1. FIJI TO HOST INDONESIAN DELEGATION – A high level Indonesian delegation consisting of national and local government officials will visit Fiji next week.
2. FIJIAN ENVOY HOLDS TALKS WITH SENIOR UN PEACEKEEPING OFFICIALS – Fiji’s Ambassador-at-Large, Major General Ioane Naivalurua has completed a week’s visit to New York focussed on UN peacekeeping activities.
3. NEW LABOUR INPSECTORS RECRUITED TO BOOST MINISTRY’S ENFORCEMENT UNIT – The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment has appointed a total of 16 new Labour Inspectors to boost the capacity of its enforcement unit.
4. FIJI COMMISSIONS NEW HONORARY CONSUL TO LUXEMBOURG – Fiji’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has announced the commissioning of Fiji’s Honorary Consul to the Duchy of Luxembourg, Mr Philipp THOMAS.
5. FIJIAN PRESIDENT COMMENDS ‘FIJI-TIMOR LESTE’ GROWTH – Fiji’s President His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has welcomed the inclusion of Timor Leste in Fiji’s National Volunteer Services Scheme.
6. NACULA TRAINING HAILED A SUCCESS – The Minister for Youth and Sports Mr Viliame Naupoto recently presented certificates to 85 youth at Naisisili village, Nacula in the Yasawa group following a capacity building program.
7. POVERTY BENEFIT SCHEME ENSURES OBJECTIVITY IN SELECTION CRITERIA – The Poverty Benefit Scheme (PBS) allows anyone to apply for this assistance, however eligibility is determined by the evidences gathered during assessment process, says the Ministry of Social Welfare director Mr Rupeni Fatiaki.
8. CORRECTIONS OFFICERS TO BOOST TRAINING CAPACITY – The Fiji Corrections Service (FCS) will be engaging with the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies (APCSS) of Honolulu, Hawaii for further studies for its officers.
9. MOU SIGNED BETWEEN AGRICULTURE AND CHINA ENTERPRISES – The signing this week of a Memorandum of Understanding at the Ministry of Agriculture will mark the establishment of a research institution with modern seed processing, testing, inspection, certification and storage system.
1 FIJI TO HOST INDONESIAN DELEGATION
A high level Indonesian delegation consisting of national and local government officials will visit Fiji next week.
The visit of this delegation builds on the current momentum to strengthen the relationship between the MSG member countries and the Republic of Indonesia.
The visit also underscores the commitment shared between the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Indonesian Government regarding the need to exchange high level visits. This visit to Fiji is also in line with the outcomes of a recent visit by the MSG Foreign Ministers to Indonesia in January of this year. During that visit, Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola led the MSG delegation to Jakarta and in particular to the special autonomous province of Papua.
Whilst in Fiji, the Group is expected to meet with Senior Officials and members of Fiji’s Diplomatic community. They will also participate in several public lectures held in Suva and Lautoka in the same week.
The purpose of these lectures is to create awareness and generate informed dialogue on the self-autonomy process and developments occurring in the Papua provinces of the Republic of Indonesia.
2 FIJIAN ENVOY HOLDS TALKS WITH SENIOR UN PEACEKEEPING OFFICIALS
Fiji’s Ambassador-at-Large, Major General Ioane Naivalurua has completed a week’s visit to New York focused on UN peacekeeping activities.
He led the Fiji delegation to the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations that began its 2014 session in New York this week.
Ambassador Naivalurua and Fiji Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Peter Thomson, held a bilateral meeting yesterday with the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO). The meeting was attended by DPKO’s Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous and DPKO’s Military Adviser Lt Gen Maqsood Ahmed. At the meeting, USG Ladsous expressed the deep gratitude of the United Nations for the prompt and professional manner with which Fiji took up its UNDOF peacekeeping duties in the Middle East in 2013.
The DPKO meeting provided the Fijian Ambassadors with the opportunity to discuss current peacekeeping issues of importance to Fiji, and for them to hear from DPKO an assessment of the current situation and emerging trends in UN peacekeeping demands. The Fijian Ambassadors affirmed that UN Peacekeeping is a central plank of Fiji’s foreign policy, underlining Fiji’s commitment to the international community’s efforts to maintain peace and security.
The Ambassadors also met this week with the UN’s Department of Field Support (DFS) that is responsible for the administration and logistics of supporting UN field missions. They met with DFS’s Under-Secretary-General Ameerah Haq to discuss operational matters affecting Fiji’s UN Peacekeeping deployments in the Middle East and Africa, along with the improvement of support and security conditions.
Separate meetings were also held during the week with the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations and the Military Attachés of India, Ireland, the Philippines and Nepal. Like Fiji, each of these countries is a troop contributing country to UNDOF, and the Fijian Ambassadors used these meetings to discuss matters of common concern regarding the operations of UNDOF and the welfare of its personnel.
3 NEW LABOUR INPSECTORS RECRUITED TO BOOST MINISTRY’S ENFORCEMENT UNIT
The Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment has appointed a total of 16 new Labour Inspectors to boost the capacity of its enforcement unit.
The Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Mr Jone Usamate said these new labour inspectors will be posted to the District Offices across the country to provide the needed support and assistance to cater for the growing customer demand and expectation.
The new officers went through a rigorous induction training which included both theory and practical lessons on the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 (ERP), the Labour laws, ministry’s role including the corporate values, ethics and governance, the PSC code of conduct and the National Minimum Wage (NMW), to equip them with the knowledge and skills required to carry out their duties.
While welcoming the new labour inspectors, Mr Usamate emphasised and challenged them on the important role a civil servant plays in the lives of Fijians.
“The role that you play as labour inspectors is to build a better Fiji for the most marginalized people in our society. They are people who are paid the lowest wages, people who are exploited, and people who work in the worst conditions. Your job is to build a better Fiji for them,” Mr Usamate said.
He said the recruitment will boost the Ministry’s Labour Compliance Unit and enable the Ministry to resolve employment grievances and complaints more efficiently whilst also facilitating the effective implementation and awareness of the labour laws, especially the new National Minimum Wage announced by the ministry last month.
There are some 6,706 enterprises covered under the current 10 Wages Regulations Order and Individual Bargaining in the formal sector and more than 3872 workplaces in the informal sector. Given the huge number of workplaces, the Minister urged the new Labour Inspectors to give their very best, and to have a passion for the Ministry’s Vision and its Mission. He stated that all government employees must have a commitment to making a difference in the lives of the people that come to them for assistance.
Mr Usamate added that the Labour laws’ including the ERP (2007) promotes the creed ‘those who create employment grievances, disputes or risks have the primary responsibility to resolve them’. This means that the Ministry of Labour must be the stop for conflict resolution. Primary mechanisms such as internal complaints and grievance procedures must be established and must be encouraged to operate effectively, and must be exhausted first before seeking the Ministry’s intervention.
“Workplaces with more than 20 workers must establish their Labour Management Consultation and Cooperation Committees as required under section 5 of the Employment Relations (Labour Management Consultation and Cooperation Committees) Regulations of the ERP, the key objective of which is to expose and resolve all the employment grievances and complaints resulting in establishment of good faith relationships between employer and worker and increase in productivity.
“The labour laws are designed to empower the workers to exercise their fundamental principles and rights at work, and for workers and employers to take responsibilities for their actions and establish a conducive and harmonious workplace environment through active good faith dialogue,” Mr Usamate said.
4 FIJI COMMISSIONS NEW HONORARY CONSUL TO LUXEMBOURG
Fiji’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has announced the commissioning of Fiji’s Honorary Consul to the Duchy of Luxembourg, Mr Philipp THOMAS.
Mr Thomas, who was commissioned by the Fijian Foreign Minister at the end of 2013 is a German national who has been residing in Luxembourg since 1994 and who is considering taking up Luxembourgish nationality. He is a German solicitor who also holds an MBA in Financial Services and Insurance as well as a Master in European Laws. He currently is non-executive chairman of FijiCare Insurance Limited and a non-executive director of Kontiki Growth Fund, two companies listed on the South Pacific Stock Exchange. He travels to Fiji twice annually.
The consulate’s purpose is to establish close working relationships with a number of entities located in Luxembourg.
Earlier this month, the newly appointed Honorary Consul along with the Ambassador of Fiji to the EU, H.E Peceli Vocea, who is also accredited to Luxembourg, held meetings local Luxembourgish entities, including a government ministry, Chamber of Commerce, and small and medium enterprises. The meetings were to explore business and trade opportunities between these entities and those in Fiji. A meeting was also held with the European Investment Bank, whose Headquarters is based in the city of Luxembourg. A particular focus will be on the likely resumption and stepping up of the EIB’s activities in Fiji, and exploring area of opportunities were EIB lending and grant facilities can be used as effective financial leveraging instruments for development projects in Fiji. The Fiji Mission is in Brussels is also exploring the possibility of a Luxembourg-Fiji double taxation agreement.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is expected to meet with Honorary Consul Thomas at the end of March, in Brussels, at the margins of an International Genocide meeting.
5 FIJIAN PRESIDENT COMMENDS ‘FIJI-TIMOR LESTE’ GROWTH
Fiji’s President His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau has welcomed the inclusion of Timor Leste in Fiji’s National Volunteer Services Scheme.
Speaking at the farewell dinner in his honour in Dili, Timor Leste last night, the Fijian Head of State said Fiji’s volunteers were well trained and would be beneficial to Timor Leste.
“I am happy to note that our two countries (Fiji and Timor Leste) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to send our highly qualified and experienced volunteers to Timor Leste,” he said.
“I have no doubt that their contribution to the Timor Leste economy and the different sectors would be very beneficial.”
“The Fiji Volunteer Services Scheme is already an outstanding success and we have plans to considerably boost this program in the coming months and years, and to expand the capacity building to other professional fields,” Ratu Epeli said.
“So while we stress the notion of serving our people at home, we also stress the need to serve our fellow pacific islanders and the global community in whatever way we can.”
Timor Leste’s Prime Minister Hon. Xanana Gusmao said his country was looking forward to the arrival of the Fijian volunteers.
“Having been to Fiji personally, I look forward to welcoming these volunteers to Timor and improve the lives of all Timorese,” Hon Gusmao said.
6 NACULA TRAINING HAILED A SUCCESS
The Minister for Youth and Sports Mr Viliame Naupoto recently presented certificates to 85 youth at Naisisili village, Nacula in the Yasawa group following a capacity building program.
Mr Naupoto was at Naisisili to officially close a week-long Mobile Skills Training organised by the ministry for the young people of Nacula Island in the Yasawa group.
Minister Naupoto told the youth; “Education, training and acquiring knowledge is a continuous and lifelong process.”
“Your achievement today is testament that despite your past academic records and achievements, each of you still have the capability to learn and attain knowledge and skills in life.
“The knowledge and skills you’ve attained in this week-long training will sure boost your confidence and will sustain you as these skills set will save you from seeking paid services in the urban centres.”
“You are at your prime right now when your creativity and energy levels are at the highest. I encourage you to maximise it to your advantage for they will one day cease to exist, and you won’t have to regret not utilising these gifts to your benefit,” added Mr Naupoto.
Youth officer west Mere Ratukonadi said: “Initially the training was planned for only 50 participants – 25 for small engine repairs and 25 for Art & Craft.”
“We were surprised at the increase from 50 to 85 participants (56 small engine repairs and 27 art & craft) and we could not turn them away as the training was meant for their empowerment.”
“A total of 25 outboard engines and few generators and brush cutters were brought by the youths for practical during the training. All are in running and in good working conditions now and some of these have been lying idle for years.
“The ladies learnt screen printing and other forms of art and craft and were very successful as they have managed to produce several colourful products at the end of the week-long training,” YO Mere said.
Trainee Lasa Kuruisovanalagi was full of accolades and said; “Now I have learnt new things which I never knew before especially the basic knowledge of maintaining an outboard engine.”
“I’m so grateful for this free training and now most of us are looking forward to further training to upgrade our skills and so we can be recognised by vocational or tertiary institutions for further studies and later by companies for employment.”
“We rely mostly on tourism and when we fail to get jobs in the resorts and hotels, it’s back to the village for us.
“We are so grateful that government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports is providing such training to empower and give us hope,” said Kuruisovanalagi.
Similar trainings will be carried out in Waya Lailai in the Yasawa and in the Malolo group.
7 POVERTY BENEFIT SCHEME ENSURES OBJECTIVITY IN SELECTION CRITERIA
The Poverty Benefit Scheme (PBS) allows anyone to apply for this assistance, however eligibility is determined by the evidences gathered during assessment process, says the Ministry of Social Welfare director Mr Rupeni Fatiaki.
Last year, the PBS replaced the Family Assistance Program (FAP) and this has emanated following the partnership between the Ministry and the World Bank to review and streamline the social protection programs in Fiji.
While explaining about the Scheme, Mr Fatiaki said that it targets those who are “poorest of the poor” and living in destitution.
“Anyone can apply for this assistance however it’s the assessment that determines whether one will be eligible to receive this assistance. Even the sugarcane laborers who are seasonal workers can apply for PBS, we know for the fact that these laborers don’t have permanent source of income. Assessment is done on proxy means testing, looking at the properties, land ownership and household items owned by the applicants,” he explained.
Evidence gathering through home visits is a compulsory component in processing all the applications under Poverty Benefit Scheme.
“At the end of the home visits, a scorecard is derived and the threshold score will determine, whether the family is really poor and should be assisted through Poverty Benefit Scheme. This system is objective in the sense that it’s the evidence recorded from the questionnaires which ensures that only deserving cases are assisted. The methodology for scrutinizing information about the clients ensures accountability and transparency in the services we provide to the people who genuinely need social welfare assistance,” Mr Fatiaki reiterated.
He said that Poverty Benefit Scheme ensures that maximum of four members in a household are assisted.
“Previously with the Family Assistance Program, it was targeted towards individuals only and assistance was limited to 3 categories (elderly, permanently disabled and chronically ill). With the PBS, assistance is provided to the maximum of four members in a household, each of these four individuals will receive $30 for example a family of four will receive $120 monthly allowance and the other assistance added to this allowance is $30 food voucher, so in total the monthly allowances under PBS is $150 a month, payments are done electronically,” he said.
Through a recertification exercise, the clients under Family Assistance have been transferred to Poverty Benefit Scheme with 19,000 as its current beneficiaries.
“We have applications coming in every month so they will be added to the existing recipient lists. There are 15 social welfare offices around the country and those applying for the Poverty Benefit Scheme need to visit their nearest welfare office and register by providing their birth certificate and residential address, contact details.
“Once they have registered, the social welfare officers will take note of the addresses and do home visit to collect required information for the questionnaires to process applications. The timeframe for processing each application is 30 days, however welfare officers are encouraged to process these applications a lot faster”, Mr Fatiaki added.
8 CORRECTIONS OFFICERS TO BOOST TRAINING CAPACITY
The Fiji Corrections Service (FCS) will be engaging with the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies (APCSS) of Honolulu, Hawaii for further studies for its officers.
During a meeting this week at the National Headquarters of the FCS, retired Lieutenant General, Daniel Leaf said that there are a lot of opportunities for the FCS in terms of broadening their knowledge on security issues.
“I am indeed honored to be part of the discussions today and I believe that through more collaboration, the FCS will be able to meet its annual targets as well as educate its officers on issues that are relevant to their area of work,” explained Lieutenant General Leaf.
Commissioner of Corrections, Lieutenant Colonel Ifereimi Vasu said that the FCS is grateful for the opportunity to have met with the delegation from the APCSS.
“We hope to engage with you more especially on our training needs as this has certainly augured well for us here at the FCS with our officers attending relevant courses to upgrade their knowledge and skills,” said Lieutenant Colonel Vasu.
So far, a total of seven officers from the FCS have attended courses at the APCSS beginning from 2009 to 2012.
9 MOU SIGNED BETWEEN AGRICULTURE AND CHINA ENTERPRISES
The signing this week of a Memorandum of Understanding at the Ministry of Agriculture will mark the establishment of a research institution with modern seed processing, testing, inspection, certification and storage system.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Lt. Col Inia Seruiratu signed the MOU with the Chief Executive Officer of the China Business Centre Fiji Limited Mr. Ma Fei and the Managing Director for the Tian Feng Fu Dao Eco-Agriculture (Beijing) Ltd. Mr. Wang Feng from Beijing, People’s Republic of China.
The signing took place at the Ministry’s headquarters in Raiwaqa.
Mr Seruiratu said the Ministry of Agriculture recognizes the potential and opportunity that China Business Centre Ltd and Tian Feng Fu Dao Eco-Agriculture (Beijing) Ltd would provide to Fiji’s agricultural sector.
Fiji he said, currently imports around $36 million dollars’ worth of rice and spends approximately $40 million dollars on importing potatoes, garlic, carrots, tomatoes and capsicum.
“The economic growth that Fiji is experiencing now is largely driven by exports which continue to perform strongly. The value of Fijian food exports increased by an average of around 2.5% over the past 5 years which has reached FJ$600 in 2012.
“Therefore, the Fijian government aims to achieve import substitution of agricultural products while increasing the export at the same time. Agriculture in Fiji is a promising industry, given the rich water resources, fertile soils and annual high precipitation that Fiji receives,” he said.
The agriculture industry is a promising industry given the rich water resources fertile soils and annual high precipitation that Fiji receives. However, the Minister stated that some major difficulties faced by Fiji in excelling the agriculture industry include the seed variety problem with lower yields and quality, plant diseases, insect pests, small number of large-scale modernized farms and lack of mechanisation.
“There is a need to introduce science and technology to strengthen the seed production capacity and management in order to balance the up-stream to down-stream of the agriculture industry,” he said.
The signing of today’s MOU, this will further strengthen the scientific exchanges and technology with the establishment of a research institution with modern seed processing, testing, inspection, certification and storage system, conducting upstream activities on seed, agricultural materials, technology, processing, storage, sales by investment and development, improving efficiency of agricultural production in long-term plans, investments and establishment of the agriculture machinery services and establishing the facility of the processing of agricultural products such as rice, cassava starch, cassava ethanol processing projects.