In efforts to move Fiji forward Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum gave a preview of plans laid out to properly direct and develop the country further.
Addressing guests and the relevant stakeholders at the Fiji-New Zealand Business Council's 25th anniversary conference at the Tanoa Plaza, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted some of the salient features of the economy.
Also present was the Chief Justice Anthony Gates, head of the Mission of the New Zealand High Commission, presidents of the Fiji-NZ Business Council, the NZ-Fiji Business Council and the DPP.
"There are quite a lot of issues that we can discuss at this forum and I'm sure that would be of interest to you in terms of what is happening in Fiji, the policies, political developments and of course the way forward in respect of what the government believes is a good framework - not just a legal framework, but a business and commercial framework to encourage investment and at the same time sustain jobs and increase the job market," said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum in his speech.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the rate for Fiji's growth had been revised to 2.9 per cent because of a number of factors, one being that the consumption rate had increased significantly compared to before. "Some of the reasons why this has happened is that the Prime Minister announced in the 2012 Budget a tax cut - not just for corporate, which has been reduced to 20 per cent, but also for ordinary taxpayers where the tax threshold has in fact been increased to $15,600. 99.1 per cent of all taxpayers in Fiji earning up to $270,000 have received a tax cut. Of course that fuels consumption and that has been one of the reasons for bringing about the tax cuts.
At the same time, he said this is coupled with the fact that a number of laws have been passed to in fact increase competition within the economy. The most recent one being the modernisation decree of the Nadi Airport. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this meant a revamping of the airport, particularly the departure area and opening up the market for concessioners at Nadi Airport.
"If you speak to the Skeggs (owner of Port Denarau Marina), they will tell you there are a lot more super yachts coming through Fiji, so in other words it means we've got more private jets coming into Nadi Airport. So we need to be able to cater for this particular market at Nadi Airport," he said.
He said there has been a focus on creating a home construction industry because this industry has never been strong in Fiji on a sustained basis. Adding that the $2billion, 7 to 10-year plan in developing the Waila City would see low cost housing all the way to the top end of the market that can expect about 25,000 people to live.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said casino licence has been issued to One Hundred Sands, an American company, with 20 per cent of the shareholding owned by American Indians. There will be sit six-star accommodation around the casino. One of the conditions of the licence was that it must have a minimum 1500 seat convention centre. The condition, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said tapped into the MICE market, which is Meetings Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions. "So, it's not just simply about giving a casino licence, but to have the various ancillary services and various ancillary activities that can be tied in with the casino," he said.
He said the government would see through reforms in the Department of National Roads, with the ultimate goal to put in place outsourcing of roadworks in Fiji.
"So there are enormous opportunities. I think HiWay Stabilizers are one of your sponsors, so there are opportunities for NZ companies in those areas, too," he said.
Mr Saiyed-Kahiyum said that for the past four years, government had allocated $23.5billion to Tourism Fiji. The idea is to put in place a long-term goal and strategy. Now one of those strategies includes rebranding Tourism Fiji. And we are using certain international benchmarks to position Fiji around the world.
He said mining licence and a mining lease were given for the extraction of iron from the Ba River Delta for export. The project is led by an Australian-listed public company, predominantly with Chinese shareholding. There's about a $150million Fijian investment to put in place before the mining can actually start, of which about $50million is expected to be spent onshore. Most of the money is being spent to get the material, or the equipment and the barges.
"We expect 300 jobs, 24/7 shifts, a mining lease of about 20 years, and it is believed to have a life of about 18-20 years. It's going to be a huge boost for Ba," he said
"As the Head of the New Zealand High Commission has said, New Zealand has the ability to offer those sorts of services and the service sector is indeed quite significant. With government's outsourcing agenda, you will see growth in that area," he said.