PRIME MINISTER LEAVES FIJI FOR HISTORIC RUSSIAN VISIT
The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has left Fiji as the head of the first ever official Fijian Government delegation to visit the Russian Federation.
The visit, which begins later this week, will see the Prime Minister hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, at his official residence outside Moscow.
While the Prime Minister meets senior Russian officials, other members of the Fijian delegation will hold side meetings designed to foster relations in the areas of trade, education and other areas of cooperation.
The Government says the meetings underline Fiji’s robust foreign policy, which is aligned with other Pacific island nations and seeks new opportunities beyond its traditional regional partners.
The visit – it says – also demonstrates the expanding relationship between Fiji and Russia since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1974 and especially since an exchange of ambassadors in 2010. Fiji’s resident Ambassador to Japan, Isikeli Mataitoga, is accredited to the Russian Federation as Fiji’s non-resident Ambassador.
The relationship has also strengthened since the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, visited Fiji in February 2012.
Following the Prime Minister’s official visit, Fiji’s Defence Minister, Joketani Cokanasiga, and two senior officials will attend the International Maritime Defence Show 2013 to be held in St Petersburg from July 3rd to July 7th.
MINISTRY LOOKS AT CREATING EMPLOYMENT FOR FIJIANS OVERSEAS
The Ministry of Labour is looking at reducing the unemployment rates in the country by sending Fijian workers for overseas employment.
The current unemployment rate in Fiji is 8.6 percent and the ministry’s aim is to reduce it to 4.2 per cent in two years.
Minister for Labour, Jone Usamate revealed this at a workshop this week which focused on public sector partnership for overseas employment creation for Fijians.
The highlight of the workshop was to understand the international labour market and labour migration related to economic and social benefits in terms of remittances and investments, as well as capitalizing on Fiji’s economic development.
Mr Usamate said the reduction of unemployment in Fiji remains at the forefront of the Labour Ministry goal under the National Employment Centre (NEC) Decree.
“The unemployment rate increased during the period 1996-2007 from 3.7 per cent to 8.6 per cent (Fiji Bureau of Statistics, 2009). This is a substantial 43 per cent increase in a span of 10-11 years. As I speak, there are 28,006 unemployed persons registered with the NEC which is approximately 99% of unemployed captured in the 2007 census,” Mr Usamate said.
Mr Usamate said the ministry had provided a reformative legislative framework which enables the provision of quality employment services to the unemployed population in the country.
The minister highlighted that over the years labour mobility has evolved with highly skilled workers leaving Fiji shores.
“Between the years 1987-2001, Fiji saw about 75,800 people emigrate and 11 per cent of these people were highly skilled workers, which included healthcare professionals,” Mr Usamate said.
Mr Usamate also alluded to the demand for Fiji’s workers in the United Arab Emirates in the health and tourism sectors earlier this year, saying this had huge economic benefits to the country.
The full implementation of Foreign Employment Service (FORES), Fiji Volunteer Service (FVS), Formal Employment Service (FES) and the Self-Employment Service (SES) would see the creation of job opportunities in various sectors of Fiji’s economy, with the ultimate purpose of reducing the unemployment rate to a negligible level by 2015.
“Over the years economic development has grown to encompass many aspects of the global economy. A by-product of economic development in expanding economies is the influx of migrant workers from underdeveloped to developing nations. As these industrialized economies developed and flourished, their developments created gaps for unskilled, low-skilled or semi-skilled workers – workers which the domestic labour markets were not able to supply,” Mr Usamate said.
“The exodus of skilled workers are also linked to higher earnings opportunities, prospects of career development or simply the quest of a better lifestyle, climate and general conditions.”
The ministry is also developing strategies to cushion the impact of migration of skilled workers and professionals to other countries.
“At the same time we encourage and promote the circular migration policies especially for our highly skilled professional workers so that when they come home, they will bring many benefits and innovation to capacity building our people and economy,” Mr Usamate said.
More than 25 participants from various ministries and statutory organisations attended the workshop to develop a partnership in the sustainable development of foreign employment opportunities for the greater good of economic development of all Fijians.
MORE THAN 8000 APPLY FOR SOCIAL PENSION SCHEME
Over eight thousand senior citizens, who are 70 years and above, have applied for Government’s Social Pension Scheme (SPS).
While confirming this, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Dr Jiko Luveni said a total of 8358 applications were received from the elderly from the months of January to June.
“From the total of 8358 applications for the Social Pension Scheme, a total of 5563 applications have been approved and are now paid $30 monthly pension. The remaining applications are currently being verified with the Fiji National Provident Fund,” Dr Luveni said.
Dr Luveni said following a review of the social welfare programs it was discovered that families with larger households comprising of senior citizens tend to face more financial burden.
“Senior citizens who are 70 years and above can apply but there is a category only if they are not recipients of superannuation like FNPF, government pension and after care fund,” she said.
“Forms are available in our divisional and district welfare offices and people can apply by filling this form, getting it certified by a civil servant or community leader and submit with two passport photos.”
Dr Luveni reiterated that Government is committed to providing an enabling and inclusive society for senior citizens in the country.
“The National Council of Older Persons Decree was endorsed by the Cabinet last year and the National Council of Older Persons Council should be operational this year. The Council will work on the implementation of additional policies like elderly health, Convention on the Rights of the older persons which will bring about a vibrant and productive sector for older persons in Fiji,” she said.
Social Pension Scheme has a budgetary allocation of $3.24 million for 2013. Recipients of other social welfare assistance such as the Care & Protection Allowance and Poverty Benefit Scheme (PBS) will not be eligible for this assistance.