THE root cause of coups or political disturbance in the past has been the propagation of a system of divide-and-rule since the dawn of democracy in Fiji.
This was the view put forward by Labour Minister, Jone Usamate to participants at the Lautoka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Bank of South Pacific business forum on Saturday.
Mr Usamate also highlighted that the poor performance of the economy had largely been a result of the negative effect on investment brought about by the political instability of coups since 1987.
"If you look at productivity growth and statistics produced by the Asian Productivity Organisation, of which Fiji is a member, we have only managed a 0.2 per cent growth over the past four decades," he said.
"Looking at total factor productivity for the same period, we were at about 1.4 per cent. Fiji's economy has grown at a much slower rate than other developing economies.
"Any analysis of our performance will show that there has always been a clear linkage between coups and our economic performance. Every time there's been a coup there's been a negative impact on the economy.
"And over the period which we've had coups from 1987 it has been difficult to recover confidence especially among investors," he said.
Mr Usamate said the answer lay in building the platform for a sustainable democracy, which the current administration was determined to do.
"We must take Fiji back to a democracy but in doing so we must make this new democracy sustainable.
"In the past we've had coups then gone back to democracy but after a few years we've had another coup. That has had an impact on our economy and our productivity.
"The stated aim now is quite a big ask. I am talking about this because this is at the very heart of making Fiji more productive," he said.
Mr Usamate said the answer to a sustainable democracy lay in addressing all the key issues that affected all Fijians.
"This has been a major aim of government — to address those issues.
"One of the major causes of disturbance in the past has been the propagation of a system of divide-and-rule that was initially put in place in colonial times and that has exacerbated the differences between people and how they see themselves and how they relate to one another," he said.
Mr Usamate further said the government was trying to address the issue with the introduction of the one-man-one-vote electoral system and by having a common identity for all Fijians.