GOVERNMENT has raised concerns that over the years, Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited (FHCL) accumulated about $20million in government-guaranteed debt.
Apart from this debt, FHCL has received government grants of about $25million since 1998.
During the inaugural meeting of the Mahogany Industry Council at the Great Council of Chiefs complex in Suva yesterday, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said there were unsatisfactory efforts to service mismanagement in previous years.
This, he said, was a clear indication that the money would never be repaid.
"Put simply, the system was broken," Commodore Bainimarama said. "My government committed itself to fixing it to build a modern and sustainable industry." He said they were looking at introducing order, efficiency and cohesion where none had existed previously.
"We couldn't continue to allow a few people to continue to profit at the expense of ordinary Fijians," Commodore Bainimarama said.
"We had to stop the rot," he added.
He said they had to create the industry to realise the true potential of this valuable resource, to get maximum returns for the Fijian economy and all Fijians, including landowners.
He said government had changed the course of the industry to make it modern and responsive to the needs of ordinary Fijians. He said proceeds from mahogany were beginning to reach the grassroots.
"Within the next one to two years, the momentum of this reform will gain an even greater pace for the benefit of all. One of the ways this is being done is to include more women in the industry as we update equipment and rely less on brute strength for our workforce."
He said there were new employment opportunities emerging for women and when women earned wages, more money stayed at home.