consumers,? the permanent secretary said.
Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Voreqe Bainimarama, had announced in the 2014 budget address the formation of a taskforce that will ?undertake price monitoring and surveillance on key policy items that have been granted duty concession?.
?Businesses that fail to pass on the concession to consumers will have their concession withdrawn,? the Prime Minister had said.
The taskforce comprises of the Finance Ministry, Ministry of Industry and Trade and Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority.
Mr Waqabaca said the technical team has also looked into the memorandum of understanding between the institutions that will be involved in the monitoring and the team will be sitting together soon to discuss the plans.
The new duty rates?provided in the 2014 National Budget?s revenue policies will allow consumers to enjoy cheaper prices on certain goods as flow-on from retailers.
Some of these measures included:
???Food supplements reduced from 32 percent to zero percent (used by pregnant mothers, senior citizens and chronically ill patients)
???Baby feeding bottles reduced from 32 percent to zero percent (reduction in import of cheap baby bottles)
???Shipping incentive reduced to zero percent on importation of spare parts for maritime vessels
???Importation of agricultural items reduced to zero percent
???Exempt of bunker fee of two cents per litre for local fishing vessels and duty concession on specialised fishing item
???Import of blank CDs increased from $1 to $2 per CD
???Adult sanitary diapers reduced to zero percent
???Prefabricated counter-tops increased from 5 percent to 32 percent
???Concrete products and iron panels for prefabricated homes reduced from 32 percent to 3 percent while?for factory/commercial use reduced from 32 percent to 5 percent
Meanwhile, the permanent secretary said initial figures have revealed that budget deficit is much lower than what was announced in the 2013 budget.
Mr Waqabaca said while fiscal updates for 2013 were still coming in but indications are that the budget was under-spent and capital projects saw 80 per cent implementation.
5?WEST YOUTHS TARGETTED TO PARTNER WITH DEVELOPMENT STAKEHOLDERS
Government will move towards a targeted approach this year towards youths especially those selected youth groups based on merit to provide training and other up-skilling programmes in partnership with other stakeholders.
This was made known during the western division annual youth Summit which is currently underway in Lautoka.
Opened by the Permanent Secretary for Youth and Sports Mr Josefa Sania, the forum has been introduced to lay a platform for youths to voice their opinions on issues.
?This is just to ensure that maximum results are achieved and the youth clubs or groups? projects or activities are sustained and it brings about a change in their livelihood and has direct impact in the society and Fiji as a whole,? he said.
?Let me emphasise again that this forum is really a platform for you as youth stakeholders to thrash existing youth development policies and design collaborative means that will directly have a positive impact on our young people.?
Youths have never before been given such prominence on national issues however Mr Sania said the Bainimarama government always had the youth sector in mind during its discussions and planning.
?We should take an analytical and holistic approach towards the services we provide. Assistance and empowerment should be directed at a targeted manner to ensure maximum and sustainable results ? be it farming, sports or any other form of activity,? Mr Sania added.
?Our diverse background today gives the greatest advantage for an effective service delivery. Today you all bring together these different experiences with a common vision and that is to empower and enrich young people. I plead with you that you put all innovative ideas today on the table and let?s find ways to collaborate and work effectively together.?
More than 100 youth from Ra, Ba, Nadroga and Navosa are attending the forum.
6?FIJI AND JAPAN MEET TO DISCUSS RECONSTRUCTION WORK ON NADI RIVER
Discussions recently took place between the Fijian Government and the Government of Japan on the planning for the flood management study in the Nadi River Basin to assist in addressing flooding in the town and homes in recent years.
The Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will be responsible for the implementation of the project and will also coordinate accordingly with other relevant organisations.
Minister for Agriculture, Colonel Inia Seruiratu said that the people of Nadi have suffered a lot over the years with the recent increase in flooding and it was about time that Government seriously addressed this issue.
He said the Government of Japan had approved the implementation of the Project and that JICA had sent a detailed planning survey team to clarify the framework of the technical cooperation for the Project.
The Nadi River Basin has suffered from inundation damage due to the cyclones and heavy rains during the rainy season in Fiji that is from November to April. This damage exerts serious influence on the socio-economic development of the Nadi area.
Previously, JICA had conducted, ?The Study on Watershed Management and Flood Control? for the four major rivers in Viti Levu known as the Rewa River, Sigatoka, Ba and Nadi River from 1996 to 1998.
JICA had prepared a master plan concerning the flood control and watershed management, but this need to be reviewed.
Due to devastations caused by the floods in 2009 and 2012 and more recently this year, the Government of Fiji once again requested the Government of Japan to assist with technical expertise on the project for the planning of the Nadi River Flood Control Structures.
The outputs of the project will be as follows:
i)??????????????The Master Plan of the Flood Management of Nadi River Basin
ii)?????????????The Feasibility Study on urgent and/or priority projects; and
iii)????????????Technical transfer to relevant personnel of the Government of Fiji through the project.
The project will commence once a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is signed between JICA and the Ministry of Agriculture.
7?EDUCATION MINISTRY CALLS ON SCHOOLS TO FOLLOW DENGUE ADVISORIES
The Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma met with the Minister for Education Filipe Bole this week to provide an update on the current dengue situation in the country.
?Dengue mosquitoes bite during the day and it is important for people to take necessary precautionary measures? said Minister Sharma.
Minister Sharma further requested for schools to participate in the anti – dengue cleanup campaign.
?The Ministry of Education fully supports the Dengue cleanup campaign. We need to protect everyone from the increase in the cases of dengue fever by destroying mosquito breeding places?, Minister Bole said.
?I urge the school managements, school heads and teachers to work collaboratively by joining the anti- dengue cleanup campaign in reducing the spread of dengue in Fiji,? said Minister Bole.
?One of the key learning areas of the revised Fiji National Curriculum Framework is healthy living and physical education which will be encouraged through such programs as school children will be involved,? he added.