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'Get your hands dirty'

Colin Deoki
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

WHILE I haven't seen the statistics of the latest Fijian census it would be fair to say that it's providing Government the necessary information and tools to create more jobs for growing a thriving economy.

I'm sure economists who are helping create the road map to stimulate growth in every sector so that more jobs are created, are working tirelessly to make things happen.

Many countries around the world have researched and experimented over the years on how best to grow their economies. Many have come to the conclusion that assisting small businesses by easing the tax burden is one way of expanding the employment market. Getting more people involved in small enterprises and cottage based industries is a sure way of expanding the employment market and creating growth. However, it's also a well known fact that many small enterprises fail because of a lack of the skill-sets needed to manage and grow a business.

In the Fijian context many old-timers who've retired have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Their invaluable resources could help in cutting the teeth of young new entrepreneurs and guiding them through the maze and minefield of business dynamics and market opportunities. It could well pay handsome dividends for everyone involved.

The other tried and tested method is growing public works — building and developing infrastructure projects likes roads, bridges and transportation. And yes, there are many other ways to create employment like building military hardware or designing technological inventions and advancements catering for the world's needs. The digital age is opening up a massive potential for growth and development and young aspiring Fijians could be sitting on ideas that could literally change the country's economic future.

Is there a forum where their ideas can be evaluated to determine the potential and to assist them in developing and trade-marking their creations?

Fiji is a small country with a relatively small population for it's size. However, unlike many other countries, Fiji has a logistical nightmare of a problem because of the many far-flung island communities that make up this amazing nation. The fact that nearly 83 per cent of the land is owned by the indigenous iTaukei communtiy makes the management of Fiji's land resources another massive challenge. There are many different clans with differeing views on how things need to be utilised. Add the political element to the equation and it becomes a paradoxical nightmare.

I believe the TLTB has done a great job of working as a catalyst to bridge the many gaps ensuring the partnerships are working at their very best. They have brought a semblance of order on how best to utilise and manage the land resource potential. While they may have made some errors along the way (and which business doesn't) they have done an amazing job in a very difficult climate.

Fiji is endowed with rich natural resources — plenty of sea and sunshine for starters. However, it also has an ogre of fierce cyclones hanging over the nation during the months of November to April. That's half the calendar year when cyclones can strike at any time creating chaos and enromous strain on the nation's disaster management resources. The ongoing effects of cyclonic activity on Fiji's economy can have catastrophic consequences where tourism and the agricultural economy are so adversely affected that it's a wonder Fiji even recovers the way it does.

Add to this the many political upheavals Fiji has had to endure in the past 30 or so years, then one can only wonder how on earth Fiji has survived countless setbacks and yet still rises like a Phoenix to be a leader in the South Pacific island region.

Fiji punches well above its weight in so many circles and I often wonder why. Perhaps it's the resilience and the never surrender attitude and will of the people. Perhaps its also the friendships Fiji has created with so many countries and neighbours who always come to it's aid. Without this aid Fiji would not be able to recover the way it does. Many Fijians living overseas always dig deep in assisting however they can.

There are many families still living in tents in some of the remotest islands around Fiji since Severe TC Winston.

The Government, I understand, is trying to make sure that the housing and infrastructure they build on these islands will withstand future cyclonic events that are destined to be even more ferocious than ever before. While the goal is honourable it sadly still doesn't solve the immediate problems of the people who've been affected. And the sad indictment on all of this is that there are those who continue politicising this fact without any due consideration of the enormous challenge Severe TC Winston left behind.

Time has a way of erasing our memory from what actually happened. A Category 5 cyclone is the fiercest cyclone ever to hit a landmass anywhere in the world. Over 40 people lost their lives and it could've been far worse. The magnitude of the disaster Fiji suffered is beyond understanding.

Yet many are quick to criticise the Government without understanding the enormous implications of what actually happened in February 2016. The aftermath will be felt for many years afterwards.

Sometimes we can become blatantly pig-headed in our approach to understanding the dilemma of what Fiji has had to go through since Severe TC Winston because we live in an instant fix and instant gratification society. We begin laying the blame fairly and squarely on the shoulders of Government as if they were the cause of the problem because we have no one else to blame.

However, if we took the time to stop for a moment and think we may realise that they (and there's many people involved in the machinery of Government) are doing their level best in trying to solve so many logistical issues surrounding what happened and still endeavour to govern the country so it doesn't fall in a heap.

Yes, there are families still struggling from the effects of TC Winston and it won't be the last time this happens. For those who are quick to criticise may be need a moment to reflect. Better still — become a positive solution individual in assisting those families rather than making a lot of "noise".

When politicians begin getting their hands dirty helping to shovel and clear away the damage of so many homes then people might begin making the value judgment that they're worth backing come the next elections. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. That'll show the electorate that you're not just in politics for the prestige and monetary gain. You're there to serve. And servants are doers. When you walk your talk you'll stand head and shoulders above the rest. And they'll remember you when they're at the ballot box.

* The views expressed are the author's and not of this newspaper.

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