THE potential of physical infrastructure development cannot be fully realised without the improvement of state policies and regulations, says University of the South Pacific academic Dr Baljeet Singh.
Presenting the Fiji Economic Update for 2014 in Lautoka recently, Dr Singh said Fiji was "falling behind" in soft infrastructure development compared with regional countries.
"With the infrastructure, we know that government is making a lot of effort to improve our infrastructure which is commendable, however, for the infrastructure to realise its full potential, a pre-requisite is the soft infrastructure which is the rules and regulation and standards that needs to be in place," he said.
"Here, we find that Fiji is actually falling behind."
He said policies regulating business establishment and construction work were an issue.
"If you look at the report for the ease of doing business indicator compiled by the World Bank (2014 Doing Business Report), Fiji is behind some of our regional countries. We used these indicators because this is something that international investors look at.
"For example, we have more procedures in place which takes a while meaning it takes more days to get things done in Fiji in terms of setting up a business.
"Countries like Samoa and Tonga are doing more to improve the soft infrastructure giving them a better rank than Fiji.
"The two countries are also doing better than Fiji when it comes to the business environment of a country. Dealing with construction permits, again Tonga and Samoa are doing better than Fiji."
He said trading across borders which was important because small economies like Fiji were dependent on trade.
"I think this is an area where more efforts needed to be made to reform our soft infrastructure because we can do a lot of improvement on the hard infrastructure but its social returns are going to be very low if we fail to reform our soft infrastructure."