1. FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER HOLDS TALKS WITH SENIOR AMERICAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL – Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama today received the United States of America, deputy assistant secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island Affairs, Ambassador Dennise Mathieu.
2. FIJI’S NATIONAL GENDER POLICY APPROVED – Fiji’s Cabinet has today approved the National Gender Policy.
3. FIJI ENVOY REAFFIRMS PEACEKEEPING COMMITMENT TO GLOBAL COMMUNITY – The annual session of the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations commenced in New York this morning.
4. FIJI TO HOST ASIA-PACIFIC MARITIME SAFETY MEET – Cabinet has today agreed for Fiji to host the 15th Session of the Asia Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agency (APHoMSA) in May this year.
5. FIJI PLEDGES SUPPORT TO UN SIDS PREPARATORY PROCESS – The first preparatory meeting for the Third International Conference for Small Island Developing States, to be held in September in Apia, Samoa, began in earnest yesterday in New York.
6. CABINET APPROVES GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE FOR FDB – Cabinet has approved a $120.00 million Government Guarantee for the Fiji Development Bank’s (FDB) borrowings and term deposits for the twelve-month period from 1 January to 31 December 2014.
7. CABINET APPROVES AMENDMENTS TO TAX LAWS – Cabinet has approved amendment to the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Decree 2014, the Fringe Benefit Tax (Amendment) Decree 2014 and the Customs (Amendment) Regulations 2014.
8. GOVERNMENT TO ESTABLISH FIRST REHABILITATION FACILITY FOR BEGGARS – Government is working with key stakeholders to establish the first rehabilitation facility for street beggars who are both homeless and mentally challenged.
9. MINISTRY TAKES NEWS STEPS TO ALLEVIATE POVERTY IN THE COUNTRY – With the objective to alleviate poverty, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation is now financially supporting income generating projects targeted towards assisting women in peri-urban and squatter settlements.
1 FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER HOLDS TALKS WITH SENIOR AMERICAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama today received the United States of America, deputy assistant secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island Affairs, Ambassador Dennise Mathieu.
Ambassador Mathieu is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and assumed her position as deputy assistant secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island Affairs on August 19, 2013.
Prior to her current position she served as the foreign policy advisor (POLAD) to the United States Transportation Command.
Ambassador Mathieu will visit other Pacific Island countries later this week.
2 FIJI’S NATIONAL GENDER POLICY APPROVED
Fiji’s Cabinet has today approved the National Gender Policy.
This decision was based on a submission by the Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, Dr Jiko Luveni.
Minister Luveni said that the overall goal of the policy is to promote gender equity, gender equality, and instil social justice by removing all forms of gender discrimination and inequalities to attain sustainable development.
The Minister said that the Policy was formulated after adequate consultations with key government ministries, Women NGO partners and key service providers and other stakeholders.
She said that the monitoring and evaluation of the policy will be the responsibility of her Ministry with support from the Ministry of Strategic Planning and the Inter- Agency Working Committee on Gender Development based on the developed progress indicators.
She added that a monitoring and evaluation framework will be developed to address effective and efficient implementation of the policy.
3 FIJI ENVOY REAFFIRMS PEACEKEEPING COMMITMENT TO GLOBAL COMMUNITY
The annual session of the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations commenced in New York this morning.
The Permanent Representative of Nigeria, Ambassador Joy Ogwu, was re-elected as Chair of the Special Committee.
Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Peter Thomson, addressed the Special Committee this morning, reaffirming Fiji’s firm commitment to continuing to serve the UN in peacekeeping operations.
He said that Fiji was justly proud it had been able to rise to the occasion and respond to the UN’s urgent call last year for peacekeeping reinforcements for UNDOF in the Golan Heights.
Noting the evolving conflicts requiring new and complex UN peacekeeping mandates around the world, Fiji’s Ambassador called for UN attention to be given to clear exit strategies as part of all peacekeeping mandates.
He also drew attention to the need for greater deliberation being given to the safety and security of UN peacekeepers with some mission mandates now being characterized as robust.
Ambassador Thomson highlighted the conclusion of the work of the Senior Advisory Group with particular reference to peacekeeping troop cost reimbursements.
“It is completely unreasonable”, he said, “that the UN System expects troop contributing countries to subsidise the UN peacekeeping budget through an outdated and inadequate troop cost reimbursement rate which national pay scales have long since overtaken.”
Ambassador Thomson called for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to be more proactive in developing triangular cooperation in order to provide developing country troop contributors with the “high end capabilities” necessary for rapid deployment.
He said such cooperative mechanisms would ensure that new peacekeeping missions could be started up in a timely manner.
4 FIJI TO HOST ASIA-PACIFIC MARITIME SAFETY MEET
Cabinet has today agreed for Fiji to host the 15th Session of the Asia Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agency (APHoMSA) in May this year.
The approval to host the meeting was based on a submission by the Minister for Works, Transport and Public Utilities, Captain (N) Timoci Lesi Natuva.
The meeting is a technical forum used by Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies in the Asia Pacific region to discuss and dialogue on maritime matters that are crucial and critical to maritime safety in the Asia Pacific region.
The outcomes of these meetings are then used as a basis for discussions with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to build and strengthen capacity in Government maritime agencies in the Asia Pacific countries in the areas of maritime safety, security and protection of the marine environment.
One of the key objectives of this forum is for member countries to identify areas of promoting regional cooperation and partnership in the fields of maritime safety that can be used as leverage to assess technical cooperation support and assistance from the IMO.
The Minister said that the 2014 Meeting shall focus on Regional Cooperation, Protecting the Marine Environment, Safety at Sea including Seafarer’s Welfare, and Maritime Incident Response.
5 FIJI PLEDGES SUPPORT TO UN SIDS PREPARATORY PROCESS
The first preparatory meeting for the Third International Conference for Small Island Developing States, to be held in September in Apia, Samoa, began in earnest yesterday in New York.
In his opening statement, Fiji’s Head of Delegation to the Prep Com, Mr Pita Wise, voiced Fiji’s support to the collective call by delegations on the use of the SIDS Inter-regional outcome document as the starting point of the preparatory process.
“The SIDS document represents our collective views on how best to tackle the issues of priority to us for our sustainable development. As others have said, it is the starting document for any discussion that we engage in at these preparatory meetings and our efforts in this process should only seek to improve and strengthen that document,” he said.
Mr Wise underscored the importance of the modalities that will be adopted in the implementation of sustainable development programs. “It is imperative that national strategies and priorities for sustainable development are taken into account when providing development assistance to SIDS and when considering the type of intervention required.”
He added that “the key message in this regard is that we, the SIDS, must take ownership of the process of implementing sustainable development assistance and programs for our respective countries.
This will ensure efficiency, effectiveness and cohesion of such programs and assistance. It requires that we collectively work together in a more systematic and coordinated manner to address issues of common interest.”
On the strategic global partnerships that must be harnessed to mainstream the sustainable development of SIDS, Wise underscored the need for SIDS to “address the imbalance that so often characterizes the relationship between small island countries and our partners.
It demands a new level of cooperation and commitment, one that emphasizes trust and mutual respect in our partnerships moving forward. We firmly believe that this will reinvigorate our approach to addressing sustainable development.”
He reminded the meeting on the need to maintain the focus on a global SIDS outcome in September which is “concise, forward-looking and result-oriented document that is readily translatable into tangible benefits for the people of Small Island Developing States.”
The Fijian delegation includes Luke Daunivalu and Setaita Tupua-Kalou of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The meeting continues today and will end on Wednesday.
6 CABINET APPROVES GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE FOR FDB
Cabinet has approved a $120.00 million Government Guarantee for the Fiji Development Bank’s (FDB) borrowings and term deposits for the twelve-month period from 1 January to 31 December 2014.
Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.
The 2014 Government guarantee will allow for the continued facilitation of the Government’s policy by lending to essential sectors of the economy, particularly, resource-based sectors including Agriculture, Mining and Quarrying, Manufacturing, Transport, Communications and Storage, Small and Micro Enterprises (SME) in Wholesale, Retail and Hotels, and Professional and Business Services which will assist the disadvantaged of the community to earn a decent livelihood.
It will also allow the Bank to continue lending to the resource based sector will assist in the development of the Agricultural sector and in the long run will assist the development of the economy.
7 CABINET APPROVES AMENDMENTS TO TAX LAWS
Cabinet has approved amendment to the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Decree 2014, the Fringe Benefit Tax (Amendment) Decree 2014 and the Customs (Amendment) Regulations 2014.
The amendments are to provide support to the local Fishing Industry.
Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.
The Value Added Tax (Amendment) Decree will allow the direct supply of fish which is fresh, chilled or frozen, excluding fish fillets and other fish meats, to a local fish processor as zero-rated items.
The Fringe Benefit Tax (Amendment) Decree 2014 exempts from fringe benefit tax the provision of meals, refreshment or accommodation to a fisherman by their employer on any vessel.
The Customs (Amendment) Regulations 2014 will increase the bunker fuel levy on foreign vessels and foreign fishing vessels from 2 cents per litre to 6 cents per litre, and increase the transshipment levy for fish from $350 per tonne to $450 per tonne.
8 GOVERNMENT TO ESTABLISH FIRST REHABILITATION FACILITY FOR BEGGARS
Government is working with key stakeholders to establish the first rehabilitation facility for street beggars who are both homeless and mentally challenged.
The Interagency Taskforce on Beggars which is spearheaded by the Ministry of Social Welfare in partnership with the Fiji Police and relevant non-government organisations have embarked on a major plan to build this facility.
Formed in June last year, the Taskforce had carried out a profiling exercise recently and gathered comprehensive information outlining the family background of 40 beggars found in Suva.
The Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Dr Jiko Luveni says that the evidence analysis has enabled the Taskforce to look at strategies of addressing street beggars in Fiji.
“The Taskforce had gathered information on each of the beggars in Suva and discovered that there are those who have good homes and own properties, while there are those who are mentally challenged and they are neglected by their families. Given these findings, the Taskforce has embarked on a major plan which is to build a rehabilitation facility for street beggars who don’t have a place to stay.
“The facility will provide care services to those who are mentally challenged and need medical attention. Vocation training will also be provided to assist them to venture into income generating projects and become self-sufficient. The Ministry is working together with stakeholders like Fiji Police, municipalities and NGO’s to help street beggars,” Minister Luveni explained.
The land to build the new rehabilitation facility has already been identified and construction work is expected to begin in a few months’ time.
“The facility should be ready by this year and we got the budget and identified the land to build the facility in Suva. The Ministry has also secured partnership with a Faith Based Organisation to ensure this plan materializes.
“We want to ensure that we have a place to take these people to once we take them off the streets. But in the meanwhile, the Ministry has partnered with NGO’s to provide shelter to those beggars who don’t have a place to stay and also linking up with the family members of these beggars to look at the best means to accommodate them”.
“The Taskforce will meet next week Friday to further map out the way forward for succeeding in the plans. We are particularly concerned about the fact that children and persons living with disability are used to gain sympathy to collect money from the public,” Dr Luveni said.
9 MINISTRY TAKES NEWS STEPS TO ALLEVIATE POVERTY IN THE COUNTRY
With the objective to alleviate poverty, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation is now financially supporting income generating projects targeted towards assisting women in peri-urban and squatter settlements.
The Ministry is working with the Fiji Women’s Federation Advisory (FWF) Committee to implement livelihood projects to uplift the lives of those who are challenged with poverty and unemployment.
The Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Dr Jiko Luveni says that while her Ministry has focused on rural women, priority for this year also includes assisting those in periurban areas (Suva-Lami and Suva-Nausori corridor). The Ministry of Women has the budget allocation of $50,000 to facilitate these projects.
“Those living in peri-urban areas and squatter settlements also experience poverty and the Ministry will work with the Non-Government Organisations to provide income generating opportunities to reach out to the women in these areas.
“I am pleased to say that as a result of Ministry’s networking with women groups, women have become progressive particularly in terms of alleviating poverty in their communities. Women’s accessibility to banking facilities has been a challenge and through the construction of women centres we will open up banking services to them.
“The opening of projects like baking, canteens, tailoring, handicrafts, poultry, virgin coconut oil will see women becoming financially independent. The Ministry is glad to work with the FWF advisory members to provide the funding of $5000 to support income generating projects in the communities they hope to assist this year,” Minister Luveni said.
Dr Luveni said the projects funded by the Ministry are monitored to ensure that the benefits reach down to the grassroots level.
The Fiji Muslim Women’s League president, Ms Nisha Buksh has commended the Bainimarama government’s effort to economically empower disadvantaged groups of Fijians in the country.
“We are trying to encourage and empower women to get into income generating projects so they can develop their skills and use available resources to earn money for their families. Women have great potentials and projects supported by the Ministry will enable them to venture into self-sufficiency and independent livelihood.
“Through a recent capacity building workshop organised by the Ministry, the women NGO’s have learnt the skills of writing project proposals and monitoring projects to ensure its sustainability. This new initiative is a great incentive for women groups to contribute effectively towards economic development in Fiji,” Ms Buksh said.