1 FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER CONGRATULATES REPUBLIC OF KOREA PRESIDENT
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has reaffirmed Fiji’s commitment towards deepening relations with the Republic of Korea after congratulating Her Excellency, Madam Park Geun-hye as President of the Republic of Korea.
The Prime Minister congratulated President Geun-hye following her inauguration as the 18th President and highlighted her Excellency’s own commitment towards ‘wholesome development’.
“Please accept my warmest congratulations, both personally and on behalf of the People of Fiji. Your inauguration as 18th President of the Republic of Korea is indeed historical and special in that it brings forth a renewed sense of hope and optimism to the people of your country and region and beyond”, PM Bainimarama said.
“Your message and pledge to embark on the making of a “Second Miracle on the Han River” premised on the new era of hope through economic rejuvenation, pursuit of happiness and flourishing culture illustrates your strong conviction and commitment to ensuring balanced and wholesome development for your people based on equality and respect”.
Through a diplomatic note issued through Fiji’s foreign ministry, the Prime Minister spoke of strengthening relations and working closely with President Geun-hye.
“The message and commitment resonates well beyond your boarders and Fiji stands ready to partner with the Republic of Korea on mutually beneficial endeavors regionally and internationally”.
“We have total faith that your appointment will deepen our relations which we have enjoyed for more than forty years”.
2 ECONOMY ON TRACK, NO SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET FOR TC EVAN
THE economy is on track despite the shock it received at the end of 2012 as the quick diversion and re-pooling of finances has seen part of the estimated $70million plus damage already financed from existing funds.
And with more than $20m already accessed through the unused funds from the 2012 budget to finance the immediate needs after Tropical Cyclone Evan, the Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Mr Filimoni Waqabaca said there were no plans to put through a supplementary budget to complete rehabilitation works.
“We were able to do those re-deployments within Government budget, we were not going for supplementary budget to Cabinet to try and give us more than what was given to us and what the Minister (for Finance) had announced in his budget speech for 2012,” he said.
However, in the aftermath there have been some questions raised on whether the economy will be growing according to the Government projection of over 2 per cent.
“The assessment is at this stage that we are not going to achieve the two per cent growth but we are still confident that despite those disasters we will still be attaining 2.5 or just slightly lower growth but definitely the two per cent growth,” the permanent secretary while rebutting the negative predictions by the Asian Development Bank.
Mr Waqabaca said right after TC Evan, sectors such as education, health and infrastructure were needed immediate assistance and the funds that were not utilised by Ministries and Departments in 2012 were diverted towards this.
With the good feeling set in by Moody’s revision of Fiji’s rating from negative to stable, Mr Waqabaca said with the prudent management of the budgetary funds Fiji is well on its way to achieve its growth predictions.
“There is a lot of economic spending happening right now, the sub-sectors like tourism, we hope that agriculture will pick up again and drive growth and the wholesale and retail there is some optimism there and those would combine and also the investments that are coming into the economy,” he said.
Reserve Bank of Fiji in its January review has predicted that the domestic economy is expected to expand by 2.7 per cent led by agriculture, manufacturing and financial intermediation sectors.
“This growth is expected to be felt broadly across the economy except the health and social work and the public administration and defence sectors,” the review highlighted.
3 PARTNERSHIP TO BENEFIT KIDNEY PATIENTS
The Ministry of Health and the Kidney Foundation of Fiji will work together to provide kidney patients the opportunity to receive three months of full treatment.
Speaking at the Signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the Kidney Foundation and the Ministry of Health this week, Minister for Health Doctor Neil Sharma said that government needs to supply funds adequately to provide this service.
“This agreement is for one year and $160,000 is the budget plan. It also now allows patients to choose, once they are diagnosed, whether they want the treatment or not, so it gives them the capacity for three months of full treatment,” Dr Sharma said.
He also added that this link formed between the ministry and the foundation plays an important role.
“It is the complications of diabetes that kill people, and we need to look after the target organs, like the eyes were you can end up with blindness, heart disease, were a person has a silent heart disease, and the kidney were you can get end stage kidney disease, and even damage to the lower limbs, and that must be a game changer, the Ministry with the Kidney Foundation is one major link in that game changer,” Dr Sharma added.
Kidney Foundation president Dewan Maharaj conveyed the foundation’s appreciation for the new development which will now allow patients to receive joint help.
“The Ministry and the Kidney Foundation has been working on the agreement for years, but now we can work together to help patients,” Mr Maharaj said.
The agreement will stand for one year but will be closely monitored to see if there is a need for further variations.
4 ADVANCED FACILITIES TO STRENGTHEN HEALTH RESEARCH
Health professionals’ research toolkits will now be more advanced and sophisticated following the opening of the Fiji National University’s new Medical Research Laboratory today.
Minister of Health Dr Neil Sharma said that the new laboratory will address current health issues and at the same time, compliment reforms implemented by health authorities.
“The Tamavua based Lab will serve as a platform to conduct research to address the current health care issues in Fiji beginning with Genetics, Immunology and Pathology and later extended to the other disciplines in and out of medicine,” Dr Sharma said.
“This laboratory has the potential to conduct research which includes consultation and the provision of advanced medical and clinical laboratory services to patients attending our base Hospitals, general practitioners for diagnosis, including the region,” Dr Sharma added.
Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Professor Ian Rouse said that the research lab will allow health professionals to improve their standards of service.
“These tools won’t replace the need for health professionals who are loving, caring and compassionate, but will give health professionals a much greater satisfaction knowing that they have a lot better chance of improving care,” Professor Rouse said.
He said the MRL will strengthen certain partnerships but also improve the standards of diagnosis.
“With the opening of this laboratory it is the intention of the National University to further strengthen the partnership with Mataika House with the aim of engaging in more world class research and improvement in diagnosis and care of people with cancer, HIV, leptospirosis and other diseases,” Prof Rouse said.
The MRL is an international standard quantitative research lab with bio safety level two facilities, and the first of its kind in Fiji.
5 LANDS TO CONDUCT FOLLOW UP CONSULTATIONS
The Ministry of Lands is heading back to the western division after more than 440 complaints and issues were received from its first road-show regarding state land leases.
Ministry permanent secretary Mr Tevita Boseiwaqa said the Ministry had made a commitment to returning with solution to most of the issues raised.
Mr Boseiwaqa said the lands officers had identified that many of the issues raised by the tenants and “victims” stemmed from illegal activities such as sub-dividing the land and not using the land for what it was intended for.
“For the last two weeks our team from the West were working on addressing these issues and as some of them require the Director’s (Lands Mr Mosese Tagicakibau) consent he was there full time,” the permanent secretary said.
Mr Boseiwaqa said two issues they have picked up from the road-show is that many of the leasee’s are illegally sub-dividing the land and are not actually farming on the land.
“They are getting other people to farm on their land and these farmers are in turn are paying fees to use the land and farm there. So it is not like a caretaker system, it’s like a tenant arrangement,” he said.
“The advice from the Ministry is that this is illegal and to stop paying any rentals until the Ministry formalises their tenure”, Mr Boseiwaqa said.
Mr Boseiwaqa said many of these complaints had been attended to and some of issues raised were really on the processes of the Ministry so the officers were also engaged in the awareness raising.
He has asked people to come forward with their issues when the team is on the road again from tomorrow.
The follow-up consultation starts in Sigatoka at the Sigatoka provincial bure on Thursday, at the Nadi Town Council Civic Centre on Friday and then after the weekend at George Shiu Raj complex in Rakiraki on Monday.
In Ba people can take their concerns to the Ba Town Council’s Multi-purpose bure on Tuesday and at the divisional surveyor’s Western office on Wednesday with all these consultations beginning at 8.30am and finishing off at 4.30pm.
(Consultations schedule attached)
6 Fiji Commits to eliminate Violence against Women and Children
Government has reaffirmed its position on the elimination of violence against women and children by officially signing a Commit Campaign initiative in conjunction with the UN Women.
In her official signing address, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Jiko Luveni highlighted Fiji’s legislations that are in place and the priority for national commitment to end the series of violence against women and children.
“In response to the call by UN Women on governments to COMMIT to end violence against women and girls- Fiji today signs on knowing that it has the political will and commitment to addressing the root causes of violence in our homes and communities through the enactment of progressive legislation that guarantee and protect women’s human rights,” Minister Dr Luveni said.
Some of these decrees include the Domestic Violence Decree 2009, the Criminal Procedures Decree 2009
Crimes Decree 2009, Sentencing and Penalties Decree 2009, Child Welfare Decree 2010, and the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007.
Minister Dr Luveni said that these legislations are national commitments to strengthen multi-sectoral support and to realize that the root causes of violence are multi faceted.
“Fiji signs its commitment today as one of the 27 countries that are committing as I look forward to joining an even larger number of countries at the Commission on the Status of Women meeting in New York next week to pledge our government’s support to eliminate violence against our wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties, nieces and grand-daughters”, Dr Luveni said.
Elimination of Violence against Women (EVAW) Programme Specialist (UN Women), Melissa Alvarado congratulated Fiji on the national commitment and Fiji’s statement created around the Commit initiative.
7 NORTHERNERS BENEFIT FROM KOREAN AID FOR TB
A zero Tuberculosis (TB) project is currently being developed for the people of Vanua Levu.
This was made known during a meeting today between the Minister for Health Dr Neil Sharma and the World Zero Tuberculosis (TB) Movement, a Korean non – governmental organisation and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
The project which is estimated to cost $235, 000 is fully funded by the two organisations. They will also implement the project on the capacity building of TB control services in the Northern division of Fiji, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation-South Pacific Office.
World Zero Tuberculosis Movement was established in 2004 and aims to prevent and treat tuberculosis, one of the main causes of death in developing countries.
This health project will be carried out for a year from Feb 2013 in the Northern division, specifically targeting Rabi Island and Savusavu, known to have a higher rate of TB compared to other parts of Fiji.
A team of three specialists, Dr Dal-sun Han, Dr Sang-Jae Kim and Ms Kang Mi-Kyoung, are currently in the country to discuss details of the project which include; Public TB awareness programme, providing medical service for TB patients, training 60 Fijian medical staffs twice over the project period, and developing a TB manual for checkups and treatments.
8 SPEED CAMERAS SET TO GO LIVE
Speed cameras will now become a permanent feature on our roads from next month.
Chief executive officer Naisa Tuinaceva says they have trialled the cameras for the last two years and it was about time that they were introduced on our roads.
“March 8th will see our speed cameras going live and this is because we have done sufficient trials on our roads for the past few years,” he said.
The project is currently in its first phase and Tuinaceva has reminded drivers about their role in making sure that the country’s roads are safe and accident free.
“We are currently in phase one and this will mean three cameras along the Queens Highway and one red light camera in the Suva – Nausori Corridor.”
“The three cameras will alternate along the highway between Suva and Nadi before we move to phase two in acquiring another three camera’s for the western division.”
The last phase will see three more cameras for the northern division.
Meanwhile, Tuinaceva says there is nothing to worry or fear about the cameras as it is there for safety purposes.
“If you are a driver who abides by the rules then there is nothing to worry about. However, for those that like to bend the rules need to start thinking about other road users and making sure it is safe,” Mr Tuinaceva said.
The three cameras were bought for $225, 000.
9 GOVERNMENT’S EFFORTS SUPPORTED BY PRIVATE SECTOR
Government’s effort to raise the profile of small and medium enterprises is greatly assisted by private sector partners who offer micro-finance products that provide the much needed finance to these ventures.
Ministry of Industry and Trade permanent secretary Mr Shaheen Ali applauded “local home-grown” financing institution, Home Finance Company (HFC), for helping Government’s drive to boost the small and micro-enterprise sector through their latest micro-finance product.
“The small and medium enterprise sector makes up 10 per cent of the economy and can be the basis for sustainable growth which is resilient to economic shocks such as the fuel/food prices and the financial crisis,” he said.
He said Government has introduced various mechanisms and tax incentives to promote the SME’s growth such as the Reserve Bank of Fiji’s credit guarantee scheme and income tax exemption for small businesses with a maximum turnover of $300,000.
This, Mr Ali said, sits well with the HFC’s with its national vision to provide all Fijians with innovative financial solutions, especially to the rural and unbanked section of society.
He said, “HFC does not have only an economic focus but socio-economic objectives as well and more so through their focus in areas such as agriculture, agro-processing and tourism related areas”.
Meanwhile the HFC chief executive officer, Mr Isikeli Tikoduadua said that the, “Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) has set clear directive for the banks to diversify into microfinance products and though HFC is not required, but we felt that it was part of our social responsibility to have such product.”
The product offers loans ranging from as low as $500 to $5000 with no interest but a 10 per cent flat fee and with all the loans insured through premium options depending on the age group.
The catchphrase for the product, which comes with a very unique insurance cover very similar to mortgage protection, is “Gives hope to those who need it most”.