Ladies and Gentlemen, I am extremely honoured to represent Vodafone Fiji as launch Sponsors for 2012 Exporter of the Year Awards.
Vodafone has been associated with sponsorship of the Exporter of the Year Awards since 2004. This is year, we have substantially increased our sponsorship to be joint naming rights and main award sponsors with Westpac Fiji. We support 100 per cent the need to promote exports and export based industries together with the "Buy Fiji Made" campaign.
Ladies and gentlemen, Fiji is truly part of the Global Village now. The reduction in tariff on imported goods, reduction of subsidies on locally produced goods, removal of physical and or arbitrary boundaries that previously prevented cross border transactions, now means that we have to compete in a much more open and competitive global market to sell our goods and services.
This is a reality! It is therefore imperative that despite our many challenges as a small island nation which lacks economies of scale, we need to carve our own niche in the global market to sell our products and services. It is important to achieve this objective to maintain a healthy foreign reserve for stable Fiji dollar and positive balance of payments. The risks are too high if we don't.
There are no short cuts however, since we have long been an import driven nation. It needs a concerted sustained effort for all sectors and change in mind-set to achieve this. If we do not work towards building our exports and export base our foreign reserves we will not be able to prosper as a nation.
Hence, it is absolutely critical that we recognise and reward the achievements of our most outstanding exporters to promote, incentivise and motivate more of our entrepreneurs to emulate the these success stories
Vodafone's support for the exporter of the year award is part of the Vodafone's support to Investment Fiji and the government to promote exports. You are well aware of Vodafone's support and financial assistance to many generous causes, charitable events, sports and other events. Vodafone's contribution to the exports sector has been more in an enabling sense. The provision of mobile telephony in most remote of places has empowered and mobilised sectors of economies in unprecended ways.
In a more direct sense, Vodafone through the provision of mobile voice and data roaming services with partner networks from overseas has been able to generate millions of foreign dollars from inbound travellers. While this brings much needed foreign earnings, it also provides a very important means of communication for the travelling public especially the tourists which continue to play a pivotal role in our economy.
Communications or should I say the lack of it has always been an impediment to promoting rural based industries. Vodafone's network coverage now extends to 97 per cent of Fiji's population. This provides producers and suppliers an opportunity to market their products from the touch of a button thus reducing communication and marketing costs.
Our M-PAiSA mobile money service provides increased financial access and has the potential for greater financial inclusion like never before. These are important pre-requisites to building a balanced and more productive economy by pulling in more of the rural sector in the mainstream economy.
It is up to individual companies, and the people within them, to make global headway and ensure Fiji business talent makes its mark on the world stage. There are many success stories that have been recognised through this exporter of the awards. The Pure Fiji products and Fiji Water are some iconic brands that portray the very essence of what Fiji is - unique in every way.
Recognising the achievements of our most outstanding exporters for 2012 later in the year is the reason we are all here today. In closing, I encourage all companies thinking of exporting their products and services to enter the 2012 Exporter of the Year Awards, and emulate the exceptional achievements of previous winners. In doing so, you will make an invaluable contribution to Fiji's economic prosperity in the long term. Thank you and all the best.