1. FIJIANS SAFE IN THAILAND – All Fijians in Bangkok are safe. And the Fiji High Commission in Malaysia is ready to assist any Fijian living in Thailand should they require help.
2. GRANT NURTURES EDUCATION EXCELLENCE – The Fee Free Tuition Grant (FFTG) or free education initiative is paying dividends. It has not only provided relief to parents but has encouraged students who had dropped out to re-enrol.
3. $14 MILLION PAID OUT FOR TERM 2 – The Ministry of Education has paid $14million of Term 2 grants to 591 schools around the country.
4. AMBASSADOR NAIR PRESENTS HIS CREDENTIALS TO SEYCHELLES PRESIDENT JAMES MICHEL – Fiji’s first Ambassador to the Seychelles Robin Nair has presented his credentials to President James Michel at the State House on Tuesday, May 13.
5. FIJI LOBBIES FOR PACIFIC SIDS INTERESTS ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – There is a need for proper monitoring and accountability for all commitments and actions agreed to by the international community for the benefit of all Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
6. CANE ACCESS ROADS UPGRADE SOON – Upgraded cane access roads will enable sugarcane farmers to supply cane to the four mills in an efficient manner.
7. EMBASSY PRIORITISES EMPLOYMENT FOR FIJIANS – Employment opportunities for Fijians in lucrative job markets internationally are among the benefits of establishing permanent missions in certain parts of the world.
8. $570,000 FACELIFT FOR NASINU SECONDARY SCHOOL – Nasinu Secondary School turned a new chapter with the recent opening of its refurbished hostel and a new gymnasium.
9. GOVERNMENT EYES QUALITY DIPLOMATS – The Fijian government is moulding civil servants to be quality diplomats in an effort to place Fiji on a better economic position internationally.
10. 38 FAMILIES GET WATER –More than 30 households of rural Nadroga and Navosa now have access to safe drinking water through two boreholes.
11. BEST PRACTICES SHARING TO CONTINUE – The Public Service Commission (PSC) will continue to discuss and share “Best Practices’ in its bid to improve service delivery.
1. FIJIANS SAFE IN THAILAND
All Fijians in Bangkok are safe.
And the Fiji High Commission in Malaysia is ready to assist any Fijian living in Thailand should they require help.
Fiji High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ratu Meli Bainimarama has assured all those with family members and relatives in Bangkok that there was no need to be alarmed.
This is after the military in Thailand seized power late last week.
“According to our records here in Malaysia, we have six Fijians in Thailand and all, with one exception, are working people,” said Ratu Meli.
“The exception is a housewife. She has been in Thailand for over 10 years, knows the language and speaks Thai.
“As far as we are aware, all Fijians in Bangkok are safe,” he said from Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Except one who lives outside Bangkok, Ratu Meli said the evacuation of the rest would be handled by the United Nations as they are employed by, or spouses of employees of, ESCAP.
“The exception lives and works outside Bangkok, so he will not be affected by the disturbances in Bangkok,” he said.
“If however, any should require our assistance, we will liaise with our Honorary Consul General in Bangkok to do the needful.”
Fiji’s Embassy in Malaysia is accredited to Thailand.
2. GRANT NURTURES EDUCATION EXCELLENCE
The Fee Free Tuition Grant (FFTG) or free education initiative is paying dividends.
It has not only provided relief to parents but has encouraged students who had dropped out to re-enrol.
The initiative has seen 215 drop-outs re-enrolling including a mother of three.
Among other benefits is a decline in the number of non-attendance.
The Education Ministry, which was allocated close to one fifth of the total 2014 national budget at $370 million, in its initial assessment has identified a number of positives topped off by students re-entering the education system.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary, Mrs Basundra Kumar, said the Ministry had given schools a breakdown of how the grant was to be utilised and this has greatly enhanced the learning experience of students.
“The grant has seen that not only are schools meeting their commitments such as bills and payments but they are also providing better equipments thus creating a more conducive environment to teach and learn in,” she said.
Another encouraging result of free education has been the reduction in absenteeism in schools, which had in the past affected the academic performance of students.
Some of areas where the grant is to be channelled into include building and compound maintenance, IT, computers and vocational materials, library and textbooks, physical education (P.E.), arts, music and science equipment, and stationery levy.
“The FFTG initiative has allowed schools to nurture quality and excellence in education as the platform towards the enhancement of Ministry and Government short and long term goals,” Mrs Kumar said.
The grant is given to 902 secondary and primary schools throughout the country and has helped 233,363 students with close to $35m already disbursed.
In its assessment, the Ministry found the benefit of FFTG as:
Students who have left school have re-enrolled
Parents have equipped the students well for school
Increased school rolls
Night prep commenced
Students being punctual
Timely purchases of resources and equipment
OHS compliant and hygienic facilities and infrastructure
No more borrowing of equipment from other schools
Realization of dream towards modern technology
Government has assisted students whose parents earn $15,000 or less per annum through the free bus fare scheme with 91,249 currently benefiting from this.
A similar programme called the transport subsidy scheme is targeted at students living in rural or maritime communities with over 22,732 beneficiaries.
3. $14 MILLION PAID OUT FOR TERM 2
The Ministry of Education has paid $14million of Term 2 grants to 591 schools around the country.
The release of Term 2 grants are based entirely on the submission of the Audited Financial Report and the Annual General Meeting minutes for 2013 by school committees and the school heads.
The Ministry of Education deputy secretary, Basundra Kumar said the ministry had given more than enough time for school committees and school heads to submit the audited reports and the minutes..
“We are concerned about the daily operation of the school because we are now into the second week of the second term,” Mrs Kumar said.
“Accountability is vital when it comes to finance because we have to justify the grants paid out to the schools
“School managements and school heads should take proactive measures in dealing with this issue so students’ education is not affected in any way.”
The ministry requests the remaining 307 schools to act swiftly and submit the pending documents so it can release their Term 2 grants.
“Our officers have been moving to all schools last term and again this week our monitoring teams are in schools to provide professional guidance to ensure they comply with guidelines we set out for them and to meet the deadline next week,” Mrs Kumar said.
Out of the $14million paid out, $6.8million was paid out to 108 secondary schools and $7.2m for 483 primary schools.
There are 898 schools that qualify for this free education grants and so far 591 schools have been given their grants because they have successfully submitted their Audited Financial Report and AGM minutes for 2013.
The audited reports and minutes are due to the ministry on May 31. With one week left to the due date, the Ministry of Education is pleading with school committees and school heads to get the relevant documents together and submit for the release of the Term 2 grants.
4. AMBASSADOR NAIR PRESENTS HIS CREDENTIALS TO SEYCHELLES PRESIDENT JAMES MICHEL
Fiji’s first Ambassador to the Seychelles Robin Nair has presented his credentials to President James Michel at the State House on Tuesday, May 13.
President Michel welcomed Fiji’s decision to establish closer ties with the Seychelles.
“We are members of the same family of small island states and it is important for us to work together, especially in the promotion of the blue economy in the world development agenda,” President Michel said.
Ambassador Nair said Fiji and Seychelles had many commonalities, around which a good partnership could be built.
“We have a lot in common and there are meetings coming up of Small Island Developing States in Samoa, and the Pacific Small Island Developing States in Fiji, where we are going to discuss more of our commonalities; we want to have a voice in the international sphere, so they recognise our distinct needs and requirements,” Ambassador Nair said.
“So putting the island countries together as one voice and having strong regional and international fora, having space for our voice, is very important.
“And that is why I am here, to share the friendship and the kinship we have with the Seychelles.
“My President and my Prime Minister are keen for us to develop this relationship further.”
Mr Nair said both Seychelles and Fiji had a vibrant tourism industry, and Fiji was interested to co-operate in this area and share experiences.
The ambassador noted that Seychelles relied on foreign workers for its hospitality industry because the country has a small population and limited resources in employment.
“Our people have a nice flair for hospitality, they are good at it. If we can build a relationship around that we can send Fijians to work in the hospitality industry,” Ambassador Nair said.
“There is also an opportunity for Fiji’s retired teachers to help Seychelles in the education sector, similar to the programme Fiji has with its Pacific neighbors.”
“We have good and experienced teachers, retiring at the age of 55.”
Both countries have education systems based on the British schooling model and Fiji can help with the shortages faced by Seychelles.
The President, the Vice President and the Foreign Minister of Seychelles endorsed the two proposals with great interest during their meetings with the ambassador.
The President of Seychelles has nominated Minister for Environment and Energy, Dr Rolph Payet to represent Seychelles at the forthcoming Pacific Islands Development Forum Summit in Nadi this June and to speak on the need for the world to work on the sustainability of the blue economy on which all islands communities depend.
He is hopeful the minister will carry forward discussions with the ambassador.
Seychelles will be accrediting a non-resident ambassador to Fiji shortly.
5. FIJI LOBBIES FOR PACIFIC SIDS INTERESTS ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
There is a need for proper monitoring and accountability for all commitments and actions agreed to by the international community for the benefit of all Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
In Pattaya, Thailand last week, Fijian government representative to the Asia Pacific Ministerial Roundtable on Sustainable Development, Ms Setaita Tupua-Kalou said this will guarantee their effective and time bound implementations for all the people of SIDS.
Ms Tupua-Kalou said that monitoring would ensure a transformative strategy for a people centred sustainable development of SIDS to be operationalised.
She emphasised the importance of an inclusive and participatory process at all levels of this dialogue, highlighting the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) as setting the pace of such a transformative approach in the region.
Mrs Tupua- Kalou also spoke at this inaugural forum facilitated by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on behalf on the Pacific SIDS sub- region in the ESCAP region.
The objective of the forum was to provide regional inputs into the integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development namely economic, social and environmental within and among all UN systems, including national, sub-regional and regional processes feeding into this global development agenda beyond 2015.
Fiji participated as a panellist in the Ministerial Roundtable on the Way Forward with the topic of ‘Shaping an Effective and Dynamic Regional Process for Sustainable Development’.
The outcomes of the Forum will be presented to the UN High Level Political Forum at the United Nations in New York in July this year.
6. CANE ACCESS ROADS UPGRADE SOON
Upgraded cane access roads will enable sugarcane farmers to supply cane to the four mills in an efficient manner.
The Ministry of Sugar permanent secretary, Manasa Vaniqi said upgrade works on some cane access roads will begin soon.
Mr Vaniqi said with a budgetary allocation of $2million this year, works on cane access roads will ensure a smooth supply to the sugar mills.
Work has already started on the construction of a $300,000 Irish crossing at Ulisila in Cuvu, Sigatoka, which will be completed in July and will benefit 15-20 cane farmers.
Mr Vaniqi said a committee, consisting of members from the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC), Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC), Sugar Industry Tribunal and the Sugar Ministry, met to discuss progress on the rural cane access roads for the Western and Northern Divisions.
“One of the major successes of the cane access roads in 2013 was the low number of standing cane in the field. Most of the roads were accessible to the cane farmers so they supplied canes to the mill efficiently. We are going to do the same this year before the start of the crushing season,” Mr Vaniqi said.
He said major works were carried out on culvert bridges in cane belt areas in 2013, which translated into timely cane delivery to the sugar mills.
“A lot of Irish crossings and culvert bridges were also completed last year and about 11 culverts were completed in Kavanagasau, Sigatoka in March, 2014. The contractors took six months to complete culvert and bridge upgrades in Kavanagasau.
“Work on one crossing cost us around $300,000, however, at some locations we spent close to $600000,” the permanent secretary added.
Meanwhile, crushing at the four sugar mills around Fiji will begin next month.
7. EMBASSY PRIORITISES EMPLOYMENT FOR FIJIANS
Employment opportunities for Fijians in lucrative job markets internationally are among the benefits of establishing permanent missions in certain parts of the world.
The less than two-year-old Fijian Embassy to the United Arab Emirates, which depends on foreign workers in their service sector.
UAE Ambassador based in Abu Dhabi, His Excellency Robin Nair, who is accredited to Arab and Middle-Eastern countries, said there were Fijians already working in UAE before the embassy was set up especially in the airlines and nursing sector.
“However, finding jobs is one thing but the condition of work is another thing as it is very important for us. We want to ensure that when Fijians come to work here, they are looked after well,” he said.
“There are already 25 pilots, 20 cabin crew, 25 nurses, some in the hotel industry and seafarers,” he said.
Last year, through the Ministry of Labour’s Foreign/Overseas Recruitment Unit, expressions of interests were called to work in the retail sector.
“In the airlines sector, Emirates recently went to Fiji and did some recruitment and Qattar (airlines) is looking at recruiting from Fiji,” Mr Nair said.
In the field of healthcare, the ambassador said they had to stop recruitment of nurses because one of the requirements was that they had to travel to the Emirates and sit for a test before they were hired.
Mr Nair said to ensure that Fijians are not caught unawares when they end up in UAE, the Ministry of Labour wants to see a contract.
“We asked them if they could allow them to take that test in Fiji to give them the opportunity to come across,” Mr Nair said.
The President has visited South Korea, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Tel Aviv and met with Fijian personnel including military and medical professionals serving under the United Nations in Golan Heights, Syria and Sinai.
The economy received a boost in excess of $300 million in 2013 in the form of remittance that is channeled by Fijians working abroad which is a huge increase from the $93.4 million that was remitted to Fiji in 2000.
8. $570,000 FACELIFT FOR NASINU SECONDARY SCHOOL
Nasinu Secondary School turned a new chapter with the recent opening of its refurbished hostel and a new gymnasium.
The total cost of upgrade works for Nasinu Secondary School this year amounts to $570,000 and this facilitates the refurbishment of two hostels, the dining hall and the dispensary. The new gymnasium is a school-funded project.
The Ministry of Education deputy secretary (professional) Kelera Taloga was at the school today as chief guest to officially opening the new hostel and the new gymnasium.
Mrs Taloga said this upgrade was a strategy used by the ministry to ensure education was made accessible, affordable and equitable for every Fijian student.
“The recent renovated hostel, dining facilities, dispensary and now the gymnasium are indicators that the school is fulfilling its expected role as the provider of a well-rounded education,” said the deputy secretary.
“Let these facilities be places of enhancing academic excellence and make it your home – a multiracial home where you learn each other’s’ culture, where you cultivate tolerance, where you promote goodwill and where you learn to live together as one people.”
School head girl Marie Fall applauded the Government for its timely assistance to the school.
“There are hardly any words to express how much we appreciate what you have done for our school this year. This will empower the students in their learning here at Nasinu Secondary School,” Ms Fall said.
“We are indebted to the Government for blessing the school with so much.”
The refurbished works on the dining hall and dispensary is ongoing and will be completed soon.
9. GOVERNMENT EYES QUALITY DIPLOMATS
The Fijian government is moulding civil servants to be quality diplomats in an effort to place Fiji on a better economic position internationally.
This has been made possible through the Public Service Commission training of would-be diplomats to engage in global trading by increasing private sector participation, enhancing bilateral and multilateral relations, improve investments, trade facilitation and negotiations and advocating Fiji’s interest in regional and international arena.
Since its inception in 2011, about 150 officers in the public service have been trained expanding to civil servants from around the region and more recently participants from Fiji’s private sector.
The seventh diplomat induction training will be held in June where 50 officers have shown interest.
Ambassador to Japan, Mr Isikeli Mataitoga who is the principal presenter of the course, said the course has grown in reputation and was now considered one of the premier courses offered by the PSC each year.
“It provides a training platform for diplomats from the Small Pacific Island Countries and this year we are offering places to Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF) member states as part of assistance to them,” Ambassador Mataitoga said.
There is interest from Australia and New Zealand to learn about the course and possible training cooperation.
Ambassador Mataitoga added the course was developed to meet skills and knowledge gaps found prevalent in young diplomats arriving at missions with a good general degree or specialist degree in various academic disciplines but little to no skills as diplomat or having basic knowledge on how foreign policy of Fiji was determined and how to develop strategic framework.
“Diplomats must effectively influence the current global and regional issues to achieve Fiji’s foreign policy and advocate Fiji’s views. We must always remember that in diplomacy there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests.”
The training has also accepted participants from Kiribati, Tuvalu, FSM, Vanuatu, Nauru and Republic of Marshall Islands.
PSC Permanent Secretary, Parmesh Chand said it is important to strengthen Fiji’s presence on the international stage.
“The training ensures all officers recommended for overseas missions possess core competencies for the job and allow for a ready pool of officers available for overseas posting at any point in time,” Chand said.
10. 38 FAMILIES GET WATER
More than 30 households of rural Nadroga and Navosa now have access to safe drinking water through two boreholes.
The 38 families, who remained without proper tap water for too long, welcomed government’s assistance in providing one of the basic necessities of life.
Provincial administrator Nadroga/Navosa Peni Koro said the borehole projects in Waica and Maro were evidence of government’s commitment towards ensuring all Fijians were accessible to safe drinking water.
Mr Koro said the areas assisted were mainly occupied by farmers, who depended on selling cash crops to make ends meet. They faced difficulties in providing safe drinking water because of the high costs involved in borehole drilling.
“These families fall outside the main piped water grid,” Mr Koro said.
“Government is thankful to these farmers and their families for their contribution to the Fijian economy and we encourage them to continue the good work in providing fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Since the beginning of last year 1500 Fijians in the Western Division now have access to safe drinking water through 13 boreholes.
11. BEST PRACTICES SHARING TO CONTINUE
The Public Service Commission (PSC) will continue to discuss and share “Best Practices’ in its bid to improve service delivery.
Public Service permanent secretary, Parmesh Chand said the PSC would actively pursue the outcomes of the “Best Practices Conference” held at the Warwick Fiji Resort last Thursday.
The outcomes include the annual hosting of the Best Practices Conference, the creation of a website to enable all ministries and departments to upload their best practices for broader sharing and the heightened use of Media Liaison Officers to promote and improve the visibility of best practices in public service.
Mr Chand said the organisation of the conference was part of reforms to bring about greater efficiencies and productivities in public service. He said ordinary Fijians would benefit if there were greater efforts made by the public service towards best practices which would cut out unnecessary bureaucracies, delays and people not being given a runaround in their quest to access information and government services.
Among best practices discussed at the Warwick Conference were the creation of more enabling workplace environment for improved productivity, the increased use of IT for higher efficiency and listening to plight of customers in an effort to improve service delivery.
The Warwick Conference was attended by 80 civil servants, with Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations & Employment Jone Usamate as the keynote speaker.