IF you think Voreqe Bainimarama has been buried beneath the avalanche of rhetoric on the pay he is allegedly receiving or the poverty and unemployment rate in Fiji, think again.
The people in the province of Ra just love the man.
Yes, they are struggling and expressed disappointment that promises to address some very specific needs were not fulfilled during his reign — but there is just something about him that appeals to the rank and file in that region.
A two-week survey by The Fiji Times in 10 of the 21 isolated inland districts found that the PM's reputation as an affable leader who gets things done preceded him.
And his chances at the polls — in Ra at least — is being enhanced by his understanding of the grassroots and knowing how to appeal to "forlorn" communities whose needs are primordial.
The Fiji Times project was about travelling as far and as wide as possible in Ra and finding out what the people want. We also asked people what concerned them most and what they wanted the new government to address.
The survey, conducted by this newspaper's West bureau, established that villagers cited roads as the most critical investment needed in the region.
Once constructed, they believe the roads will provide a vital link to the development of the province and provide a way out of rural poverty.