DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATIONFIJI NEWS SUMMARY22/09/154:30PM

1. FIJI LOOKS TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH PNG – Fiji and Papua New Guinea have a special responsibility to work together closely for the mutual benefit of its people and the wider Melanesian family, says Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama.

2. BETTER COALITION NEEDED TO STRENGTHEN TUNA INDUSTRY – Government today stressed on the importance of tuna in the region and urged stakeholders to work together to address the challenges faced by the tuna industry.

3. MINISTER HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING – The Ministry of Youth and Sports has visited and met with close to 500 youth clubs around the country with an aim to create stronger and inclusive communities.

4. PUBLIC EXPENDITURE REVIEW FOR AGRICULTURE – The Fijian Government firmly believes that the agriculture sector has a key role to play towards the growth of the economy, creating sustainable livelihoods and reducing poverty.

5. MINISTRY ORGANISES LEADERSHIP TRAINING IN WEST – The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation has organised a leadership training for 47 women leaders representing their communities in the Western Division.

6. MINISTRY APPOINTS A WELFARE OFFICER IN OVALAU – In the quest to expand the accessibility of Government services in outer islands and to reach out to more Fijians, the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation has appointed a social welfare officer to be based in Levuka.

7. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY TOOLKIT FOR FIJI – The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is urging young adults to participate in physical activity in efforts of curbing the increase in mortality and morbidity trends from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

8. PUBLIC ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND NAUSORI HEALTH CONSULTATIONS – The Ministry of Health and Medical Services will hold public consultations in Nausori as part of the Government?s efforts to improve health service delivery in health facilities across the country.

9. GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2016 PUBLIC HOLIDAYS – Government has approved 2016 public holidays through a Gazette Notice No. 68 dated Monday the 21st of September 2015.

1. FIJI LOOKS TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH PNG

Fiji and Papua New Guinea have a special responsibility to work together closely for the mutual benefit of its people and the wider Melanesian family, says Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama.

In extending Fiji?s well wishes to Papua New Guinea on its 40th Independence Day celebration, the Fijian head of Government highlighted the progress the Melanesian state has made and the importance of its ties with Fiji.

Prime Minister Bainimarama told his PNG counterpart, Hon. Peter O?Neill that since gaining independence, the two nations have enjoyed close relationship of mutual respect and friendship which was further cemented through their membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

?Papua New Guinea?s emergence as a powerful economic force with the harnessing of your vast natural resources has been truly remarkable,? he said.

The wealth generated through this, the Prime Minister said, has been extended to Fiji in the form of investment especially in the tourism industry with the restoration of the iconic Grand Pacific Hotel and the soft launch of the Pearl Resort at Pacific Harbour.

?Fiji?s doors are always open to PNG investors and we look forward to strengthening our ties even further in this area in the months and years ahead.?

He further extended Fiji?s appreciation to PNG for her generous assistance to Fiji for the 2014 General Elections, which introduced the first genuine parliamentary democracy in Fijian history of equal votes of equal value.

Prime Minister Bainimarama commended the Melanesian state for successfully hosting the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Port Moresby and the highly successful Pacific Games which has become a benchmark for Fiji and other island nations.

?Fiji also admires the way in which Papua New Guinea successfully hosted the recent Pacific Games, which have been described to me as the best Pacific Games ever,? he said.

Above all, Prime Minister Bainimarama said the people-to-people ties have never been stronger and this is a cause for great celebration.

2. BETTER COALITION NEEDED TO STRENGTHEN TUNA INDUSTRY

Government today stressed on the importance of tuna in the region and urged stakeholders to work together to address the challenges faced by the tuna industry.

Opening the Pacific Tuna Forum today, Minister for Minister for Fisheries and Forests, Hon. Osea Naiqamu said that ?it is important that all Pacific Island States, together with distant water fishing nations, agree to the fundamental principles of adopting and implementing sustainable fishing methods and practices.?

?Maybe is it time for a restructure of the whole industry and a need to reduce the number of distant water fishing vessels that fish in our region as well as the overall number of fleets,? Minister Naiqamu said.

Minister Naiqamu highlighted the current challenges facing the world tuna fishing industry, which include lower catch rates, paying higher fees and selling catches at depressed world prices.

The Papua New Guinea Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resource, Hon. Mao Zeming said the country continues to promote regional approach to sustainably manage fisheries resources and strengthen monitoring and surveillance programs in the region.

?We also want to fish and develop our fishing industries and establish viable fish processing industries to process tuna,? Minister Zeming said.

?It is therefore important that the Pacific Islands be given the opportunity to participate in the world economy through investments in fishing ventures and tuna processing facilities.?

The two-day forum will discuss ways to come up with appropriate strategies to address the overfishing of bigeye tuna and the threat faced by yellow fin tuna in the region.

The Regional Tuna Industry and Trade Conference is co-hosted by the Fijian Government and Papua New Guinea?s National Fisheries Authority.

3. MINISTER HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has visited and met with close to 500 youth clubs around the country with an aim to create stronger and inclusive communities.

Minister for Youth and Sports Hon. Laisenia Tuitubou highlighted this at the opening of the 2015 National Youth and Sports Conference in Suva today.

There are 2542 registered youth groups in the country.

Minister Tuitubou said along with Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports Hon. Iliesa Delana, he will continue to meet various youth groups around Fiji to support and engage them in national development.

?For young people to become active participants in decision making is about creating opportunities for you to be involved in influencing, shaping, designing and contributing to policy and the development of services and programmes,? Minister Tuitubou said.

Minister Tuitubou said involving young people in decision-making leads to the effective implementation of policies and programmes.

Highlighting the importance of sports in youth development, he said it was recognised as a major contributor to the Fijian economy, national unity and social inclusiveness.

?The conference will provide opportunities for youths to participate in sports awareness programmes to demonstrate the values offered to those that are currently successful in sports.

?Cultural values and tradition will also feature prominently throughout the conference as our youths continue to be sensitized to society?s values and customs. Sharing common bonds espoused in our tradition and culture is critical to our harmonious and peaceful coexistence as one people in our multi-cultural and multi-religious Fiji,? Minister Tuitubou said.

Youths will also get an opportunity to take part in skills building workshops based on entrepreneurship, cookery, water safety, boat master skills, computing, agriculture, financial literacy, leadership, sports refereeing and environment conservation.

More than 400 youths are participating in the three-day annual conference, which is themed ?empowering youths to sustain a nation?.

4. PUBLIC EXPENDITURE REVIEW FOR AGRICULTURE
The Fijian Government firmly believes that the agriculture sector has a key role to play towards the growth of the economy, creating sustainable livelihoods and reducing poverty.

This was highlighted by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism permanent secretary, Shaheen Ali while opening the Pacific Agriculture Policy Planners Workshop today in Suva. Mr Ali said Fiji and the Pacific are going through a transformation.

The three-day workshop is attended by agriculture policy planners from across the Pacific to discuss and plan for a work programme to improve agriculture policy planning in the region.

Mr Ali said the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance must work jointly to examine their systems and processes and address weaknesses underpinning low success rate and poor returns on investment on public expenditure in agriculture.
?Poor policy planning and implementation of agricultural public expenditure projects in some cases lead to mismanagement of funds. As policy planners, we need to budget and invest in projects that contribute to sustainable economic growth and development objectives,? PS Ali said.
PS Ali said that the Public Expenditure Review model should indicate the level of sustainable employment created, income generated and export markets tapped.
?The Fijian economy is predominantly made up of services, representing 70 percent of the economy, followed by industries at 15 per cent whilst agriculture represents 14 per cent of the economy, half of which is sugar,? PS Ali said.
He added that both sugar and non-sugar sectors combined provided 2 to 3 percent of the national budget in Fiji.

?The Bainimarama Government has taken bold steps to provide farmers with the necessary supporting infrastructure with over 36 percent of the national budget or $1 billion allocated to capital expenditure of which 17.3 percent of $487 million is for the improvement of the access for road, bridges and port infrastructure.?
Mr Ali said this increased expenditure by the Fijian Government positively impacts agriculture by linking agriculture commodities to markets both domestically and abroad.

5. MINISTRY ORGANISES LEADERSHIP TRAINING IN WEST

The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation has organised a leadership training for 47 women leaders representing their communities in the Western Division.

The week-long workshop began yesterday at the Hexagon Hotel in Martintar, Nadi.

Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Rosy Akbar said these leadership trainings are organised through the ministry?s commitment to the implementation of Women?s Plan of Action.

?The program is aligned with the Ministry?s commitment to its Annual Corporate Plan which outlines the leadership trainings as one of the key strategies to empower women leaders and potential women leaders throughout Fiji. The programs are designed to achieve the objectives of building skills in human rights, leadership and advocacy. The training will provide them with the opportunity to learn about the Ministry?s programs such as the National Gender Policy and CEDAW (Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). This would also help them to establish networks and work closely with the Ministry to promote socioeconomic empowerment of women in their provinces,? Mr Akbar said.

?The leadership skills will build their confidence to increase women?s participation into decision making and national development. A transformed partnership based on equality between women and men is a pillar of strength for ensuring sustainable development.?

The leadership training will increase the participants understanding of the following:

? Understand the concept and basis of human rights.

? Link human rights to advocacy and leadership

? Gain improved communication skills for effective leadership and advocacy Design an action plan and execute it accordingly in order to address the challenges they face as leaders and advocates in fulfilling their duties and serving the community.

This is the second leadership training that the Ministry has organised this year. The participants are mainly women advisory councillors and tikina leaders including those from rural communities.

In May this year, the Ministry in partnership with SPC RRRT (Secretariat of the Pacific Community Pacific-Regional Rights Resource Team) also conducted a leadership training for the women leaders in the central and eastern division.

Minister Akbar said that similar trainings will be organised throughout all the divisions and this trainings will also be a key feature of the upcoming National Women?s Expo 2015 which will be held at the Vodafone Arena from 14th to 16th October this year.

6. MINISTRY APPOINTS A WELFARE OFFICER IN OVALAU

In the quest to expand the accessibility of Government services in outer islands and to reach out to more Fijians, the Ministry for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation has appointed a social welfare officer to be based in Levuka.

This is the first establishment of a social welfare office in Levuka which will play an important role in the implementation of programs on social protection, women empowerment and child services. Minister Hon. Rosy Sofia Akbar said her Ministry will expand its services to those living in rural and maritime communities.

Minister Akbar reiterated that taking government services to the people with efficiency is a key priority for the Fijian Government.

?Through social welfare public consultations, we have noticed that the biggest challenge encountered by rural and maritime villages is accessibility to transportation. It is on these findings that outreach services must be increased so that social welfare can maximize the monetary value of their benefits.

?Ensuring that no one is left behind and they have equal access to governments programs, is the focus for the Ministry. This initiative will also inform the communities on the programs of the Ministry and to take action to stop all forms of violence against women and children.

?The welfare officer?s role will be instrumental in the processing of social welfare applications. The officer will be visiting the communities in Ovalau and neighboring islands in the Lomaiviti province to increase awareness on child protection and women programs.

?The officer will work together with government ministries and Non-Government Organisations to increase the visibility and accessibility of government?s services in regards to the empowerment of women, children, senior citizens and persons living with disabilities,? Minister Akbar said.

Minister Akbar said that through Fiji REACH project, the Ministry will also undertake new strategies to increase its service delivery in maritime areas.

?I have been meeting with a number of local and international development partners who are keen to assist the Ministry through technical and financial resources, for new plans in areas of poverty alleviation and women empowerment. The support received is very encouraging and every plan we have is focused on moving this Ministry to a level higher in its service delivery,? Minister Akbar said.

The Ministry currently serves more than 307 social welfare clients in Levuka with 722 beneficiaries in the Eastern division. This includes 340 beneficiaries for the Poverty Benefit Scheme, 364 clients for the Social Pension Scheme and 18 clients for the Care & Protection Allowances. Similarly 440 pregnant mothers in the eastern division have also been assisted under the Food Voucher Program for Rural Pregnant Mothers.

7. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY TOOLKIT FOR FIJI

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is urging young adults to participate in physical activity in efforts of curbing the increase in mortality and morbidity trends from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The Minister for Health and Medical Services, Hon Jone Usamate said Fiji has adopted the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations for physical activity for children and adolescents to get 60 minutes of physical activity daily and all adults to engage in brisk walking for 30 minutes daily.

The Health Minister highlighted this at the Physical Activity Toolkit consultation held today in Lami where participants from various Government ministries and health specialists gathered to contribute towards a toolkit as part of the Physical Activity Month.
He added that the consultation gave an opportunity for stakeholders to work closely with WHO to contribute to a pilot Physical Activity Toolkit as a resource to encourage engagement of physical activity through different sectors.
?The goal is to see what works for Fiji and what may not. Sitting for long hours is considered an attributing factor towards the risk of establishing NCDs and despite the known positive health effects that Physical Activity has on the prevention of these chronic lifestyle diseases, the level of participation in physical activity in Fiji currently is not enough,? Minister Usamate said.
The Health Minister highlighted the 2011 STEPS Survey that found Fiji?s population overweight or obese had increased from 47.6 percent to 66.9 percent since 2002.
He further added that the Fiji Global School Health Survey 2010 revealed that young people were not participating in enough physical activity.
?The study found that only 30 percent of students (13-15 years) attend physical education class on 3 or more days each week during the school year and only 33.4 percent meet the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more days.?

8. PUBLIC ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND NAUSORI HEALTH CONSULTATIONS

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services will hold public consultations in Nausori as part of the Government?s efforts to improve health service delivery in health facilities across the country.

The Assistant Minister for Health Hon. Veena Bhatnagar will lead the consultations at the Nausori Hospital on 1 October (2015) and this will be an opportunity for her to hear firsthand the challenges that are faced not only by the medical personnel but the patients and the public that will be present there.

?I am asking people to come forward and talk to us on health issues so that the Ministry can work on these issues to bring about improvements,? Mrs Bhatnagar said. ?These consultations provide the much needed information for health staff to improve and implement changes to ensure the public receives timely and efficient services.?

Similar consultations were held in the western division earlier this year and feedback from the public has been overwhelming.

9. GOVERNMENT APPROVES 2016 PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

Government has approved the following 2016 public holidays through a Gazette Notice No. 68 dated Monday the 21st of September 2015:

1. New Year?s Day ? Friday, 1st January

2. Good Friday ? Friday, 25th March

3. Easter Saturday ? Saturday, 26th March

4. Easter Monday ? Monday, 28th March

5. Prophet Mohammed?s Birthday ? Wednesday, 30th March

6. National Sports Day ? Friday, 24th June

7. Constitution Day ? Wednesday, 7th September

8. Fiji Day – Monday, 10th October

9. Diwali ? Monday, 31st October

10. Christmas Day ? Monday, 26th December

11. Boxing Day ? Tuesday, 27th December