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Build better roads to increase investment

Jone Kalouniviti
Monday, December 10, 2012

THE decision by government to invest more on our roads in 2013 augurs well as far as the export industry is concerned.

One of the basic requirements of having an effective supply chain and logistics plan in place is the existence of a standard or excellent transportation links which for Fiji is our roads.

Our major resources are rurally based and the non-existence of standard roads has given way to unrealistic overhead costs, maintenance costs for vehicles, low productivity rates and overall a major dent on our economic performance.

The establishment of the Fiji Roads Authority to begin Fiji's road building capacity on a clean slate is probably the best way forward now. Government, in the new budget, has set aside $422 million for roads and bridges which is an increase of $182m from this year.

Companies from New Zealand have been engaged to undertake these important projects in the new year with two working in the Central-Eastern division, one in the west and one in the north. They have been tasked not only to rebuild and maintain but also to assist in capacity building.

The fact that government highlighted this as a priority area is important as far as the supply chain and logistics of the export industry is concerned.

Roads are the driver of our social and economic development.

"The development of transport, especially road transport, is one of the key features of the past 50 years as it has facilitated trade, it has allowed the improvement of movement of people and goods, it has contributed to the removal of barriers and led to an overall better standard of living.

This development is part of a global social development to which individuals' and companies' choices, technological innovations and the quest for rapidity, comfort and freedom contribute."( José Papí and Muriel Attané from the European Road Federation)

For a country like Fiji that depends very much on its agricultural, tourism, sugar industry and the supply chain industries, having up-to-standard roads is paramount.

Think of the dollars saved if, farmers do not have to pay for higher transport rates because of bad road conditions to transport goods to the market?

* Think of how delivery companies or transport fleets will be saving money from less vehicle maintenance and fuel consumption if roads were better?

* Or the issues of time and cost management if roads were to reach the sources of copra, agricultural produce, farms or natural produce destined for export rather than taking the odd one or two different modes of transportation, from road to walking to boat via rivers etc, because there is no standard road or bridge?

* Better roads also means better transport network for farmers and factories during the cane crushing season, which leads to less expenses in terms of vehicle maintenance, late delivery.

* The transportation industry is also a big employer in Fiji, with many employed as drivers, but most are poorly paid, as vehicle maintenance as a result of bad road conditions, takes a big chunk of profits or income earned by companies.

* Cutting down on energy consumption mean resources can be diverted elsewhere.

* Bad road conditions are a leading cause of road accidents.

These solutions may respond efficiently to the forecast increase in mobility and allow sustainable development in the future. But what is certain that an efficient transport of road systems will drive economic development. Government's new stance to fully focus on roads in the new year is excellent as far as the transport industry is concerned.

* Jone Kalouniviti is a public relations officer with the Fiji Export Council. Email: jkalouniviti@gmail.com or info@fijiexportcouncil.com.





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